(Written by Benita Fernando)
Facing criticism for not speaking out against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), several Bollywood personalities on Thursday showed up for the August Kranti Maidan protest. Among those in attendance were Farhan Akhtar, Sushant Singh Rajput, Swara Bhaskar, Anurag Kashyap, Huma Qureshi, Nandita Das and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra.
Thursday’s peaceful protest in Mumbai was one among at least 15 planned across India. In many states, protesters were detained after Section 144 was imposed. Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap said, “We are lucky to be in a state where they (the BJP) aren’t in power.” He said the government needs to come clean about its intentions rather than constantly manipulating citizens.
Kashyap had exited Twitter in August this year after he and his family faced threats over his political views. Four days ago, he reappeared on Twitter stating, “The government is clearly fascist.” He went on to share details of the August Kranti Maidan protest, urging people to raise their voices against the CAA. So did actor Farhan Akhtar. For a brief moment, when Akhtar turned up at the protest, attention seemed to have diverted to him.
Speaking to the press, Akhtar said that to raise your voice against something is an absolute democratic right. “As a citizen of this country and as someone who has born [sic] and grown up with a certain idea of what India is, it is important to raise my voice against this.”
Akhtar’s appearance at the protest was brief. Actors such as Swara Bhaskar, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and Javed Jaffrey gave speeches on stage. In her press interview, Bhaskar said, “The government needs to listen to the public that has elected it. If every part of Indian society is revolting against the CAA, then the government has to take cognizance instead of inflicting curfews, lathicharges and restricting phone services.”
Bhaskar also reasoned that if the government could give citizenship to singer Adnan Sami — born in London to a Pakistani father — then the government could give citizenship to refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, too. “Why do they need to change the Constitution for that?” she asked.
Mehra, the director of Rang De Basanti (2006), evoked the idea of colours in his speech. He compared India’s diversity to a garden and said, “There are many kinds of flowers in our garden. But, if we insist that there should be just one kind of flower in one colour.” He was followed by Jaffrey. “Stop this game. Give us roti, kapada, makaan. You said you’d give us health policy, education policy but the first thing you say when you come to power is that you will build a temple!”
Actor Aditi Rao Hydari said, “Today it’s Muslims, tomorrow it could be anyone else.” Quickly scanning the ground, she added, “The crowd — it should be more.”
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