Voices against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act – III
A round-up of the voices and issues raised against the CAA
January 1, 2020
● “When we come together to protect one another, we cease to look and feel small. We begin to tower [over the state],” said Arundhati Roy, speaking in Hindi at Delhi University on December 25. “Why did the PM lie in his speech at the Ramlila Maidan? And why did he tell such childish lies, knowing he’d be found out in a matter of minutes? The Internet is full of old videos of him contradicting his new claims. What gave him the assurance to lie repeatedly in public? Modi knew his godi media, knew they would cover his speech; and so they did, all ninety minutes of it. He also knew they would never question his claims; and they didn’t.” Roy spoke of a recent visit to Assam, of villages where people live in acute deprivation, but more than their cows, their fields, even their children, they prize their documents. In the event of a natural calamity, these must be rescued before anything else. “Now, you can’t stay on the streets and resist the government for the next four years. You need a plan. What will you do when the census officials visit your house?” Watch the Bahujan TV coverage of Roy’s speech.
Predictably, the pro-government media went into a foaming rage over Roy’s cheeky suggestions for civil resistance. She issued a statement: “Is it ok for the prime minister of this country to lie to us but a criminal offence and a security threat for us people to have a laugh?” Read the text on Sabrang
● Back from a fact-finding trip to UP, Yogendra Yadav addressed journalists at the Press Club of India on December 26. Speaking in Hindi, he advised the prime minister to look within and ask himself a few questions: “Can you hear what the young people of this country are saying? Is it getting through to you? Does your understanding of sabka saath, sabka vikaas include all the people? Even those whom you mock for the clothes they wear? And those you taunt for carrying the tricolour? The CAA and NRC are yet to be implemented, but in UP equal citizenship already stands abolished. I’m just back from Meerut and can tell you that two separate grades of citizenship are clearly visible on the ground. The first kind have the right to protest; the second kind are citizens on paper, whom the administration and police will not help and are no longer expected to.” Watch the address on Bahujan TV.
● A six-member fact-finding team of the People’s Union of Democratic Rights released its report on police brutality at Jamia between December 13 and 15. Titled Bloody Sunday 2019, the report evokes the previous bloody Sunday of April 9, 2000, when – again under NDA rule – the police had stormed the campus. The peculiar fury that is reserved for Muslim protestors and which we have seen play out subsequently in UP – of attacks on private property, the free use of communal slurs, targetting of non-protestors, gunshot wounds among civilians which the state denies inflicting till faced with evidence, denying the injured access to medical aid as well – all this is detailed in the report, along with the Supreme Court’s refusal (on December 16) to hear the matter, citing the destruction of public property and holding student protestors responsible for it. Read the Sabrang article of December 28, here.
● When the government set out to savage JNU three years ago, the campus slogans with their refrain of azaadi were unfamiliar and somewhat discomfiting to many Indians. Relentless attacks by Modi’s troll army have since ensured that the slogans went mainstream. Click here for the Samim Asgor Ali video of a large and mixed crowd in Delhi (December 24) that joins Umar Khalid in a rousing five-minutes of call and answer.
● In the three weeks since students became the face of a national movement against the CAA, our roving eye has frequently paused to note a resurgence of poetry in the streets. Here, on Bahujan TV, Aamir Aziz of Jamia recites his poem Main inkaar karta hoon: Meri jaan ka faisla sansad ki ek saat ghante ki satra se ho, mujhe manzoor nahin / Meri pehchaan ka faisla kisi pehchaan patra se ho, mujhe manzoor nahin. (In case you still haven’t watched his video – Achhe Din Blues – you could remedy it here before reading further.) Also, here, on Poojan Sahil’s YouTube channel, Kaushik Raj recites the cascading lines of his proem, Mera Samvidhaan, against the CAA. And, in case you missed it, here is Rahat Indori reciting from a ghazal (at Latur, December 13, two days after CAB became law). A sampler from within: Sahib, jhooth se, sach se, jis se bhi yaari rakhein / aap tau apni taqreer jaari rakhein. // In dinon aap malik hain bazaar ke / jo bhi chaahein vo qeemat hamaari rakhein. // Sahib baat man ki karein ya vatan ki kahein / jhoot bolein tau avaaz bhaari rakhein. The refrain: sab pe dast-e karam baari-baari rakhein.
● The CAA, NPR and NRC have drawn global condemnation, and from Indians around the world. This video from The Quint (December 22) shows groups of protestors as far afield as Washington, New York, Barcelona, Berlin, London, The Hague, Geneva… They raise the slogans we hear on our streets, read the Preamble aloud in unison, and speak of their personal hurt and insecurity at the government’s abandonment of the Constitution. “I am a Muslim,” says a woman protestor, “my husband is a Hindu, which means that my children are both. I have always believed that my children gained from two great cultures rather than losing something.” Writing in The Hindu (December 26), Radha Khan speaks of her family’s roots in the old (and erstwhile) Allahabad, where her grandmother, Shyam Kumari Nehru – lawyer, feminist, humanist – committed herself to the freedom struggle in the belief that it would make possible new rights and identities. Find it here.
● In The Indian Express (December 30), Shubhojit Roy speaks of disquieting feedback from 16 foreign embassies in Delhi, all expressing concern at the CAA. While the government has conducted several briefings with them on issues it labels as “domestic” – including the Pulwama attack, the revocation of Article 370, and the Ayodhya verdict – foreign diplomats are yet to be briefed on the new law, although the matter concerns immigrants from three countries and has international implications. Roy mentions the cancelled visits of the Bangladesh foreign minister and the Japanese prime minister, as also the cancellation of a meeting with a visiting delegation from US Congress, by the external affairs minister, S. Jaishankar – in order to avoid meeting Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, after her “unfair” report on Kashmir. Roy warns that India may be “fast losing friends”. The article may be read here.
● Does Bangalore start the New Year with a new detention centre? Modi’s assertion at his Delhi rally that no such centres exist was a flagrant lie, since six are known to be up and running in Assam. The new one in Bangalore used to be a hostel for SC/ST students. If the irony isn’t thick enough for you yet, B. Bommai, home minister of Karnataka, insists the structure is nothing as discriminatory as a detention centre; rather it’s a facility to lodge African nationals who overstay in India and indulge in drug peddling. That was Bommai at his soothing best, but in September, he had warned that the government was collecting information on illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Read the story in Sabrang.
● The desertion of citizens by the institutions of state grows daily more stark. Gautam Navlakha points out that in BJP-ruled states “protestors have been turned into offenders” with the imposition of Section 144 by the law-enforcement agencies. What’s more, officials are increasingly taking their cue from state repression, as witness the gratuitous remarks on civilian protests by Army Chief Bipin Rawat, and the Chief of the Eastern Command, Lt Gen Anil Chauhan. Disdain for the Constitution and its guarantees is a spreading malaise, Navlakha warns in his article for Newsclick (December 28) here. (On December 30, a day before he was due to retire from service, General Bipin Rawat was appointed the country’s first Chief of Defence Staff, a post he is eligible to hold till the age of 65 – he is not 62 yet, having been appointed Army Chief after superseding two senior officers in 2016.)
● Speaking to Al Jazeera (here, on December 22) Prof Tarun Khaitan noted the moral vocabulary of the protestors: “I could not have imagined tens of thousands of people reciting in public the Preamble to India’s Constitution.” Increasingly, the voice of integrity, inclusiveness, reason, compassion and truth has emerged from crowds, rather than the State. Here is Satyen K. Bordoloi’s (December 28) upload of a film on Mumbai’s August Kranti Maidan protests. The Quint shows the Christmas spirit of protestors at Jamia here. And here, Prof Laxman Yadav of DU asks on Bahujan TV why the government isn’t compiling more useful lists of citizens, such as a list of unemployed youth, or one of homeless people, and why it isn’t publishing the caste data collected during Census 2011. Let us see if every community enjoys opportunities in proportion to their numbers, he says. The Bheem Army (on December 29) put out a video of protest marches at Jorbagh and the Jama Masjid, Delhi, to demand Chandrashekhar Azad’s release and Adityanath’s resignation. Protestors wore black bands as handcuffs, both to symbolise their leader’s incarceration and their own innocence amid charges of vandalism from the government. View the report. HuffPost (December 30) carries the story of lawyer Deepanshu Sahu who has travelled from Jabalpur to Kolkata and Delhi wearing a printed vinyl poster protesting against the CAA. It fits like a shift dress and is about equally warming, but every detail of his protest makes up for the missing warmth. Read here.
● Meanwhile, state governments in Karnataka and UP have decided to penalise protestors for damage to public property. Karnataka has gone further, mulling a ban on two political parties – the Popular Front of India and Social Democratic Party of India – after two protestors in Mangalore were killed in police firing. Read the story in The Hindu (December 27). How do we square the BJP’s history of lawless street protests with its current horror of citizens taking to the streets? Why has it turned into a history the BJP is anxious to soft-pedal today? Varun Grover explains here, on The Wire (December 28), how several of the BJP’s top leaders made their political debut with the pre-Emergency student protests of the early 1970s, and this makes the erosion of support among students particularly galling to them today.
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