Crowds of protesters gathered at Bengaluru’s Town Hall to voice their opposition against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) on Sunday evening. While there have been many smaller protests in the city over the past few days, Sunday's gathering was the largest in the city so far. Protests were held on Friday in other towns and cities across Karnataka.
The protesters, many of whom waved the tricolour flag or held placards criticising the ruling dispensation, joined in shouting slogans against the Act, calling it divisive and discriminatory. Many said it was contrary to the Indian constitution and spoke about the pluralistic legacy of the country.
We have another freedom movement to take part in. To free India from the real tukde-tukde gang dividing Indians on the basis of identity. Let us pledge to fight for an inclusive India & celebrate our diversity. I urge everyone to join the struggle to save the soul of our country. pic.twitter.com/qboQXs4O30— Rajeev Gowda (@rajeevgowda) December 15, 2019
Prominent speakers which included historian Ramachandra Guha, Congress MP Rajeeev Gowda, MLA Sowmya Reddy and Siasat Daily Editor Amer Ali Khan, among others, criticised the BJP for bringing in new “divide and rule” policies like that of the pre-Independence British Raj.
Addressing the gathering, Guha said, “This country was founded on the principles of diversity. But the people who rule us in Delhi now want to impose one language and one religion on each one of us. But we will resist this. We don’t want one language and one religion, but we want democracy and pluralism.”
Calling it a “black” Bill, Bengaluru-based Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Gowda said, “I have come from Delhi with a heavy heart. I wanted to move amendments that would have annulled all the negative aspects of it. But the people in the last election has elected a party with majority and managed to push this ‘black’ Bill in both Houses of Parliament. But that does not mean we stop the fight.”
He continued, “This is not a new fight. It has been going on near to a century. It is a conflict between two ideologies, one which divides India on the basis of religion and one that is ours which wants to celebrate the diversity of India. The one which wants to celebrate the uniqueness of one another regardless of gender, language, region, culture or race. That is the India which we have been building but trying and overcoming the hatred that was sown by forces of division. In 1947, those forces succeeded in dividing the country. Today, those same forces of division has brought the CAA.”
A majority of those who gathered also protested against the equally controversial the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Divide among the protesters
However, there was a significant number of protesters, mostly students and young professionals from Assam who spoke in favour of the NRC and their historical demand for such a policy.
While the NRC exercise was recently carried out in Assam, Home Minister Amit Shah has announced that it will be carried out in the rest of the country by 2024.
Situation in rest of country
The protests in Bengaluru were held peacefully amidst police presence at the venue, but protests in many parts of the country took a violent turn. There were instances of police excesses against students of Jamia Milia and Aligarh Muslim University as well. Internet in Aligarh has been shut down for a day. Due to incidents of large-scale violence in Bengal, Internet services were shut in West Bengal's six districts -- Malda, Uttar Dinajpur, Murshidabad, Howrah, North 24 Parganas and parts of South 24 Parganas too.
Assam and Tripura, which saw large-scale protests over the last couple of days, experienced an uneasy calm as internet shutdown continued for a third straight day.