As a part of its on going efforts to mobilise civil society in Chandigarh, stand against the implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), and the ‘violent oppression’ of student protests across the country, the Citizens Against Divide (CAD) forum consisting left leaning student groups from Panjab University, political activists and advocates amongst others, staged a protest on Saturday afternoon at the Sector 17 plaza.
The protest, which attracted a large crowd, was addressed by speakers including political activists, advocates and students, who condemned the law for its ‘divisive and discriminatory’ ramification on the lives of the most vulnerable and marginalised groups in society. “It is in letter supposed to provide citizenship to all, but truly the CAA and the NRC combined take away citizenship, place into doubt the citizenship of those who have always lived here and called this their home,” said Dr Pyare Lal Garg, former registrar of Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, who has been part of various protests against CAA at Chandigarh.
Apart from slogans condemning the government for its “fascist” and “autocratic” administration of the country, the protest was sustained by creativity and mobilisation through different art forms. Students and common citizens sat on the plaza floor holding up posters with creative slogans and caricatures of political leaders in power.
Amy Singh, a poet and an activist who has been part of these protests, said that art is necessary in truly convincing people of ideas and emotions. “When I express an opinion only through words, it might seem abstract and unconvincing, but through art form, people get moved. They get attached to certain notions and can be more easily convinced to be empathetic to the misfortunes of others,” said Singh, who often recites her own compositions at these events. “If you think of detention centres for example, you might not truly understand the pain of people living there, but when you see an art installation or watch a play about people inside in these camps, you will truly understand their pain,” added Singh.
Apart from poetry, songs and chants were also used at the protest, including the “hum kaagaz nahi dikhayenge” chant extracted from writer Varun Grover’s viral poem on the National Register for Citizens. “Songs are needed to keep the protestors’ morale up,” said Tanu Bedi, an advocate who had brought the lyrics of a song to sing for when enthusiasm of protestors would begin to fizzle out. “We are adapting old Bollywood songs to the context of the anti-CAA protests to bolster the spirit of protestors and to unite us all,” he said.
Indeed, after listening to the songs and chants of the protestors, a few passersbys, whose curiosity had been perked, ventured towards the protest site. “The idea is to reach out to the larger public, to those who are not already convinced of our opinions, like those who have just come for a stroll at the plaza, even if they listen in for a minute, it’s more than enough,” added Bedi.
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