A sea of people, almost all men, convened at Adyar Kannur in Mangaluru on Wednesday in a massive protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The call for a protest was issued by 'We The People', a collective organising anti-CAA protests across the country. It was supported by Muslim organisations in Dakshina Kannada and it comes almost a month after two people were killed during anti-CAA protests on December 19 2019.
"The government is trying to instill fear in civil society and people will be scared to a certain extent, but eventually citizens will take to the streets. Amit Shah said he will not step back an inch on CAA but he is saying that after going two kilometres back," former IAS officer Kannan Gopinathan said while speaking at the event.
"This is not just a Muslim protest. A Hindu rashtra is not just against Muslims in the country but also against Dalits and women. Unemployment and onion prices are at an all-time high. When the situation is like this, the government is asking you to identify yourself and not ask questions," human rights activist Shivasundar said while speaking at the protest.
On Wednesday, more than 5,000 police personnel were deployed in Mangaluru. Activist Harsh Mander and retired Supreme Court judge Gopal Gowda, who chaired a People's Tribunal in Mangaluru following the police firing, also addressed the protesters.
Protesters gathered on the roads leading to Adyar Kannur on the outskirts of Mangaluru. Witnesses said that the road from Padil to Adyar Kannur, a distance of more than 3 km was blocked off by protesters.
Almost all the protesters on Wednesday were men. While the exclusion of women from the protest was not announced by the organisers, former MLA Moiuddin Bawa courted controversy when he suggested that women are not welcome to the protest due to safety concerns.
"When there are events held by the Muslim communities, arrangements made for women are communicated in advance. In the run-up to the protest this was not done and Moiuddin Bawa suggested that women should stay away from the protest as it was away from Mangaluru city and would cause an inconvenience to those who had to travel," a journalist based out of Mangaluru told TNM.
Women were not part of the first protest held in Mangaluru following the police firing on January 4. This was held at the KC Junction in Talapady amid heavy security deployment. Even on that occasion, safety was cited as the reason for excluding women from protests. A separate women's protest was held against CAA and NRC at Town Hall in Mangaluru on January 11. Scores of women held placards and raised slogans during the protest.