About a year ago, when Kerala was witnessing protests against the Sabarimala judgement, a group of likeminded people in Kerala came together to organise a huge gathering in the state’s capital to stand for gender equality. Today, when the country is witnessing unprecedented protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the citizen’s group ‘We The People’ has organised a five-day protest in Thiruvananthapuram in solidarity with the protests across the nation.
The protests kicked off on Monday, January 13, with a photo exhibition held in front of the Kerala Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram and will culminate in a ‘Maha Paura Sangamam’ (which translates to large citizen’s gathering) on January 17.
On Thursday, Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala, MK Muneer, the deputy leader of Opposition in the Assembly and leader of the IUML, and Muslim Education Society President, Fazal Gafoor, will speak at a session to be held in the evening in front of the Secretariat. Thursday’s event is being held as a curtain-raiser for the Maha Paura Samgamam.
Filmmaker Vidhu Vincent, the chairperson of the organizing committee of the event, told TNM that ‘We, The People’ has come together again to stress upon the fact that religion cannot be the basis for citizenship in India.
“The first event was conducted in 2018 when the state of Kerala witnessed a particular situation over the entry of young women into Sabarimala. This time, it has become more relevant because of the particular situation existing in the country. The striking feature of this year’s event is the exchange among those who are opposing the Act. People who joined protests in their respective states will be coming here,” Vidhu told TNM.
The people who are expected to take part in the Maha Paura Sangamam are CPI leader Annie Raja, writer Harsh Mander, social activists Sandeep Pandey and Shabnam Hashmi, actors Udayanidhi Stalin and Chandan Kumar, filmmaker Dr Biju, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, Kerala Pulaya Maha Sabha leader Punnala Sreekumar, social activist CK Janu, and many others.
“This is the first time that a protest against the Modi government is being held across the nation. With this event, we want to underscore that religion is not the base for being a citizen of a country. We have invited all those who could face exclusion step by step – Muslims, gender minorities, women — and we have given due importance to everyone,” Vidhu adds.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will be delivering the keynote address during the Maha Paura Sangamam in the evening.
"The first time such a protest was organised was when there were tensions based on religion and worship, and when the fundamentals of the Constitution were challenged. This time, it is being organised when a similar situation has arisen. This time, the response has been even bigger,” VS Syamlal, a freelance journalist, who is part of ‘We The People,’ told TNM.
Jayachandran Kadampanad, a folk singer, who is also part of ‘We The People’, said that the gathering has become more relevant now as the situation has become more complicated.
"People are afraid, even those who live in Kerala, the state that has openly opposed the CAA and NPR. We can't stay silent,” he says.
University students who also participated in anti-CAA and anti-NPR protests will also take part in the event.