Monday, 30th October 2017

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Unmistakable: fear

Despite being Indians, we are afraid we may be termed ‘infiltrators’: A protester

By Subhajoy Roy in Calcutta
  • Published 24.01.20, 2:42 AM
  • Updated 24.01.20, 2:42 AM
  • 2 mins read
The demonstration in the New Market area around 8.45pm on Thursday. The crowd had swelled to 1,000 by then. Mohammad Atif, a protester, said the crowd count peaked between evening and midnight. Picture by Pradip Sanyal

  • Your name? The young woman responded immediately.
  • Where do you live? She was silent.
  • Who else is there in your family? She refused to talk.

Protesters, especially Muslims, are suspicious of anyone asking family details as they fear the information can be misused and they can be targeted for speaking out.

Mahaul thik nahin hain (the situation is not good),” she said.

The Telegraph wanted to know from the protesters, who are on a sit-in near New Market, why they chose to be on a 24X7 vigil leaving their family, including kids, behind.

“I know he is a reporter; but if I tell him where I live and who else is there in my family, I may be targeted,” she told one of the organisers who prodded her to reply to Metro’s queries. “I have two kids at home and I do not want any trouble for them,” the mother in her spoke out.

So deep-seated is the fear for protesting the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the National Register of Citizens and the National Population Register. The protesters who shared their details explained why they are at times hesitant to be identified.

“The government is against us. Despite being Indians, we are afraid we may be termed ‘infiltrators’,” Reshma Khatun, another protester and mother of two, said.

She had joined the protest on Wednesday morning.

“If the police do not protect us, anyone can target us,” she said. “We wanted to continue our protest till the Supreme Court heard the petitions challenging the CAA four weeks later, but the authorities would not let us do that. The police have been pressuring us since yesterday to vacate the place. Who do we trust?”

The sit-in near New Market stepped into its third day on Thursday. The location would be shifted slightly in the night as the police have allowed the protesters to continue the vigil.

“We will shift a little so that the road can be used and it is not completely blocked,” one of the protesting leaders said.

Prasenjit Bose — one of the conveners of the Joint Forum Against NRC, the organisers of the sit-in — said the protest would continue till January 30. “We will march to the Gandhi statue that day and hold a meeting before announcing our next course of action. We can’t stop after seven days as this has to go on.”

A garlanded picture of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was on the dais since morning on Thursday. A young man sang Subh Sukh Chain Ki Barkha Barse on the occasion of Bose’s 123rd birth anniversary.

The song was composed in October 1943 and sung by members of the INA. It was a simple rendering of Tagore’s Bharata Bhagya Vidhata in Hindustani. Bose wanted the spirit of Tagore’s song, which was in Bengali, to be comprehensible to non-Bengali speakers in the INA, a historian said. Mumtaz Hussain, a member of INA, had written the Hindustani lyrics.

Anjum Khatun, 34, who has been at the vigil for more than 48 hours, wore a badge with Netaji’s picture. “I am wearing this since it is his birthday today. Bose fought for Independence and he did not divide between Indians; but the government of today is dividing us. They swear by Bose’s name but do not follow him.”