An all-embracing umbrella when Muslims fight alone
Over 60 organisations cutting across ideological and religious lines have appealed for nationwide protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act on December 19.
December 19 commemorates the martyrdom of freedom fighters Ashfaqulla Khan and Ramprasad Bismil in 1927. On the same day in 1947, Mahatma Gandhi had dissuaded 70,000 Muslims from migrating to Pakistan.
The initiative to close ranks under one umbrella — Hum Bharat Ke Log: National Action Against Citizenship Amendment — has come at a time a perception has been gaining ground that the Muslims have been largely left to fend for themselves after the bill was passed.
Separately, political protests against the law are also expected to crystallise this week. Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is scheduled to lead a walkathon on Monday in Calcutta. On the same day, the ruling Left and the Opposition Congress, arch rivals in Kerala, have decided to organise joint protests in the southern state.
Hundreds of academics and activists from all religions have issued strong statements against the passage of the bill and several have moved the Supreme Court with pleas to declare it unconstitutional. Human rights activist Harsh Mander announced that he would register as a Muslim if the bill was enacted, refuse to submit documents and demand the same punishment as an undocumented Muslim.
However, large visible forms of protest have so far been carried out by Muslims, often spontaneous and without any apparent leadership structure. Some of the protesters have indulged in arson and violence in Bengal and in Delhi.
This has deepened fears that bereft of wider participation, the protests could
be hijacked by extremist elements, which would lead to further polarisation that would end up helping those bent on implementing the new law.
Against this backdrop, the initiative by the 60 organisations to come together under one umbrella assumes significance although there is no suggestion that the decision, announced on Saturday, was influenced by the protests that gained visibility since Friday.
The choice of the day, December 19, is also not without significance. Ashfaqulla Khan and Ramprasad Bismil, hanged by the British for looting treasury funds in what came to be known as the Kakori Conspiracy of 1925, were part of a stirring chapter in the Independence movement.
The daring action by Khan and Bismil nails religion-specific clichés being propagated by the Sangh parivar whose pantheon cannot boast such heroes from the freedom struggle decades.
December 19, 1947, was also the day “Mahatma Gandhi visited Ghaseda village in Mewat (now Haryana) to appeal to Meo Muslims not to leave for Pakistan. As many as 70,000 Muslims walked back from the Pakistan border heeding to Bapu’s promise on citizenship”, the National Action Against Citizenship Amendment said in a statement.
On December 19, events have been planned in more than 100 locations under the Hum Bharat Ke Log banner.
The association has called upon all citizens, organisations and movements to join hands. It has suggested that all the events should be open to any citizens who are opposed to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, but should be held without any organisational banners. A list of all events, venue and timing will be released soon, it added.
The day will be spent to recall “saanjhi virasat, saanjhi shahadat, saanjhi nagrikta (shared heritage, shared sacrifice, shared citizenship)”, the statement said.
Citizens will also be encouraged to take a pledge for non-cooperation with any registration processes, such as the National Register of Citizens, based on the discriminatory and divisive Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
The organisations numbering over 60 include United Against Hate, Karwan-e-Mohabbat, Citizens for Peace and Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), Joint Forum Against NRC (WB), National Alliance for Peoples Movements (NAPM), Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Gandhi Peace Foundation, Rashtra Seva Dal, Sarv Seva Sangh, All India Progressive Women’s Association and Swaraj Abhiyan.
The statement pointed out that the organisations cut across ideological and regional lines.
These include the “Asom Nagrik Samaj, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, Citizens for Peace and Justice, Dakshinayan, Indian Peoples' Theatre Association (IPTA), Karnataka Janshakti and the Majdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS).
The Citizenship Amendment Act “is an assault on our Constitution and the inclusive, composite vision of India that guided our freedom struggle. The Republic of India is founded on the negation of the two-nation theory that viewed citizenship through the prism of religion. The recent Amendment to the Citizenship Act brings back the two-nation theory by introducing a distinction between Muslims and non-Muslims for purposes of granting exemption for citizenship by naturalisation,” the statement said.
The proposal to extend the NRC to the entire country would institutionalise this divisive citizenship further. “It would also be inordinately burdensome on the Indian people, given the power of the document owned by just a privileged few. We must not forget the experience of the people of Assam,” the statement added.