Malegaon woke up early on Sunday with its streets swamped by young men holding a bike rally, with the tricolour in their hands.
According to local residents, AIMIM MLA Mufti Mohammad Ismail Qasmi had three weeks ago called for launching a civil disobedience movement from January 26. While his call to empty bank accounts and refrain from filling fuel at pumps on Sunday did not find takers, Malegaon marked the 70 years of the Republic with readings of the Preamble of the Constitution at 70 places.
In the weeks leading up to Sunday, Dastoor Bachao Committee, which organised a women’s protest earlier this month, selected spots significant to the town’s history.
Qasmi and about 50 others gathered at noon at Shahidon Ki Yaadgar, a junction that commemorates local freedom fighters, and recited the Preamble in Urdu. “There is a conspiracy underway to declare that descendants of those who fought for Independence are not citizens of India. We are making it clear today that we will make any sacrifice necessary to defend our country and our Constitution,” he said.
At the site of the bomb blasts which killed nine people in 2008, school teacher and writer Aziz Ejaz said, “From here, we want to tell the central government that Muslims love the country just as much as anyone else does and that we do not need to prove it.”
The largest gathering was at Fateh Maidan, home to Malegaon’s tallest politician, socialist leader and former minister late Nihal Ahmad. His wife Sajida Ahmad said the repeated recitation of the Preamble was an attempt to keep the Constitution alive. “We are trying to give another life to the Constitution. But that is not just the responsibility of Muslims. Malegaon has always spoken out against all forms of injustice. My husband always said people should be allowed to make their anger known instead of keeping it bottled within themselves. Hopefully, other places will replicate what we are doing,” she said.
Her daughter Shan-e-Hind, a corporator in Malegaon Municipal Corporation and convenor of Dastoor Bachao Committee, said, “The role our families have played in the Independence of India is proof of our citizenship. We are Indians by birth and choice because our ancestors chose to remain in India,” she said.
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