Two Months On
A round-up of the voices and issues raised against the CAA – VIII

● After laying an egg with his election campaign in Delhi, Yogi “Biryani” Adityanath returned to a disrupted legislative assembly in UP, where Samajwadi MLAs protested against the CAA-NRC-NPR (February 12) during the governor’s address by Anandiben Patel. For a thumbnail portrait of the state administration watch Nivedita Menon speak of her recent visit to Sambhal (Newsclick, February 4). This is Hindu rashtra, she says: a BJP element working with the state apparatus and the full cooperation of a criminal mafia. Adityanath’s harassment of protestors continues. Newsclick (February 15) reports on personal bonds of up to Rs 50 lakh each, signed by additional district magistrates, imposed in Lucknow and Sambhal. Among those charged many are daily wagers. Sabrang (February 5) tells of how the women’s protest at Bilaraiyaganj, district Azamgarh, was broken up by the UP police. “There was no lathi charge. We just showed them the lathis to make them run away,” claims the police. Now if you can swallow that.  

● The National Human Rights Commission was forced to stir after Priyanka Vadra’s January 27 complaint against the UP police’s brutality. As The Hindu (February 10) reports, the human rights body has sent notices to the UP police and government. There’s no particular hurry on either side. The authorities have been given a month and a half to respond. Whatever prevented the commission from visiting UP it wasn’t a lack of news reports. (See our newsletter of January 9, here.) Two videos put out by the Karwan e Mohabbat (February 13), one each from Delhi and UP, reveal the criminal conduct of the police forces of both states these past two months. The first video, from UP, takes us to the testimony of victims speaking through their tears, from a vandalised home where a wedding was to take place (the bride-to-be is in hospital with a gash in her scalp), or clustered around a charpoy as they recount the murder of a family member, the indifference of doctors and hospitals, verbal and physical abuse from the police. We see the injuries and bloodstained clothes of a minor; many more remain in lock-ups, at the mercy of the police and far from the thoughts of the human rights commission. On UP’s arrested minors also read this Newsclick report (February 9) on what The Quill FoundationCitizens Against Hate, and Haq have said after their fact-finding trip to the state.

Karwan’s second video, from Delhi, shows police action and inaction at multiple sites since December 13 – now battering students with a will, now gently shepherding pro-CAA protestors into safe pens, or watching idly as the Jamia shooter waves his pistol in the air. Ravish on NDTV (February 12) shows footage that gives the lie (yet again) to the Delhi police’s claim of not having used brute force against student protestors from Jamia on February 10. Faye D’Souza (Boom, February 14) talks to Suvesh, a student at Jamia and eyewitness of the latest police assault on protestors attempting to march to parliament. Did the police use a chemical spray on them? The symptoms – giddiness, nausea and eyelids fused shut – suggest it. Meanwhile, more footage has emerged of the police’s rampage through the Old Reading Hall of the university on December 15. Since we started with Priyanka Vadrahere’s a short video of her at Azamgarh (February 12). She speaks from the top of an SUV and the crowd thrills to her rebuke of the police (a large detail of them in attendance). 

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● What’s the road ahead like? Long, winding and steep, warns Supreme Court lawyer Bhanu Pratap Singhspeaking at the Shastri Park women’s protest (Democracy Post, February 13). The Supreme Court’s four-week gap before its next sitting on the CAA elapses this week. The government is expected to come up with answers to some 143 petitions. But the case probably goes before a constitution bench next. Once that happens, the bench will determine when to begin its hearings. We’re looking at a slow-moving process, and on May 15 starts the summer vacation of the court, which lasts two months. Where does that leave protestors? Will they sustain, and build on what they have?

It will be hard to get right, says Singh, with the godi media trying continually to trip and sandbag them, show them up for fools or a hired crowd. Communicating and staying informed will be important.

On the other hand, knowing too much can be a problem too. HuffPost’s Nikhila Henry writes (February 13) of the Karnataka police’s frank incredulity that schoolchildren in Bidar should know of the CAA and even hold views on their exclusion from citizenship. The investigation of the Shaheen Primary and High School grinds on. The headmistress and a parent remain under arrest. The article also carries pictures of the man who lodged the police complaint, and he has company. In one picture Nilesh Rakshal, now identified as a BJP member, poses on a sofa with Amit Shah, in another he is joined at the hip to Anurag Thakur and they are "twinned" sartorially as well.

● For now, the protests continue to pick up steam. Sabrang (February 6) reports on how the little town of Modasa in Gujarat came alive with women protestors. On February 12, Ghatnandur village in Maharashtra passed a resolution against the CAA and NRC; the previous day, Isalak village, without a single Muslim resident, became the first in the country to do so. The number of protestors at Malerkotla (on February 16) just went up to a lakh, estimates The Times of IndiaThe Quint (February 15) has a video of multiple anti-CAA protests springing up in Chennai after the city’s Old Washermanpet area saw police action. An inspiring story widely covered this past week is that of Advocate D.S. Bindra, who sold a flat to keep his langar at Shaheen Bagh running. Shubha Mudgal sang “Main nahin maanta” at the Bagh, and T.M. Krishna “Hum Dékhéngé” in four languages – Urdu, Malayalam, Kannada, and Tamil. Two more musicians on the marquee, Madan Gopal Singh and Prateek Kuhad.

● Santhosh S., writing in Raiot (February 15), observes Shaheen Bagh as a reinvented urban space: nondescript yesterday but now alive, polyphonous, innovative and inversive of power relations – its defining point the audience of women rather than the performers onstage. Santhosh likens the reinvention to what Rohith Vemula did with the velivada (or dalit settlement), when he set up his shanty outside the HCU, not in meek compliance with his exclusion but as a rebuke to a failed university that functioned like an agrahara (temple land).

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● In Bengaluru, the land grab continues. Sabrang reports (February 15) on thirty dwellings razed and a hundred and fifty migrant workers left homeless, when an armed gang of fifty men arrived with JCB machines and started destroying property at Munnekolala, near Marathahalli. Three weeks back, we had covered another story with the same outlines. In that instance the demolitions were carried out at the Kariyamanna Agrahara. The CAA will set off a feeding frenzy among landsharks, and they’ve only smelt the blood in the water yet.

At Mokua and Siruani Chapori in the Sonitpur district of Assam, on February 10 the district administration carried out an eviction drive that saw 400 “doubtful” families removed, their houses destroyed, and their moveable belongings shifted to the Jamuguri police station.

● The Maharashtra government is set to begin the NPR process on May 1 and end it by June 15. Hindu festivals and those of most other religions have been listed as acceptable memory markers of birthdays, but not Islamic festivals. Sabrang (February 13) has the story.

● On February 14, Kanhaiya Kumar’s convoy was attacked as he travelled from Buxar to Arrah in Bihar. In a tweet, he reported that the arsonists had also set fire to the stage at Arrah before his arrival. This is the eighth attack on him in the three weeks since his “Jan Gan Man Yatra” began. Manish Kumar of NDTV was travelling with Kanhaiya’s group and reports that masked men with stones in their hands had attacked them, shouting “desh ké ghaddaaron ko, goli maaro saalon ko”. That's our preview of what the BJP has in store for Bihar once electioneering begins.

● It is also three weeks since Sharjeel Imam went to the police in Jehanabad (Bihar) and was taken into custody – three days after he was charged with sedition (January 25). Writing in Raiot (February 5), Evita Das, Akshat Jain and Shahrukh Khatib show how Imam is disappearing from view, his own writings replaced by news and commentary on him. They retrieve and link ten articles by him (six of them co-authored), along with a full transcript of Imam’s speech at AMU.