Mumbai: Compared to other Indian cities, Mumbai protests were violence-free, other than the few that were detained by the police for a couple of hours.
Protests against the amended Citizen Amendment Bill (CAB) is spreading like wildfire across the nation – starting first in the Northeastern states, then Kolkata, New Delhi, Pune, Mumbai and Bangalore, and other cities.
The new Bill amends the Citizenship Act of 1955 and grants Indian citizenship to non-Muslim illegal migrants who entered India on or 31 December 2014.
The recently amended Bill grants citizenship to immigrants who identify themselves as non-muslim immigrants – Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, even if they had no documents to prove their residency. This implies that those who do not belong to the said religions would not be eligible for citizenship.
In Mumbai, on 14 December 2019, protest marches took place in various parts of the metro city.
Hundreds of protestors assembled at Rajgruha, the house of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar in East Dadar. Veteran filmmaker, Mahesh Bhatt joined the protest, and addressed the gathering, saying that, “It is time for people to stand up and say this country belongs to each one of us. And it is the might and the will of each one of us that has finally found an expression…” Congress leader, Sanjay Jha, joined the protesters.
Protesters flapped banners and shouted slogans against the ruling party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in a protest organised by the Congress party. Mumbai Congress president Eknath Gaikwad said that “The ones who run this country should be secular. India wasn’t created on the basis of religion during partition. The Bill is part of the centre’s agenda to marginalise the minorities and create discord among various communities.”
Further, members from the Muslim Intellectuals of Mumbai, and other activists such as Javed Anand, founder of the Citizens for Justice and Peace, Varsha Vidya Vilas of the Sadbhavna Sangh, thrashed the government, as the CAB and NRC are against Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution. They recognised the CAB as “anti-constitutional” and “communal in nature”. Other renowned activists from Mumbai, Yogender Yadav, Jatin Desai and Medha Patkar also joined the protests.
Protestors also gathered on Marine Drive, and later few protesters gathered outside the Marine Drive police station. It has been reported that before the protests began at 7 pm that day, at least ten protesters were arrested and detained for many hours at the Marine Drive police station. Among those detained were activists and students of Mumbai University and Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), and former IAS officer Kannan Gopinathan. After the protesters were detained, about 50 protestors stood outside the police station to show support, holding anti-CAB and anti-NRC placards.
Over 120 students of IIT Bombay took out a march on campus. One IIT student who did not wish to be named said that “We condemn the BJP’s hate and partisan politics that threatens to push the nation to a polarised abyss, and murder our democratic spirit to co-exist with all communities, irrespective of categories. We stand in solidarity with all the peaceful democratic struggles of the people in the northeastern part of the country and other places in resisting the communal CAB and urge them to refrain from violence.”
More than 200 students from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) boycotted classes. TISS held a peaceful protest march outside the campus, and later members of the faculty joined holding placards that read, “No police/state violence on campuses”. Students carried posters that said: “We are not second-class citizens” and “Student Solidarity > (is greater than) Modi-Shah solidarity”.
One TISS student said, “I am from Assam, and my state is under siege. Protesting is no more a choice. There is a clampdown on news channels; the internet is down, it is nothing but humiliation and violation of the rights of indigenous people…”
Around 500 Assamese held a protest at Azad Maidan in Mumbai. The protestors said that they were not against any communities or religions, but only wanted to secure their cultural, social and linguistic identities.
Protestors say that the amendment violates Assam Accord signed with the Centre in 1985, which relates to constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.
Assamese protesters in Mumbai has demanded that a dialogue be struck between the indigenous people of the Northeastern states and the government. The TISS student added that “Assam has been hosting many immigrants for years, and now we are being threatened with even more.”
Protestors in Mumbai said that they would once again participate in the all-India protest being planned on December 19th, against the CAB and NRC. This day was chosen, as it marks the day the British hung freedom fighters Ramprasad Bismil, Ashfaqulla Khan, and Roshan Singh in 1927.