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‘We are here to protect the values of the Constitution’

Thousands of people from across Bengal joined a protest march on Monday



A group of over 50 people came as representatives of a church at Phulbari in the Sunderbans, around an hour’s drive from Canning and over 70km from Calcutta. Residents of Christianpara, the neighbourhood they live in, had spent most of December doing the rounds of block land and land reforms offices, other government offices and police stations with birth certificates and land ownership documents. Dipti Gayen, 60, who walked in Monday’s rally, was one of them. “Most government officials were also confused about which paper would be valid.  But our MLA held several programmes to assure us that we should not give in to the fears. Three generations of my family have died in this country. I am as much an Indian citizen as anyone else,” Gayen said.
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A group of over 50 people came as representatives of a church at Phulbari in the Sunderbans, around an hour’s drive from Canning and over 70km from Calcutta. Residents of Christianpara, the neighbourhood they live in, had spent most of December doing the rounds of block land and land reforms offices, other government offices and police stations with birth certificates and land ownership documents. Dipti Gayen, 60, who walked in Monday’s rally, was one of them. “Most government officials were also confused about which paper would be valid. But our MLA held several programmes to assure us that we should not give in to the fears. Three generations of my family have died in this country. I am as much an Indian citizen as anyone else,” Gayen said.
Pictures by Gautam Bose and Sanat Kr Sinha
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Nuns of a church in Kalyani, around 55km from Calcutta, said they had been going from home to home as part of outreach programmes. “From what we hear on the ground, most people are nervous. They think Muslims are being targeted now, and Christians will be next,” said Sister Grace Mary, a senior nun in the 30-strong group. “We are praying for an undivided India.”
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Nuns of a church in Kalyani, around 55km from Calcutta, said they had been going from home to home as part of outreach programmes. “From what we hear on the ground, most people are nervous. They think Muslims are being targeted now, and Christians will be next,” said Sister Grace Mary, a senior nun in the 30-strong group. “We are praying for an undivided India.”
A man from Zakaria Street said as a citizen, he felt betrayed that the amended citizenship bill had been passed in Parliament. Naem Salehjee (third from left), who works at a mobile showroom in Chandni Chowk, had come with a group from his neighbourhood. “I am grateful to my Christian brothers and sisters for their support. But I also feel betrayed by the lawmakers who are sent to Parliament as our representatives. The Opposition should have fought tooth and nail to block the bill,” Salehjee said.
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A man from Zakaria Street said as a citizen, he felt betrayed that the amended citizenship bill had been passed in Parliament. Naem Salehjee (third from left), who works at a mobile showroom in Chandni Chowk, had come with a group from his neighbourhood. “I am grateful to my Christian brothers and sisters for their support. But I also feel betrayed by the lawmakers who are sent to Parliament as our representatives. The Opposition should have fought tooth and nail to block the bill,” Salehjee said.
Nikhat Hassan, a Nursery teacher at La Martiniere for Girls, said the CAA was the “last straw” that had brought people from different religions together on the streets. “At one point of time, it looked as if we as citizens would  withstand everything — whether it was GST or demonetisation — but after CAA and NRC we have come out together,” she said.
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Nikhat Hassan, a Nursery teacher at La Martiniere for Girls, said the CAA was the “last straw” that had brought people from different religions together on the streets. “At one point of time, it looked as if we as citizens would withstand everything — whether it was GST or demonetisation — but after CAA and NRC we have come out together,” she said.
Surojit Mondal, the principal of a missionary school in Krishnagar, had one question for the “high and mighty” who wanted to implement the CAA-NPR-NRC — how could valid voters turn into invalid citizens? “The ruling party got votes from many of those who are now losing sleep over the citizenship drive. If they were valid voters then, how can the government question their validity now?” he asked.
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Surojit Mondal, the principal of a missionary school in Krishnagar, had one question for the “high and mighty” who wanted to implement the CAA-NPR-NRC — how could valid voters turn into invalid citizens? “The ruling party got votes from many of those who are now losing sleep over the citizenship drive. If they were valid voters then, how can the government question their validity now?” he asked.
Dibyendu Biswas, member of a Christian organisation at Kanchrapara in North 
24-Parganas, around 51km from Calcutta, came with a stick. A bike accident in November has left him with a steel plate in his right leg and a limp. He walked the full course of the rally. “My grandfather came from East Pakistan. He settled in Kanchrapara in 1948. After 72 years, my family members might be asked to prove our Indian-ness,” he said.
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Dibyendu Biswas, member of a Christian organisation at Kanchrapara in North 24-Parganas, around 51km from Calcutta, came with a stick. A bike accident in November has left him with a steel plate in his right leg and a limp. He walked the full course of the rally. “My grandfather came from East Pakistan. He settled in Kanchrapara in 1948. After 72 years, my family members might be asked to prove our Indian-ness,” he said.
More than 100 teachers of the La Martiniere schools, cutting across religious lines, joined the prayer rally with their respective principals. “The CAA and NRC need to be revoked. The government should understand that it should not hamper the secular fabric of the country with its high-handedness,” said John Rafi (extreme right), the principal of the boys’ school. The girls’ school principal, Rupkatha Sarkar (second from right), said: “I am here because I want all citizens to be represented in the citizenship act.”
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More than 100 teachers of the La Martiniere schools, cutting across religious lines, joined the prayer rally with their respective principals. “The CAA and NRC need to be revoked. The government should understand that it should not hamper the secular fabric of the country with its high-handedness,” said John Rafi (extreme right), the principal of the boys’ school. The girls’ school principal, Rupkatha Sarkar (second from right), said: “I am here because I want all citizens to be represented in the citizenship act.”
Father Rodney Borneo, the principal of Loyola High School, walked with the Tricolour because the need of the hour is to protest. “We are here to protect the values enshrined in the Constitution. We feel that there is a real threat to the values upheld in the Constitution and we have to fight to protect it.”
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Father Rodney Borneo, the principal of Loyola High School, walked with the Tricolour because the need of the hour is to protest. “We are here to protect the values enshrined in the Constitution. We feel that there is a real threat to the values upheld in the Constitution and we have to fight to protect it.”
Father Dominic Gomes, vicar general and chancellor of the archdiocese of Calcutta, was there to show solidarity with the poor. “If they are asked to produce their forefather’s documents, how will they do so? Anybody can be victimised in this way and nobody is secure,” he said.
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Father Dominic Gomes, vicar general and chancellor of the archdiocese of Calcutta, was there to show solidarity with the poor. “If they are asked to produce their forefather’s documents, how will they do so? Anybody can be victimised in this way and nobody is secure,” he said.
(From left) Herod Mullick, the state working president of Bangiya Christiya Pariseba; Reverend Paritosh Canning, president of the Bengal Christian Council; and John Ghosh, the honorary secretary of the Calcutta diocese of the Church of North India, went to Raj Bhavan to submit a memorandum demanding the withdrawal of CAA.
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(From left) Herod Mullick, the state working president of Bangiya Christiya Pariseba; Reverend Paritosh Canning, president of the Bengal Christian Council; and John Ghosh, the honorary secretary of the Calcutta diocese of the Church of North India, went to Raj Bhavan to submit a memorandum demanding the withdrawal of CAA.
Pictures by Gautam Bose and Sanat Kr Sinha

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