At around midnight on Wednesday, Bengaluru's Maurya Circle came alive. It was witness to a steadily swelling crowd that showed no signs of abating. For those in the crowd, rest had taken a backseat and the violence and injustice meted out against students and teachers at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) this past weekend was not something they could sleep on.
Hundreds of protesters turned up and occupied Maurya Circle in Bengaluru in a 24-hour-long protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC), and the violence that broke out at JNU on Sunday which left students and faculty members injured.
The protesters gathered at 6 pm on Tuesday. 30-year-old Sneha was among the first few who turned up at Maurya Circle at the start of the protest. She is an IT professional working in the city and she was attending her first protest. "I decided to come here to protest after what happened at JNU on Sunday, which was a tipping point for me. The police are expected to protect citizens and students," Sneha told TNM.
This is the first overnight protest held in Bengaluru along the lines of protests held at Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi and Gateway of India in Mumbai. This comes more than three weeks after the first protest was held in the city in the aftermath of police action in Jamia Milia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University on December 14.
On Sunday night, around 30-50 masked people wielding rods and sticks, entered hostels inside the JNU campus in Delhi and brutally assaulted students and faculty members who had opposed a sharp fee hike at the institution. At least 24 people were injured and were hospitalised. This included faculty member Suchitra Sen and Jawaharlal Nehru Students Association President Aishe Ghosh.
According to the organisers of the protest, Sunday's violent incidents prompted many fence-sitters to also turn up at Maurya Circle. "This is a turning point because people are giving up comfort to turn up at protests. The fact that we want to spend a night out to protest is a powerful statement and an expression of the will we have to carry this on and continue the fight," Satyavrat, one of the protesters told TNM.
As the hours went by, more protesters trickled in carrying food, water and other supplies for protesters who were on the streets through the night. The slogans, speeches, and singing also continued to reverberate all night. Most slogans were critical of the ruling BJP government, police officials and the lack of safety in universities in the country.
The protest was organised by a collective of students which had earlier organised protests in the city against the CAA and NRC. "Students have turned up here to ask for the mic to be passed to them. The people in power had their say and now students are turning up to say that they want a change. Instead of hijacking their movement, they should listen and respect the voices of students coming through here," Rohan Susan Mathew, a protester said.
Protesters have repeatedly stated that the CAA is unconstitutional and have been steadfast in their opposition against the Act, particularly in connection with NRC. Even though the number of protesters at the venue reduced around 3 am, the protest continued all night until the morning when another wave of protesters reached the venue to take over from those who had stayed all night.
Shivajinagar's Congress MLA Rizwan Arshad also took part in the protest but he did not address the crowd of protesters. The protest continued into Wednesday morning, and around 7 am, the Preamble of the Constitution was read out.
The 24-hour protest was also preceded by a candlelight vigil that was held at the St Joseph College of Commerce earlier on Tuesday.
(With additional pictures from Madhusudhan Sunder Raj)