More than 1 lakh people joined the ‘Peace Protest’ on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) organised by the Joint Action Committee in Bangalore on December 23, 2019. The city police who enabled strict security and traffic management to maintain crowd control had expected only about 50,000 people to attend the event that was held to examine the long-damaging effects of the CAA and the National Register of Citizens’ (NRC) on the country’s citizens.
The Deccan Herald reported that at first around 2,000 people gathered at the site of the rally – Eidgah-e-Khuddus Saheb on Miller’s Road at 11 AM. By noon though, the crowd had swelled up to around 30,000 individuals, the police estimated and organisers were informed that more than a lakh were waiting across the length of Miller’s Road and Nandidurga Road to join the protest.
(Photo – Deccan Herald)
Carrying the tricolor and placards with messages against the CAA and NRC, the crowd together pledged to not furnish any documents if the government decided to implement the NRC nationwide and enforce the CAA.
Sea of people on the streets of Bangalore #CAA_NRC_Protest .
— Md Asif Khan آصِف (@imMAK02) December 23, 2019
Loudspeakers carried messages from clerics, eminent citizens and rights activists to the crowd that had spilled beyond the eidgah ground to the streets.
The anti-NRC/anti-CAA protest in Bangalore is peaceful. It is so packed that you can barely move an inch. They’re also giving out free bottles of water. It’s beautiful. pic.twitter.com/nZSnNSZwHE
— San (@sansdn) December 23, 2019
Participated in the Massive protest where in over 2 lakh peace loving Indian Citizens from Bangalore city converged at the Eidgah-E-Khuddus Saheb, today, raising their voice to repeal the unconstitutional NRC & CAA, by the Government of India. Organised by Joint action committee. pic.twitter.com/dm1TC4btE9
— Aga Sultan (@Agasultan5) December 24, 2019
S Sashikanth Senthil, the former IAS officer who had quit the civil services following the abrogation of Article 370, was one of the speakers at the rally. The Telegraph reported him as saying, “Let us not submit our documents. We will opt for civil disobedience and throw the (citizenship) law back in the government’s face.” He had earlier written a letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah saying that he boycotted the NRC process and was ready to be locked up in a detention camp as a non-citizen, but would not furnish any documents.
The Imam of Masjid-e-Bilal on Tannery Road, Mohammed Zulfiqar Noori accused the Modi-Shah government of trying to sabotage India’s rich legacy of pluralism and diversity. Raising the slogan of Hindustan Zindabad he said, “This is not their India. This is Mahatma Gandhi’s India. Only 10% of Muslims are on the streets right now. We will mobilise everybody and our protests will gain momentum if the CAA is not withdrawn.”
Supporting the boycott of the NRC and questioning the credibility of BJP allies, Maulana Tanveer Peer Hashmi, a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) said, “We don’t need a certificate from the BJP on our citizenship. We played a great role in the freedom struggle unlike the RSS.”
Former judge of the Supreme Court, Justice V Gopala Gowda also added that the anti-CAA protests were not just a fight for the right of Muslims, but for the future of India as a culturally diverse nation.
Last week, PM Modi had made a communally insensitive comment about the violence at protests saying that the people who engaged in violence could be identified from their clothes. Activist Harsh Mander who was present at the Bangalore rally that saw most Muslims in their traditional attire took a jibe at PM Modi’s statement by telling the crowd, “Looking at your clothes and faces, I can see only one thing (in common) — that here are people who love their country.”
He told the attendees to be proud of their choice of staying back in India after the Partition. “When India was partitioned, people like me had only one choice: to stay in India. But you (Muslims) had the option of moving to Pakistan. Your ancestors opted to stay in secular India. So if anyone questions you, you must tell them that you are citizens by choice, and that they are citizens by chance”, he said.
The rally went off without an incident and the attendees both inside the eidgah ground and on the streets maintained the highest level of law and order, debunking the BJP’s theory that people from a particular community were stoking violence at protests.
The police too played their part well, installing around 1,000 CCTV cameras and getting prior information about any planned violence. Fire tenders and ambulances too were kept ready in case of any emergency.
The crowds thronging to the streets all over India in opposition to the CAA and NRC are a novel sight in post-Partition India. The student community has come to the forefront to secure the country’s future from the divisive policies of the ruling government. Police brutalities and state-sponsored violence notwithstanding, the people of the country have presented an unrelenting joint front against the implementation of the CAA and the impending NRC that is set to affect the marginalised communities the most.
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