Hundreds of students, civil rights activists, academicians and professionals conducted a peaceful protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) outside Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad Tuesday evening while calling the amended act “against the spirit of Indian Constitution”.
The demonstration was organised after police permission was granted for peaceful protest at the venue for two hours in the evening. On Monday, police had detained 57 persons from outside Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA) after they held a peaceful protest against CAA without police permission.
The protesters stood in a row from the gate of Sabarmati Ashram that went across the Khet Bhavan near the Dandi Bridge on Ashram Road. Holding placards, the protesters raised slogans against the CAA and in favour of the secularism and communal harmony of the country.
The prominent civil rights activists who took part included academician Ghanshyam Shah, Nirjhari Sinha, Mudita Vidrohi, Neeta Vidrohi, Umesh Solanki, Dev Desai and Noorjahan Diwan. Independent MLA Jignesh Mevani and Congress MLA Naushad Solanki also joined the protest. There was heavy police deployment at the venue.
The protesters identified themselves with various educational institutes, including the National Institute of Design (NID), St Xaviers’ College, Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University (PDPU), Nirma University, Gujarat National Law University, Ahmedabad University, LD Arts College and Central University of Gujarat (CUG) — all in and around Ahmedabad — and MS University in Vadodara.
Ghanshyam Shah said, “This Act (CAA), is not only anti-secular, but also anti-Constitution. We never dreamt of India to follow the path of Pakistan. More worrying is that they have already built (detention) camps in Assam. It is mind boggling and unacceptable.”
“When we witness something like this happening, we have to raise our voice. And as a senior citizen, I see hope in so many young people raising their voice. So, I have joined them,” Shah added.
A medical student from MS University of Vadodara said on condition of anonymity, “We came to protest here as there is no such protest in Vadodara. And we really feel strong about this Act. They cannot make an Act on the basis of religion.”
Another student from the Institute of Law, Nirma University, said, “This government first broke the backbone of Indian economy. And now, they are trying to break the backbone of the Indian Constitution. NRC (National Register of Citizens) and CAA cannot be separated. You have to see them together. And it is clearly discriminatory.”
Chandni Guha Roy, a working professional, said, “My family migrated from Bangladesh to India in 1947 during Partition. I know the pain of losing citizenship… The government cannot impose it without taking people’s consent,” she added.
Akshay Anand, a student of NID, said, “The government should not have brought this amendment at all. How can you have citizenship on religious grounds?”
Another student from NID said, “The government actually divided the the people on the basis of their religion which is like a gateway to more such harsh decisions. In Delhi those students were protesting just like me, but what happened there was wrong and insensitive.”
Jignesh Mevani who joined the protest said, “The soul of Indian freedom movement was to build a secular democracy… I appeal to the people of the country to oppose this black Act, which is dividing people on the lines of religion… There could be crores of (poor) people who might not have documents (to prove their citizenship), so will you not consider them as citizens?”
Naushad Solanki said, “Today, Gandhiji must be hanging his head in shame. Can there be a division in the country on the basis of religion? This government has done precisely that… This is just the beginning of dismantling of the Constitution, keeping aside all the important issues of the country related to economy, education, employment and farmers… We must condemn it.”
Law grad behind protest
The protest demonstration outside Sabarmati Ashram got police permission based on an application moved by a 24-hour-old law graduate from Nirma University, Abhishek Khandelwal, who is now teaching law at an Ahmedabad-based law college.
Khandelwal, a native of Hisar from Haryana, said he had been protesting peacefully against the law outside Sabarmati Ashram last week. “However, police detained me saying that even for a peaceful protest, I need permission. So I applied for permission to protest outside the Ashram for seven days between December 16 and 22. But, they gave me permission to hold protest today (Tuesday) for two hours,” said Khandelwal.
“We are here and Ahmedabad has shown that people of this country are really upset about this Bill, which has become an Act now. We want this Act to be taken back. We do not want the citizenship of India to be given on the basis of religion. Also, if you want to welcome refugees who are religiously persecuted in other countries, you welcome the sects in minority communities as well which are being persecuted there. Muslims are in majority in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
But there are religious sects among Muslims, which are persecuted. If your aim is to protect people on humanitarian grounds, you bring those Ahmadiyyas, Shias, and Hazaras, who are being persecuted, as well into the ambit of this law. Include Muslims as well… You cannot discriminate against one community,” he added.
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