620-km-long human chain formed in Kerala.
New Delhi: In several cities across the city, citizens protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act marked India’s 71st Republic Day on Sunday by reading out the Preamble of the Constitution, hoisting the tricolour and forming human chains.
In Kerala, a 620 km-long human chain, from the northern part of the state to the south, was formed in a show of defiance and solidarity against what they say is a divisive, discriminatory law. It was organised by the ruling CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front.
In Hyderabad, police reportedly detained Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad ahead of a planned protest against the CAA and the NRC on Sunday evening. A tweet from Mr Azad’s official Twitter handle said, “Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad ji has been arrested by the Hyderabad Police.”
In Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, which has emerged as the fulcrum of anti-CAA protests, a massive crowd gathered to witness flag hoisting and Preamble reading.
The old women of Shaheen Bagh, popularly called the “Dadis”, unfurled the flag as thousands sang the National Anthem with affecting josh and pride. Among them was Rohit Vemula and Junaid Khan’s mothers.
Sixteen-year-old Junaid was murdered in a train while he was on his way to his hometown for Eid. Rohit, a dalit scholar, committed suicide due to harassment.
The day also saw Latin churches across Kerala reading out a pastoral letter against the CAA claiming the act was not just affecting one particular community and calling for observing January 26 as the day to “protect the Constitution” of the country.
Mosques under the Wakf Board and the Latin churches hoisted the national flag and read out the preamble to the Constitution after the routine prayer.
The LDF claimed that around 60 to 70 lakh people participated in the 620-km-long human chain formed from Kasaragod in north Kerala to Kaliyakkavilai in the southern-most part of the state. The human chain was formed at 4 PM, following which the Preamble was read out. Senior CPI(M) leader S. Ramachandran Pillai was the first link of the human chain at Kasaragod, while M.A. Baby was the last link at Kaliyakkavilai. Many prominent personalities from all walks of life participated in the human chain. Newly wed couples too were seen standing as part of human chain.
Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and CPI leader Kanam Rajendran joined the protest in Thiruvananthapuram.
Later, an oath was taken to protect the Constitution from the “attempts of the Central government” to destroy it.
In Kolkata, people from different communities held hands to form an 11-km chain, stretching from the north to the south of the city and read aloud the Preamble.
In Assam, minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and BJP legislator Angoorlata Deka were shown black flags by anti-CAA protesters at two different locations on Sunday when they were on their way to attend Republic Day programmes. Mr Sarma, who is also the North-East Democratic Alliance convener, was heading for the Nurul Amin stadium in Nagaon district, when AASU and AJYCP members rushed towards his convoy and shouted “Go back” and “CAA ami namanu” (We do not accept CAA) while waving black flags at him. They agitators were overpowered by police and detained.
In Kamrup district, Ms Deka, BJP MLA from Nagaon’s Batadrava constituency, was greeted with protests and black flags by AASU activists, reports said. The legislator had to make her way through the agitation to the reach the venue.
Over 300 eminent personalities from the creative and scholarly community of India, including actor Naseeruddin Shah, filmmaker Mira Nair, vocalist T.M. Krishna, author Amitav Ghosh and historian Romila Thapar expressed solidarity with the students and others protesting against the CAA and NRC in a statement. Writers Anita Desai, Kiran Desai, actors Ratna Patak Shah, Jaaved Jafferi, Nandita Das, Lillete Dubey, sociologist Ashis Nandy, activists Sohail Hashmi and Shabnam Hashmi were also among the signatories.
“We stand in solidarity with the students and others who are protesting and speaking out against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and against the National Register of Citizens (NRC). We salute their collective cry for upholding the principles of the Constitution of India, with its promise of a plural and diverse society. We are aware that we have not always lived up to that promise, and many of us have too often remained silent in the face of injustice. The gravity of this moment demands that each of us stand for our principles,” the statement read.
“The policies and actions of the present government, passed quickly through parliament and without opportunity for public dissent or open discussion, are antithetical to the principle of a secular, inclusive nation. The soul of the nation is threatened. The livelihoods and statehoods of millions of our fellow Indians are at stake,” the statement further read. They said that contrary to the stated objective of the government, the CAA doesn’t appear to be a “benign legislation only meant to shelter persecuted minorities”.
Meanwhile, Delhi Police booked activist Sharjeel Imam for delivering an “inflammatory speech” during the ongoing protest in Shaheen Bagh. According to the police, Imam, a resident of Bihar and former Jawaharlal Nehru University student, delivered “very inflammatory and instigatory speeches in his opposition to CAA and NRC”.
“He had previously delivered one such speech in Jamia Millia Islamia on December 13 last year and thereafter one even more inflammatory speech against the government which is being widely circulated on social media,” police said, adding that these speeches have the “potential to harm the religious harmony” and the unity and integrity of India.