Video Editor: Ashutosh Bharadwaj
Much like the rest of the country, Bengaluru has seen countless protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that was passed in December.
As demonstrations led by students and activists gained momentum, two recent arrests have rocked Bengaluru’s protest circuit. The arrest of Amulya, a 19-year-old student-activist and translator was followed by the arrest of Ardra, a 24-year-old designer and activist.
While Amulya has been arrested and charged with sedition for raising ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans at a public meeting last month, Ardra was arrested for holding a placard that read, ‘Dalit Liberation, Kashmiri Liberation and Trans Liberation’ etc. Ironically, Ardra was attending a protest condemning Amulya’s arrest when they were picked up.
The arrests sent shockwaves through the city’s protest circuit, with many questioning the arrests. Some said that Amulya should have been allowed to finish speaking. We caught up with friends and student protesters to find out what they think.
“How is it correct in the 21st century that I should show my hatred towards another nation to prove my nationalism towards my country?”Noor Fathima, student protester
‘Should Have Been Allowed to Finish Speaking’
A student, Sasha, said that the message behind Amulya’s speech was peace and harmony, but she was not allowed to finish.
“19-year-old Amulya was arrested for a speech she wasn’t allowed to complete. A speech in which she was ultimately promoting peace and harmony but was cut off before she could finish it,” they said.
Vaishnavi Sursh, a photographer and prominent student activist in Bengaluru, said that while she disagreed with the manner in which Amulya chose to make her point, she was not even allowed to complete her point.
“I definitely think that what she said was not said at the right time. Or in the right way or in the right place. When the country is riding so high on emotions, that it overrides logic and rationale saying something that can emotionally bring about such a huge controversy was not well thought about,” Vaishnavi said.
She also added that it was ironic that Amulya was arrested for her statement, when “people in the right wing” were entering universities, assaulting people, and when BJP leaders were threatening minorities.
Another student protester, who did not wish to be named, said that they were really disturbed by the arrests but encouraged to keep the efforts alive.
“I request the students to take part in protests as much as possible. The government is trying to suppress our voices but we should not stop voicing our opinions and we should speak for our rights,” they said.
‘Mis-gendering Trans Person Part of Abuse’
Several youngsters spoke about the ‘manhandling’ of Ardra during their arrest and the subsequent mis-gendering by several media houses.
“Ardra was arrested and charged for simply holding up a poster that spoke about what they believed in. You can see in the video how they were manhandled by cis people, how they were physically harassed, how the media continues to dead name and misgender a trans person,” Vaishnavi said.
Sai Adrain, a fellow protester and LGBTQI activist, said that he was in solidarity with Ardra, as a fellow trans person as well.
“It’s really painful to see how students are being targeted, Muslims are being targeted and minorities like trans people are being targeted on a daily basis,” he said, adding that the entire student community was on edge, not knowing what to do next.
“Don’t know how to react with two of our friends in jail, and one with whom I at least have a lot of connection with. We have been crying day in and day out. We have not been able to sleep. We don’t know their condition inside the jail,” he said.
Some Blamed the Media for Biased Reporting
A student who did not wish to be named, said that while it was easy for the media to slap labels on people and project them in a certain way as per their convenience, it would ultimately be the ordinary people who suffered.
“Now, see you have already stamped people with labels, calling them desh drohi and anti-nationals. Because I may not be doing anything wrong but the media channels still portray in whatever manner they want and it doesn’t even matter. Once they have called me something they have called me something,” they said.
‘We Stand by Them’
Support and solidarity were the overwhelming reactions to the recent arrests.
Bengaluru protesters vowed to keep the pressure on the government.
“So, I, as part of India’s youth, as part of young people protesting, stand 100% by both Amulya and Ardra and will not stop fighting for justice until it has been served,” said Sasha.
Sai Adrian had only one message for the establishment and a plea for the people:
“I hope this country realises what is happening is so wrong and comes out on the streets to resist. Because if we have voted someone into power, we can also vote them out, remember that.”