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Will continue to fight till CAA is revoked: Kolkata's 'Shaheen Bagh' challenges Modi-Shah

Will continue to fight till CAA is revoked: Kolkata's 'Shaheen Bagh' challenges Modi-Shah

Souvik Ghosh/IBNS | @indiablooms | 24 Jan 2020, 04:40 pm

Kolkata/IBNS: Even after Union Home Minister Amit Shah ruled out rolling back the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) despite nationwide protests, agitating women camping at Kolkata's Park Circus Maidan-now dubbed as the eastern metropolis's Shaheen Bagh- too refused to budge down.

Park Circus, the neighbourhood of central-east Kolkata with a big Muslim population, is a hustle-bustle locality with its seven roads meeting at a point and several eateries and restaurants thronged on the footpaths.

Park Circus Maidan, a ground at one corner of the seven-point crossing, is witnessing continued protests against the CAA for two weeks now quite resembling the Shaheen Bagh protests in New Delhi though the latter leads by few more weeks.

Common women- mostly Muslim- could be tracked immediately if one moves towards a big tent erected at the centre of the ground. Giving a message of unity, the tent bears the posters of various revolutionaries, poets, freedom fighters of India- Rabindranath Tagore, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Khudiram Bose, Ashfaqulla Khan, Raja Rammohan Roy to name a few.

A young woman named Saima Ansari, who was clad in burkha with Indian Flag drawn on her face, resonated the voice of youth saying, "We want Azadi."

When asked about her demands for the continuous protest, Ansari said, "We are all one and we should be left like that only. We are not on the streets without a purpose. We have our own works too. We are on roads because of people like Modi."

But CAA is not about taking away citizenship but granting it to the minorities of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Then why are you protesting?

Sensing the question, Ansari went for an all-out attack saying the Act is nothing but a tool to divide people on the basis of religion (Hindus and Muslims).

"We are against CAA because of partiality. They should not have done partiality. They are dividing Hindus and Muslims, so people are worried. They are trying to create a fight between Hindus and Muslims.... Even a small boy will say Modi is a bad person. No one speaks good about him," an angry young woman told IBNS.

What is CAA and why it is contentious?

The CAA, which was Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) before it was passed by Indian Parliament, aims to grant citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi but not Muslim refugees who came to India before Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh before 2015.

But the Opposition political parties- at least the major ones like Congress, Left, Trinamool Congress (TMC), DMK, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)- jumped to slam the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government for hurting the secular fabric of the nation, more vehemently after the law was passed by both the houses of Parliament with a comfortable margin.

Ansari, however, feels the CAA is just a "trap" to fulfill the BJP's bigger agenda. "These are traps to draw people towards them and fulfill their purpose," she said in a fluent Hindi.

The NRC twist to CAA

Though few political parties are taking a neutral stand on the CAA, National Register of Citizens (NRC) is vehemently opposed by even BJP's heavyweight ally Janata Dal (United) which is led by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

After the widespread protests took place across the country following the passage of the new citizenship law in Parliament, Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Shah had to backtrack on NRC.

Going flashback to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections or even Shah's last Kolkata visit, the saffron party had made it clear that NRC will follow the implementation of CAA to throw out all infiltrators (who will actually be Muslim refugees as CAA will grant citizenship to minorities of the three neighbouring nations).

"These have been said so that the protests stop," said Ansari who was immediately followed by a middle-aged woman, Janhara Begum, who confessed that she fears the implementation of NRC with CAA.

When IBNS asked whether she fears the implementation of NRC with CAA, Begum said, "Of course. We are fighting for our own rights...... If it is their country, then it is mine too. If it is not my country, then India is not their country also."

Daring the Prime Minister and his government, which secured a landslide victory in the 2019 General Elections and is now facing a protest, Begum poured out her anger and said, "Our forefathers are from India. Do we have to furnish proofs of it?"

She reminded a couplet by lyricist and poet Dr. Rahat Indori which reads, "Sabhi ka Khoon shaamil yahan ki mitti me/ Kisi ke baap ka hindustan thodi hai."

"We will die where we have been born," slowly added young Afreen Alam.

Shahnaz Begum, a Bengali Muslim, pointed out a different aspect to their protests against the CAA much similar to what has happened in Assam.

Contrary to the statement by other women who were blatantly accusing the Modi government of hurting the secular fabric of the nation, Shahnaz Begum completely opposed to the idea of granting citizenship to the refugees irrespective of their religions.

"Our own citizens are not getting enough food to eat, how will they feed citizens of other countries? Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs of India are not getting food to eat, how would the refugees get it? They can't feed their own children. How will they feed children of neighbours?" the woman asked.

Why Assam protests are different?

Contrary to the protests across the nation, the Assamese people are opposing to the idea of granting citizenship to any of the refugees fearing an alteration of the social status quo with the influx of the immigrants from other nations.

Not to forget, Assam has already suffered an NRC which had excluded 19 lakh people of the state with majority of them being Hindus.

Ball in the court

Amid the ongoing protests and the Centre's stubborn rhetoric, the matter is now in the land of the Supreme Court which will hear a clutch of petitions, which are at least 140, in February again after the Centre provides a response on the petitions challenging the CAA.

Meanwhile, several non-BJP ruled states have said they will not implement CAA, which has been notified by the Union Home Ministry with effect from Jan 10, though Kapil Sibal, a Congress man and legal eagle, doubted whether the Opposition can actually disobey the law of the land.

Will continue to fight till CAA is revoked: Kolkata's 'Shaheen Bagh' challenges Modi-Shah

Souvik Ghosh/IBNS
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