In Mumbai’s Azaad Maidan, Amid ‘Azaadi’ Chants, People Resist CAA
Mumbai stood up once again.
Through dust and heat, Mumbai marches on to the Azaad Maidan. Quietly humming songs, a few hundred people, smiling in encouragement at the fellow protestors. Were they making change? Were they fighting a lost war? Were they clinging to hope?
Azaadi, hum le ke rahenge...
I click a group of women in niqabs, standing in a group, an army to reckon with. I ask one of their names, she whispers in my ear “Hindustani”. Another one hands me a plastic rose, saying “thank you for standing with us in solidarity”.
Almost as if the flower stood for how all of us felt - almost lifeless with hopelessness, but putting on a brave front. A warning that no matter how much they push a secular state, they still won’t change it. We were going to be the very skin of our land, protecting it from all that crawled too close.
We were going to be the very skin of our land, protecting it from all that crawled too close.
Crowds are pouring in. Quieter voices have gotten louder. A sense of solidarity sticks to the air. Walking around, I see that a few hundreds have grown into thousands, people constantly pouring in, women and men, children, protestors holding up messages in protest.
Why are you here, I asked:
- 01/06“I am here to protest against social injustice. The NRC-CAA process is inherently unfair to the poor.” - Zaheer Ahmad, 51
- 02/06“If Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed’s family got left out of the list, what will poor people do? I’m 55, I don’t have time for hate.” - Sarwar Khan, 55
- 03/06“Why are they discriminating against Shias, Ahmedis, Rohingyas? We elected them in and we must prove our citizenship to them? That’s stupid.” Bhrugu, 17
- 04/06“ The people I knew don’t talk to me the same way. We want to sleep in peace.” Banu Khan, 27
- 05/06“I was ten. We lost our house in Guajarat, we won’t lose this.” Munawwar Farooqi, 27
- 06/06“My India stands for equality. If that is not India, then I don’t know what is.” Priya Malik
The answers, from everyone, teenagers to old men, echoed the same fears:
“I don’t understand why they can’t build more schools instead of detention centres?”Ubaid Ansari, 40
“I’m here because I’m scared. This doesn’t feel like it’s the same country I was born in.”Rayyan Sheikh, 28
“If thieves entered an area, would you catch the thieves or make the residents prove they’re innocent?”Muhammad Choudhary, 20
“I’m here because I did not come so many times when I should have.”Archana, 21
“The government is constantly doing things against the constitution. This is the threshold. Right now, resistance is very important.”Nikita, 25
As the crowds kept growing, and poetries were recited, songs were sung and thousands crooned on bravely...Mumbai presented a moment of stillness. Almost as if waiting for a final push, tasting change, hum dekhenge. Varun Grover gathered a crowd, promising how “Hum Kagaz Nahin Dikhayenge”
The day came progressed with identities being reclaimed. A group of Muslim men prayed next to the crowd, as people cheered on. The Indian flag covered the protest, almost as if daring anyone to question their patriotism.
Perhaps there is only so much you can push people. Perhaps this is just another thing we will slowly learn to tolerate. Perhaps this will break us, perhaps it will make us warriors. What will come out of these nation-wide protests remains till now a giant question mark, but what it achieved in the process of getting there is unquestionable. India clings to its secular threads. India fights for her old ways.
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