Shaheen Bagh Holds Inter-Faith Ceremony Against CAA

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor dropped in to support the protestors.

New Delhi: As people of different faiths came together on Sunday to participate in a ‘sarva dharma sambhava‘ ceremony at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor also joined the protest to show solidarity with those opposing the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the proposed pan-India NRC.

The concept of ‘sarv dharm sambhav‘ (equal respect for all religions or peaceful co-existence of all religions) was popularised by Mahatma Gandhi during India’s freedom struggle against the British rule to promote inter-faith harmony.

The inter-faith ceremony had a traditional Hindu-style ‘hawan‘ and chants of Sikh ‘kirtan’ as participants also read out the preamble of the Constitution and took an oath to preserve its “socialist, secular” values.

“Scriptures from the Geeta, the Bible, the Quran were read and Gurbani held. Then the preamble of the constitution was also read out by people from varying faiths who are supporting this movement,” said Syed Taseer Ahmed, one of the initial organisers of the protest.

Protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Shaheen Bagh are set to complete a month.

Zainul Abidin, 44, of Ghaffar Manzil had started a hunger strike on December 16 to press the demand for repealing the CAA and after a fortnight was joined by Mehrunissa, 40, of Sarita Vihar. Besides them, three elderly women, now popular as the ‘Dabang Dadis’ of Shaheen Bagh, too have been a constant sight at the centre stage of the protest venue since day one.

A replica of the India Gate has also been erected near the protest site inked with the names of over two dozen persons who have lost their lives during anti-CAA protests across the country.

Also read: The Brave Women of Shaheen Bagh

Accompanied by the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee president Subhash Chopra, Congress leader and MP Shashi Tharoor also visited Jamia Millia Islamia along with Shaheen Bagh and said that the CAA was “discriminatory” against the ideals of unity espoused by Mahatma Gandhi.

“The CAA betrays the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi, who sacrificed his life for the unity of the nation; the unity of Hindus and Muslims. India, which Mahatma Gandhi wanted to see, will not be the India after the introduction of religion in the CAA,” he said.

“That is why we opposed the introduction of the bill in Parliament, as it brought religion in the Citizenship Act for the first time,” he said. He added that he did not want any section of society to be reduced to second class citizens. “We shall stand for the values we cherish and for the humanity, and above all we should stand for Bharat (India),” he added. Tharoor also said that the introduction of religion in CAA will be followed by the all-India NRC which puts the onus on one community to prove its citizenship.

Tharoor also recited a couplet, “Na mera hai, na tera hai… Yeh Hindustan sabka hai… na samjhenge yeh baat toh nuksan sab ka hai…”

Tharoor also said that the December 15 police action against the students in Jamia is a “blot on the nation”.

“Whatever happened on December 15 is a blot on nation. Without any provocation, without any intimation to the vice chancellor, they (police) entered hostels and attacked women students. Students studying in library were attacked, which is a ‘shame, shame, shame’ and not acceptable at all,” he told the crowd.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor addresses during a protest against Citizenship (Amendment) Act, at Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi, Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020. Delhi Congress president Subhash Chopra is also seen. Photo: PTI/Vijay Verma

Also read: In Photos: Students Fight Back During Jamia’s Year of Rebellion

He said students studying in the university should always remember that Jamia was a seat of resistance against the British and where Mahatma Gandhi came to start the Khilafat Movement. “You all should know that when Gandhi came here, he had said Jamia should continue fighting and if it needs money, I will go with a begging bowl and I will save Jamia. Today Jamia is one of the great universities of our country,” he said.

Tharoor later travelled in metro to reach JNU where he addressed the students, condemning the violence by a masked mob on January 5 and demanded action against the accused. “The worst thing is that it reminded history students like me of events in Nazi Germany… when young stormtroopers of the ruling party marched into campuses and attacked students and teachers,” he said.

“We have Amit Shah even today challenging Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee, ‘Can you show me anything in this bill that takes away anybody’s citizenship? ‘ That is a wrong question,” he said.

“We have statements by sympathisers of the government saying this is upholding India’s fine standards, giving asylum to persecuted minorities. I used to work for refugees at the UN. I know something about persecution and I know what the response to persecution is,” he said.

He said the response to persecution was to give asylum to people from every country where they face persecution, never to send them back and never to ask them which religion they belong to.

“The question is why they were persecuted. It might be for their religion, it might be for their race, it might be for their gender, it might be for their sexual orientation, it might be for their political opinion,” he said.

At JNU, some students also protested against Tharoor for his tweet on Islamist extremism.

(With inputs from PTI)