Archana S, who works at a non-profit organisation in Bengaluru, has always been cautious about putting up or sharing anti-government posts on social media. She even feared speaking out anything overtly about political parties, be it online or at the office. But on Sunday, visuals of police action against the students of Jamia Millia Islamia University and Aligarh Muslim University shook her. “I thought if I, with all my privileges, do not protest now, then when will I?”
And thus, Archana reached Town Hall in Bengaluru on Thursday morning. She was one among those who were protesting, for a cause, in a public space for the first time.
Some young professionals and students who took to the streets for the first time told TNM what spurred them to come out and protest along with thousands of other citizens across India.
“I have fallen in love with the country once again after coming out to protest,” says Archana. “The National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship Amendment Act are supposed to divide us. But, on the contrary, I believe it has only strengthened our belief in secularism. Initially, I thought I would be one of the few who would come out today, but I was surprised to see a large crowd of protesters who reached before me.”
Swapnil, an undergraduate student from Kolkata studying at Christ University, is concerned about how the CAA targets one community.
“Things have been bad for a while in the country with the government keen on taking forward policy decisions without having a concern for the effect it has on people. But this particular issue, we cannot wait and let it happen. NRC and CAB combined directly attacks one community and if this happens once, there will be no recourse left,” he said
Joshua, a journalism student at a private university in Bengaluru and a native of Kerala, has only been voicing his dissent over CAA on social media. “When I heard there will be a large protest, my friends and I decided to join. I am against the decision as it is discriminatory. How are persecuted Hindus from our Muslim-majority neighbouring countries different from a Rohingya or a Sri Lankan Tamil? Why should we allow such a discriminatory law in our secular country?” he asked.
Vernetta Namshum, a native of Arunachal Pradesh and student of the National Law School University of India in Bengaluru, has been against the Citizenship Amendment Bill ever since it came to the fore in 2016. “And once the Bill was passed and made into an Act, the whole of Northeast India was burning. Hence, there is a need to hit the streets now to make the government realise that we are against it,” he said.
According to Vernetta Namshum, the people of Assam asked for NRC due to historical reasons as the region went through demographic changes. “But it was not exclusionary with respect to any particular religion. Moreover, CAA is arbitrary when the government proposed December 31, 2014 as the cut-off date for citizenship. How will this help the cause of NRC?” he asks.
Section 144, which restricts assembly of more than five people in public place, has been imposed across Karnataka since 6 am on Thursday and will be in place until the midnight of December 21. Prohibitory orders were declared even as several protest marches were planning for Thursday. However, despite the order, the city saw simultaneous and peaceful protests at Town Hall and Mysore Bank Circle, among other places. Over 200 protesters were detained.
Meanwhile, cities like Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad saw similar peaceful protests, where celebrities also participated. There were also reports of internet and mobile connectivity shut-down in parts of the country, including the national capital.