Anti-CAA stir hotspots reflect varying ground realities

New Delhi: Students stage a demonstration to express solidarity with the students of Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) University and to protest against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019, National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR), in New Delhi on Jan 15, 2020. (Photo: IANS)

New Delhi, Jan 18 (IANS) The plethora of protests that greeted the introduction of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) continue to keep India on its toes even as the world watches from the sidelines.

Apart from Delhi, there have been violent protests in Assam and Uttar Pradesh. Although the protests at all these places are basically against the CAA, the protests have been propelled by different motivations.

The most significant protests in Delhi, with some universities like Jamia Millia Islamia and JNU emerging as the fulcrums for agitation.

The most violent of protests broke out intermittently in old city areas of Delhi such as Jaffarabad and Seelampur. The protests in Jaffrabad and Seelampur have been unofficially attributed to the presence of significant Bangladeshi migrant populations in those areas.

Among the first of the public protests against the CAA in Delhi were by JMI students. However, the JMI protests were soon overtaken by the violent protests that resulted in significant damage to public transport and property in the vicinity.

However, it has been the ‘more than a month-long’ agitation at Shaheen Bagh that has captured the imagination of protestors and observers alike. Since December 15, a group of protestors, mainly women and youngsters have been camping at the protest site and shown no sign of budging from the spot.

The Shaheen Bagh example has been replicated across Uttar Pradesh in Prayagraj and Varanasi, besides in Kolkata and other states as well.

Intense protests had initially broken out in the Northeast, primarily Assam where the death toll was pegged at five.

For decades, the Northeast, particularly Assam, has borne the brunt of illegal migration from neighbouring Bangladesh. While the bulk of the immigrants are Muslims, a sizeable proportion of the Bangladeshi immigrants are Hindus and Buddhists fleeing religious persecution in their country.

However, the Assamese are in no mood to accommodate refugees of any religious order. Though the situation seems to be slowly limping back to normal here.

In Uttar Pradesh, more than 22 people have died in face-offs between protestors and the police. Unlike Assam, where the protests focused on the potential dilution of Assamese identity with the Bengali influx, it’s a different story in Uttar Pradesh, where Muslims comprise close to 20 per cent of the population.

Here, the opposition to CAA goes beyond the apparently anti-secular character of the controversial law. The protests in the northern state were decidedly violent to the extent that the BJP government in the state announced punitive actions against those responsible.

While the CAA talks of fast-tracking citizenship process for non-Muslim minorities fleeing persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, Muslims in India, the Muslims are worried at the series of allegedly anti-Muslim moves taken by the Narendra Modi-led NDA government.

The CAA is being seen as a precursor to the National Register of Citizens, which puts the onus of proving citizenship on the citizen.

The anti-CAA lobby seems to be putting up a brave fight even as it shows signs of losing steam, except for isolated pockets like Shaheen Bagh in Delhi.

The pro-CAA lobby has picked up the narrative and is steadily building up the discourse in favour of the controversial law.

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