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Parents arrested for anti-CAA protest in Varanasi, distraught toddler awaits their return


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Varanasi: "She suddenly wakes up at night and starts looking for her parents. Unable to find them, she starts crying," said Sheila Tiwari, who has been looking after her 14-month-old granddaughter Champak, whose parents were arrested last week for participating in an anti-CAA protest defying prohibitory orders.

"Sometimes we tell her that her parents have gone to work and will be back soon," Tiwari, 68, said.

On December 19, people gathered in Beniya Bagh area of Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Lok Sabha constituency, to protest the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), defying section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) imposed by police.

Champak's parents, activists Ekta (32) and Ravi Shankar (36) who run an NGO, Climate Agenda, were among those arrested in connection with the protest.

According to police, the couple faces serious charges.

Tiwari said it is hard for Champak to not have her parents around.

"The girl is not eating properly. She keeps thinking of her parents. We give her false hope and she eats a little," she said.

"We keep her occupied by showing her different things on a mobile phone. She is spending so much time on the mobile phone that her eyes have turned red.

"We understand what a child, who has been living without her mother for so many days, has been going through," she added.

Superintendent of Police Prabhakar Chaudhary said 56 identified and 200 unidentified people have been booked for protesting in Beniya Bagh and nearby areas in violation of section 144 of the CrPC.

Those arrested are mostly leaders of Left groups, he said.

The bail pleas for Champak's parents were rejected by a local court on December 23. They will be heard by another court on January 1, said Ravi's brother Shashikant.

He said the family hopes that Ekta and Ravi will be granted bail and reunited with their daughter.

According to the CAA, non-Muslim refugees who came to India till December 31, 2014, to escape religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan will be given Indian citizenship.

Protests against the law, which, critics allege, discriminates on the basis of religion, have spread across the country over the last two weeks.

More than 1,100 people are under arrest and 5,558 have been kept in preventive detention in Uttar Pradesh following violence related to the anti-CAA protests, officials said on Thursday.

A total of 19 people have been killed in protests in the state, they said.

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News Summary - Parents arrested for anti-CAA protest in Varanasi, distraught toddler awaits their return
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