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‘For how long will you test a Muslim’s patience’ — academics say CAA protests to intensify

Muslim clerics & academics say protests against citizenship law at Jama Masjid and elsewhere show the community’s patience has reached a tipping point. 

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New Delhi: The new citizenship law may have worked as a trigger for Friday’s “unprecedented” protest at Delhi’s Jama Masjid attended mostly by Muslims, but it also signals an end to their “patience” level given the current state of affairs, according to clerics and academics from the community.

They said protests against the law will only intensify in the coming days.

The Narendra Modi government’s amended citizenship law seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan if they faced religious persecution there.

For the past week, protests — some violent, some peaceful — have broken out across the country over the law. The agitation that began in Assam, other parts of the Northeast and West Bengal soon spread to several university campuses — including Jamia Millia Islamia, AMU, Jadavpur University, TISS, IIT-Bombay and IIT-Madras.

On Friday, a massive protest was led by Bhim Army chief Chandrashekar Azad, which saw hundreds of people, mostly from the Muslim community, gathering in and around Jama Masjid, demanding a repeal of the new law.

The crowd at Jama Masjid was large, with protesters carrying posters of ‘Save the Constitution’, Bhagat Singh, B.R. Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi, and some also flying the Indian flag.

A man holds a placard 'No CAB, No NRC' at a protest against the amended citizenship law in old Delhi on 20 December 2019 | Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint Photo
Protests against the amended citizenship law were held in old Delhi on 20 December 2019 | Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint

According to Muslim academics, the Friday’s protest signals a shift in how the community has reacted so far to issues involving them.

Prominent voices from within the community also said that Muslims did not protest after the Babri Masjid was demolished in Ayodhya in 1992 or when the triple talaq bill was passed or even after incidents of lynching of Muslims for allegedly carrying beef, but now their patience has reached a tipping point.

“It seems their patience, like many other sections of Indians, has been tested for far too long. They seem to be coming out of the state of shock and awe. It should have been addressed long ago. It is still not too late,” said S.Y. Quraishi, former election commissioner.  

Mufti Mukarram Ahmed, Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Fatehpuri Masjid, said the protests are only likely to intensify across the country.

Mussalman ka sabr kab tak azmaoge (For how long will you test a Muslim’s patience?). Today’s protest, as also the protests happening elsewhere in the country, is against the attempt to change India’s Constitution,” he added.

Also read: Not Owaisi, not TMC, India’s Muslims must return to Congress after citizenship row

‘Muslims have been pushed against the wall’        

Another prominent Muslim voice, Zafaryab Jilani, convener of Babri Masjid Action Committee, told ThePrint the protest at Jama Masjid is a reflection of how their faith in the government has broken.

According to Jilani, Muslims have realised that now, they have been left with no choice but to come out and protest. And the support that they have got from non-Muslims has given them a big boost, he added.

Many among the Muslim intelligentsia said Delhi has not seen such an open show of Muslim solidarity in a long time.

“I do not remember seeing Muslims coming out in such large numbers openly to raise their voice even when their own got lynched or the triple talaq bill was passed. The unprecedented protest in the capital Friday happened because the government is now questioning them on their ‘Indianness’, their right to live in India,” said Supreme Court advocate Anas Tanvir.

Muslims conduct namaz at Delhi Gate in old Delhi during a protest against the amended citizenship law on 20 December 2019 | Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint Photo
Muslims conduct namaz at Delhi Gate in old Delhi during a protest against the amended citizenship law on 20 December 2019 | Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint

Some also drew a parallel between citizenship law protests and the demonstrations that happened way back in 1985 after the Shah Bano verdict in which the Supreme Court upheld her right to alimony, setting off a political battle as well as a controversy about the extent to which courts can interfere in Muslim personal law.

“The two issues are not comparable as Shah Bano case pertained to Muslim personal law and religion. The citizenship law is about allegiance to the country. But that was the only other time that I can think of where people from the community came out on the streets to protest,” said Tanvir Aeijaz, professor of the political science department, Ramjas College.

Aeijaz said he views the citizenship law protests largely as an assertion of Muslim solidarity, where they see themselves being pushed against the wall after the passage of the law.

“Muslims see it as the first attempt by the government to basically disenfranchise them in the long run. They can see their future. Also, Muslims have been looking for a support structure. The support by Chandrashekhar Azad’s Bhim Army has helped,” Aeijaz added.

Also read: Car set on fire, water cannons used as anti-CAA protests turn violent in old Delhi


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  1. It is high time that the government should reconsider its latest initiatives about CAA and NRC. Proposed nation-wide pan- NRC should be scrapped altogether. Without NRC the CAA has no teeth except in Assam, where 1.9 million have been identified as people without proper documentation. Out of these 1.9 million ,many lakhs are Hindus/Non-Muslims. While they get the benefit of CAA, the moot point is what to do with Muslims without proper documentation in Assam. The bare fact is that no government can dare to put these people in camps or deport them (where to?). The government will have to accept the fait accompli situation and be content with their residency in India, though granting them citizenship rights could be a moot point. In the meanwhile, the government should hold talks with the leaders of Muslim community to regain their trust . Now all this leads us about the issue of flow of illegal immigration into India, mainly from Bangla Desh. Since the Bangla Desh economy is currently doing better than the India economy, the flow could be arrested with strong measures.

  2. How do you justify protest just being Muslims? They are first to consider themselves citizen of India than Muslim, which is not affected by CAA. The law is passed in parliament. SC will check it too as there are petitions filed.
    Did they ever raise voice when Bangladesh become Islamic state? Also when Pakistan and Afghanistan was Talibanized? They are not only selfish but call others Kafir through their religion. Check Quran if I am wrong.
    They even continue Nikah Halala.
    India is trying to help those who are persecuted in such Islamic state.
    These same Muslim killed son in law of Prophet and even his family. Even in 20th century no Muslim scholar willing to reform

  3. If the Muslims are so worried about “Muslim Minorities” like the Ahmadis and the Shias in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan then let All India Waft Board, the Deobandis and other such groups issue a statement that the practices and faith of the Ahmadis, Shias are completely legitimate in Islam and accepted by them.

  4. The Muslims have every reason to protest, and they have every reason to do it peacefully. Seeing the numbers at the Jama Masjid brought home the fact that 200,000,000 is lots of folk. They just have to stroll, taking in the fresh air, to make their point. It would be lunacy to suggest to them, Fish out your documents of identity, going back three generations, in triplicate, get them certified by a notary, or we are moving you to transit accommodation. They will simply resolve, to the last man, woman and child to boycott the entire process.

  5. Honestly asking… Should the government expect unconditional support and trust in the Nation from brave Muslim soldiers and men uniforms? This country is being run by bastards and thugs…. Some I feel pity looking at Pranab Mukherjee too for sharing dias with anti national scum bags (RSS)

    • On a lighter note, if there is one Indian politician whose signals can be more mixed than Sharad Pawar’s, it would have to be Pranab Mukherjee.

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