Visuals of noted historian Ramachandra Guha being detained became symbolic of countrywide protests led largely by academics and students on Thursday against police action in Jamia Millia Islamia and Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). Left parties and other political activists had initially given the call for agitation which was overtaken by students and teachers angry with police crackdown with prohibitory orders against assembly under Section 144 having been deployed in large parts.
Delhi Metro closed
Thousands of protesters were detained around Delhi’s Red Fort in the morning while others gathered around Jantar Mantar through the day, waving handwritten banners and posters against police high-handedness and CAA which has made religion the basis for citizenship in India. “We are Hindus, not idiots,” said a poster. “Constitution is not the BJP’s manifesto,” said another.
In Delhi, the Police clamped Section 144 in some areas to stop people from gathering. A number of Metro stations have also been closed down and internet has been shut in some areas of the city. Along with Ramchandra Guha in Bengaluru, lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan, academic and political activist Yogendra Yadav were arrested in Delhi along with Left leaders Sitaram Yechury, Prakash Karat, D Raja and Brinda Karat along with over a 1,000 protesters in the morning.
They were bundled off in buses and let out some distance away from the protest venue. The leaders later reached Jantar Mantar where a large crowd of students and teachers had gathered, chanting slogans against the Centre — especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah — for pushing the country towards religious polarisation by making religion a ground for grant of citizenship.
Over 10,000 academics from across the world signed a statement, with the names running into 126 pages, in solidarity with students of Jamia Millia Islamia and their protest against the discriminatory CAA.
“How many people will your jails hold? As Gandhiji said, once people lose the fear of being detained, they are free. Then the oppressors have lost. That is what is happening with the CAA protests,” said Prashant Bhushan before he was whisked away by the police.
Outrage poured over social media and television channels from noted cinema personalities including Anurag Kashyap, Anubhav Sinha, Farhan Akhtar. “Historian Ramachandra Guha, mid-interview, detained by police while talking about non-violent protest,” exclaimed author William Dalrymple.
At the August Kranti Maidan in South Mumbai, a large crowd of students, activists and political personalities gathered to protest against the new citizenship law. A student at Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS), Chaitanya Damodar said he had joined the protest because he felt that CAA is discriminatory on the ground of religion and NRC would further deepen the divide in the country. “The Government is discriminating against the Muslims today. Tomorrow, it would be against Dalits and other marginalised sections. We are against such discrimination and divide in the society,” he said. Ashutosh Koram from Siddhart College felt that the Government is “hell-bent on dividing the country on religious lines”. “But the more they divide us, the more we will unite and consolidate,” he said.
Mamata on a rally spree
In Kolkata, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee challenged the Centre to announce a referendum over the amended Citizenship Act and the proposed nationwide NRC. Banerjee, addressing her fourth rally in as many days, said the referendum could be monitored by the United Nations or National Human Rights Commission. “Just because BJP has got the majority doesn’t mean they can do whatever they want. If the BJP has guts, it should go for a United Nations-monitored referendum on the issue of Citizenship Amendment Act and the NRC,” the Chief Minister said adding: “If the BJP loses this mass vote, then it should step down from the government.”
A spate of rallies were held across Kolkata with all the major political parties – Trinamool Congress, CPI(M) and its allies and the Congress – organising different protest marches across the city. City-based intellectuals, civil rights groups, and civil society members took out a march demanding withdrawal of CAA. The civil society rally was without any political banners and noted actors like Aparna Sen and Kaushik Sen took part in it.
In Karnataka, a PIL was filed in the High Court by MV Rajeev Gowda, Rajya Sabha member and Sowmya Reddy, MLA representing Jayanagar constituency in Assembly. Imposition of Section 144 in Bengaluru city has been questioned in the petition.