This isn’t an apologetic explanation of anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests being “too Muslim” — even though you apparently can spot those who are protesting and inciting violence by the clothes they wear. This is a proud admission of the protests being as secular as the Constitution of India.
Because as PM Narendra Modi said Sunday, after days of brutality, fear-mongering and state violence, “Unity in diversity is India’s speciality.”
The protesters who keep getting detained or beaten, come back onto the streets in more numbers — to protest against dilution of ethnic rights, the NRC, the exclusion of Muslims, the CAA, or simply, to protest the end of India as we know it. And in that — we are all one.
Why do the protests ‘look Muslim’?
Because it affects Muslims. If the NRC is going to identify ‘infiltrators’, CAA is going to let non-Muslims back in easily. Home Minister Amit Shah has himself pointedly made this connection between NRC and CAA on several occasions.
The law clearly discriminates against Muslims, which is why expecting Muslims not to frontline these protests is not only silly, but illogical.
But then are those who are using this fact to distort and create a perception that these protests are “only Muslim”. The stark similarity of the anti-CAA protests to the protests in Kashmir also adds to the perception of these protests being too Muslims. Only now, the cries of azaadi are reverberating in almost every state of India. Lathi charge, tear gas, stone pelting, firing at protesters and imposition of Section 144 was also thought to be a Kashmir phenomenon. But now, it is happening right in the heart of Delhi.
It’s not Islamist or extremist to fight for fundamental human rights.
People ask why a Ladeeda Sakhaloon and Ayesha Renna have turned into the face of these protests. Many publications even dug out “extremist” posts from their social media accounts to delegitimise their stand — apparently, they said “Allahu Akbar” and “InshaAllah” on their Facebook posts.
So, what’s wrong in saying Allah Akbar or InshaAllah? Saying InshAllah and being secular was never mutually exclusive. Neither was being Muslim and being Indian.
A weeping young woman, a student of Jamia Millia Islamia, who went viral on social media because of what she said against CAA also had to spell out her religion and confirm she’s not a Muslim.
A Muslim speaking against CAA is somehow “obvious”, but a Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Parsi speaking against CAA carries more weight. And yet, Muslims continue to speak out and participate in protests — because at this point, what do we have to lose?
And if you feel the protests are too Muslim, come join them.
An everyone, everywhere anger
The crowds of anti-CAA protests sure have hijabis and white skull cap, kurta pyjama–clad men. But then the crowds also have Chandrashekhar Azad, Sitaram Yechury, Harsh Mander, Yogendra Yadav, Nilotpal Basu, Brinda Karat, Ajay Maken, and Sandeep Dikshit in it.
And these are just some of the known names.
The protests have students, lawyers, doctors, comedians, IITians (since India loves them so much), historians and those who can’t stand quietly anymore as Modi and Shah paint the country saffron.
The reasons for protesting against CAA may be different. Perhaps, someone in Assam is against CAA because they want to protect their ethnic identity, while someone in Uttar Pradesh is protesting because Muslims are slowly and steadily being disenfranchised through CAA and NRC.
But the house isn’t divided on the unconstitutionality of the CAA and how absolutely unnecessary it is for India.
The fact that a Dalit youth leader receives the loudest cheer in the Jama Masjid protests points to how even Muslims are not just looking at the “Muslim leadership” to call out the bigotry of this government. Chandrashekhar Azad held up the Constitution of India and the Bhim Army raised posters of B.R. Ambedkar and the Tricolour in a crowd of mostly Muslims. This while Jama Masjid Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari remained absent.
So, no it isn’t Muslim-only anger. It’s everyone, everywhere anger.
The author is a political observer and writer. Views are personal.