Since the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) on 12th December 2019, people from all across the country have come out onto the streets in lakhs to protest against the Act and the NRC.
On 19th December Jantar Mantar in Delhi, saw massive numbers of youth; women, workers, elderly and others come out to demand their rights and the repeal of CAA and NRC.
While proper permissions were taken to go to protest on 19th December, section 144 was activated in the state on the very same morning, making it “legal” for the police to take action again the protests. In the morning hours, protesters gathering at Mandi house were being detained and news was spreading that those protesting at Red Fort were also being picked up and put into buses by the police. Those who were travelling on the Metro lines that were still open were subjected to sudden shut down of stations, left wondering where to get out and go to protest and for others who had to go to work, it meant spending excessively to get to their offices and places of work. The internet was being shut down across the state.
Even so people were helping each other, sharing the latest information while moving from place to place, by word of mouth and other more innovative methods, informing everyone to get to Jantar Mantar. The situation was tense but the people had no fear in their eyes. Every single person documenting each step they were taking in order to help others get to the protest.
At Jantar Mantar, protesters started to come in large numbers, some coming from Mandi House, some from Barakhamba, the rest from other parts of Delhi directly. As one approached Jantar Manatar the air resounded with slogans of “hume kya chahte, Azadi! Tum kuch bhi karlo, Azadi!”, “Inqalab Zindabad!”.
Even though the leaders of various organisations had been picked up at Mandi House, the youth showed great organisation and discipline; they formed protective barriers against the police and shouted slogans loud and clear. Some were distributing food to the protesters and cleaning the waste as they moved around. Others were helping to carry banners and posters, even though they clearly belonged to different groups and organisations. Large red banners surrounded a sea of students demanding immediate repeal of CAA and NRC. Women and girls shouted slogans loud and militantly demanding justice for the people of the country. Students and teachers from public and private schools and colleges joined in. A student from a renowned private university condemned the enactment of CAA and the NRC and stood by the statement of the student body of his college calling the response of the government towards the protesters “state organised terrorism”. Mothers of students in various colleges joined the protest and condemned the backlash of the state against the youth. People of all religious backgrounds joined in the protests. Students held their posters and banners up high!
The protest did not disperse until well after midnight and early morning on 20th December.
Since the events of 19th December, people across Delhi have continued to protest peacefully along with the rest of the country. Residents of colonies have also come out in protest. Even though the protests are being met with lathi charge, water cannons and arrests, people of the city are unwilling to back down in their fight for their rights and against the divisive CAA and NRC. News from other parts of the country telling accounts of people being harassed, beaten and killed by the state are only making people come out and protest and fight back even more militantly.
Mass protests at Jamia Milia University carry on
Thousansds of people are protesting day-after-day without any let up in front of Delhi’s Jamia Millia University against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The University has become the focal point of the voices of protest that are being raised country-wide against the CAA and the state terror being unleashed through barbaric violence by the police against students.
Even as dawn breaks, people from all over the city gravitate towards this centre. People come from far away locations, beyond just the college and neighbouring areas. Many come who have been inspired by the Jamia protests to organise rallies and marches in their own neighbourhoods.
A stage has been set up in front of Gate No.7 of the University. The students control this stage. Representatives of student organisations, political parties and social organisations address the students who are victims of the police brutality and others who are gathered there. Women, children and youth are a large part of this gathering. The youth are very attentive to what is happening on the streets outside, and continuously monitor for any sign of disturbance or disruption that may be organised from the outside.
Residents organise something or the other for the protestors to eat, be it biscuits, eggs, simple biryani or if nothing, some snacks. They organise for water. They organise for tea. Every protestor is holding a placard with the slogan, “Reject NRC, Reject CAA”. Children and youth have painted No NRC – CAA on their cheeks to express their demand. There are no altercations, no arguments, no eve-teasing and no threat of children getting lost. Wherever they get some place, people join to raise their voices in protest against NRC and CAA. It is evident that they are very angry and are expressing their anger at every turn. The protests draw to a close at 6 p.m. everyday. The area is totally vacant. Students and residents clear up all the garbage. They sweep the whole place clean, and then begin the preparations for the next day.
Large and small banners carrying slogans against NRC and CAA flutter all around the Jamia area.
Even now, there is evidence of police brutality against the Jamia students on 15th December. Lawyers have set up a legal aid center for helping victims of illegal and brutal police actions. Hundreds of students and leaders have been booked by the Delhi police for taking part in the anti-CAA protest.
All gathered unequivocally demanded immediate repeal of the CAA and charge the government of following in the footsteps of the British colonizers and trying to divide people on religious and communal lines. They gather in groups and express their anger through slogans and songs that reverberate in the air – “CAA, Down Down”, “NRC, Down Down!”, Immediately withdraw CAA”, “Attack on one is, an Attack on All!”, “State Terrorism, Down-Down!”, Hail the Unity of the People!”, “Azadi…!”, “Dig the grave of CAA”, etc.
Young college and school students come in large number along with hundreds of women, holding placards, banners, hand-made posters. Giving expression to their creativity they demonstrate their opposition in most varied ways from slogans, cartoons, poems, couplets, etc, which are soon on everyone’s lips.
School children led by their teachers and parents move around the entire rally raising slogans against the CAA/NRC and in defence of unity of all sections of people, exposing the designs of the rulers. Mothers encourage their young children to hold banners and shout slogans together with everyone else. Young girls, young and older women are moving freely and fearlessly in the rally; mutual respect is demonstrated by one and all.
A delegation of Communist Ghadar Party of India (CGPI) is participating in the demonstrations standing shoulder to shoulder with the demonstrators from all sections of people. The CGPI banners carry messages including “Ek par Hamla, Sab Par Hamla! (An attack on One, Is Attack on All”, “CAA – Instrument to Divide us on Communal Lines!”, “Down With State Terrorism!”, “We don’t accept Citizenship based on Religion!”, “CAA – An Ferocious Attack on Our Unity!”. Participants in the rally proudly hold the banners and join the comrades in raising slogans, which continue for hours no end. Within minutes the pictures of the demonstrators with banner and placards get relayed to the world through social media. They also share report of demonstration in other parts of the city and various parts of the country, and the world, where Indians live.
Many students and youth are doing the live video relay through social media, reporting every minute of the proceeding of the demonstration, interviewing demonstrators as well as participating organisations. The demonstration conclude at 6 PM at Azaan (call for prayer, Namaz) and everyone disburse peacefully with discipline.
One message that everyone carries was expressed succinctly by a women who came with her daughters –
“Let No One Dare Break People’s Unity! They Will Get a Bloody Nose!”
Groups of youth volunteers take the responsibility of managing the traffic in the area and cleaning up the place for the next day!
Muslim Women in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh (near Jamia) have occupied the streets since two weeks and they do not plan to leave. Just a day after students of Jamia Millia Islamia University faced tear gas and batons following their protest against the new citizenship law and a proposed citizens’ register that has brought hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets across the country, the locals of Shaheen Bagh decided to start their own form of protest. Every day, the mothers and daughters and sisters of the locality are joined by hundreds of others braving the cold. They just sit out there holding posters in a silent but powerful protest. Their spirit was captured by a Jamia student when she recited this verse on a cold winter night:
A wave has arisen, Thy says Moses,
It seems death is nothing less than a reward,
As the fragrance of my breath is that of my motherland!!
Saanjhi Viraasat, Saanjhi Shahadat, Saanjhi Nagrikta!
19th December 2019 was a day of solidarity. People from all walks of life and a large number of women made their way to the protest. Old friends from the women’s movement greeted each other. On the train were a crowd of girls from the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management, who proudly declared that not only were their teachers joining in, but so was their Dean. This was not an exception! There were students and faculty from St. Xavier’s, Wilson, Ruia, SIES… the list of colleges is long. IIT Mumbai was represented and TISS (Tata Institute of Social Sciences). Hundreds of students came from TISS and several faculty members defied the official order to join the rally.
At Grant Road Station, all roads seemed to lead to August Kranti Maidan. There was no need for any newcomer to the city to ask for directions. He had to just be carried by the wave of humanity making its way there! On the way, obliging volunteers were handing out bottles of water. The whole maidan was overflowing with people from all walks of life, of all religious faiths as well as atheists. People from various movements, parties, mass organisations, NGOs – they were all there.
The sea of people included old men and women, tiny tots hoisted on shoulders, and youth. The sheer number of young girls had to be seen to be believed. As against the 5000 that the police had expected, almost 2 lakh people were there!
Imaginative and creative banners and posters were displayed everywhere. Red flags proudly fluttered everywhere along with the Indian flag. Cultural groups presented their militant, defiant, revolutionary songs. The mood of resistance to the CAA was palpable. People felt that the government was acting totally against secular and democratic values that they hold dear. There was a lot of anger against the present regime. Speaker after speaker declared that the people would fight till victory was won. They asserted that Muslims are as much a part of our country as those of other faiths and that an attack on one is an attack on all.
Protests in several suburbs of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region such as Malwani, Dharavi, Chembur, Thane, etc., have continued every day. Cities like Pune, Akola and others have also witnessed protests.
The most recent protest on 27th December drew hundreds of thousands of protestors to Azad Maidan. They were, as in the protests all over the country, people across class, religions and ages. The action was called by the Joint Committee of Students’ Union along with several other organisations. The student organisers were very clear about the purpose of the action – “We are firmly against the new CAA and we will let BJP know this through our unity and commitment.”
Bengaluru has witnessed strong protests on 19th, 23rd and 26th December against CAA and NRC and continue to do so till date. There were more than 1 lakh people gathered to protest on 23rd December, despite the attack of the police on peaceful dissenters on 19th December. Thousands of people poured into a peace rally at Khuddus Saheb Eidgah near the Bengaluru Cantonment Railway station. The two-hour programme, organised by multiple organisations, saw a sea of protesters take part in the meeting.
The Town Hall in the city has become the epicentre of protests in Bengaluru. On 26th December, hundreds of women turned up at Bengaluru’s Town Hall to register their protest ‘draconian’ NRC, CAA. The protest was organised by various women’s groups. Trucks dropped off women by the hundreds. Protesters held aloft posters and several banners, some of which read, “Withdraw CAA permanently,” “No CAA, NRC, NPR,” “NRC and CAA is demonetisation of Indian citizenship.” The women declared that asking for documents was shameful. “This is a government that doesn’t work. Give us jobs, give us safety, give us a growing economy, give us freedom. Instead of this, all you are doing is trying to divide us! We will not be divided,”
Slogans like “Long live India!”, “Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians – all are brothers” reverberated in the Jama Masjid ground in Sector 20 of Chandigarh on 19th December 2019. Large number of people had assembled in a rally to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and to demand that government repeals the Act. Various leaders of organisations, including leaders of communist parties addressed the gathering. After the rally, a 21 member committee submitted a petition addressed to the President to the Governor of Punjab and its Administrator. Addressing the gathering, the Imam of the Sector-20 Jama Masjid, Khatib Maulana Ajmal Khan said that it is the 19th of December, which marks the day of martyrdom of Pundit Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaquallah Khan. He pointed out that Ram Prasad Bismil was a brahmin and Ashfaqullalh was a Muslim. However, in the freedom struggle they fought shoulder to shoulder. Ashfaqullalh had considered Ram Prasad Bismil as his ustaad. The freedom struggle was fought by both Hindus and Muslims and today too, we have to maintain our fraternity. He said that CAA is harmful to our country. Government must repeal this Act. No law of this country should be based on religion.
Students of the Madras University staged a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act for three consecutive days 15th-18th December. A large number of police personnel guarded the gates of the campus. The students staged their protest and raised slogans against CAA. The University administration announced holidays to snuff out the campus protests.
On 26th December, artistes, writers and leaders, belonging to various political parties, took part in a well-attended protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, organised by the Peoples’ Movement Against CAA, in Chennai.
Thousands protested in Salem, Tirupur and other places in the state.
The Students’ Union of Pondicherry University organised a boycott of their convocation on 23rd December, as a gesture of solidarity with students who were attacked in various parts of the country and to protest against the CAA. The convocation was presided over by the President of India.
In Kolkatta, women, from housewives to hijab-clad students, have occupied the center stage in protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. As protests in India grow by the day, they have drawn many women and girls – some housewives, some students with hijabs covering their hair, and others in full-length burqa robes – demonstrating this widespread public anger against the government.
In West Bengal, there have been several anti-CAA rallies since 12th December. Students from Jadhavpur University and other colleges have been demonstrating their opposition to the CAA besides the protests organised by the opposition parties like the TMC, and the Left-Congress forces. On 22nd December, the West Bengal State Jamiat-e-Ulama led a protest across the city. Thousands of people, including a large number of women participated in the protest.
UP has seen widespread protests against the CAA. People have come out in several cities including Lucknow, Kanpur, Allahabad, Agra, Aligarh, Ghaziabad, Varanasi, Mathura, Meerut, Moradabad, Muzaffarnagar, Bareli, Firozabad, Pilibhit, Rampur, Saharanpur, Shamli, Sambhal, Amroha, Mau, Azamgarh and Sultanpur.
Students of Aligarh Muslim University were amongst the first to respond on 15th December on hearing about the attack on students in Jamia. They gathered at the Library Canteen and moved towards the main gate Bab-e-Syed where most of the protests usually take place.
Protests all across the world
Between 17th and 19th December, hundreds of Indian students from institutions such as Oxford, Sciences Po (Paris), Harvard, Cambridge, Columbia, University of Massachusetts, and masses of people organised peaceful protests in major cities like London, New York, Paris, Washington D.C., Toronto, Berlin, Geneva, Hague, Barcelona, San Francisco, Tokyo, Amsterdam and Melbourne.
“In all these demonstrations, there has been a call for repealing the CAA and National Register of Citizens (NRC), immediate cessation of use of force against dissenters, quashing of FIR against Jamia Millia Islamia students and restoration of telecommunications across all regions where internet and mobile services are currently suspended,” read a press release on the protests.
A statement by the India Society in the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and the South Asia Solidarity Group demanded the CAA’s repeal, scrapping of the National Register of Citizens, and an inquiry into reported police action in universities in India. Hundreds of Indian students at various universities in London and elsewhere in the UK staged a noisy protest demonstration outside the Indian High Commission on Wednesday evening, echoing concerns in India about the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The two-hour protest featuring Indian flags and placards with messages against the legislation followed similar recent protests in the University of Oxford and by the Indian Overseas Congress (UK) in London. Slogans were raised against the Indian government.
People of the Assamese community in London were joined by other Indians to protest against the amended Citizenship Act outside the Indian High Commission. Demanding revocation of the law, they held a protest gathering against the Act that threatens the linguistic and cultural identity of the Assamese people in Assam, a participant in the demonstration, “We hope to raise awareness against the law at the global platform and also show solidarity with friends and families back home”. University students and professionals participated in the protest that was held on Saturday and was organised by the Facebook group ‘Assamese in UK’. The protestors carried ‘gamosas’, the white and red cotton hand-woven towel, with slogans like ‘No CAB’, ‘We oppose CAB’, ‘Stop CAA’ written on them.
Universities in North America
There have also been protests in Harvard, Yale, MIT and against police brutality against Jamia students and demonstrations in solidarity with them.
Over 300 people, including students and alumni, gathered at Harvard University in the US, on Tuesday, 17 December, to protest the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and to express solidarity with their counterparts protesting across university campuses in India. This student gathering was preceded by an open letter issued by Harvard students to the Indian government a few days ago.
A large number of Indian-Americans gathered around the statue of Mahatma Gandhi installed in front of the Indian Embassy here on 22nd December 2019 and held a peaceful demonstration against the amended Citizenship Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC). Organised by the American-Indian Muslims in association with over a dozen of similar bodies, peaceful protestors from in and around the Greater Washington Area on Sunday shouted slogans in favour of India’s unity and displayed posters and banners that the country was headed in a direction that was against the unity of the people.
The protesters also passed a resolution requesting the Indian government to withdraw both the CAA and the NRC. “All we want the (Indian government) is to repeal the laws that have been enacted recently, so that we all can be one India, one people and nation under god so that we can work together, live together and not worry and not have any tensions about who is who has come from where. We are one people.