Bhubaneswar: The Odisha capital on Thursday, January 30, witnessed an unprecedented protest march against the Citizenship Amendment Act, the impending countrywide National Register for Citizens and the National Population Register in response to a call given by several political, social and student groups.
Over 25,000 people across the state including leading social workers, academics, different minority groups, Dalits and Adivasis started their march in the morning from the Exhibition Grounds and reached Mahatma Gandhi Marg carrying banners, placards and Indian flags, chanting slogans of peace, unity and harmony.
Women formed a sizeable chunk of the protesters.
A meeting to ‘save constitution, save secularism, save nation’ was held at the Mahatma Gandhi Marg where the peaceful gathering recited the Preamble and took a vow to uphold all its inclusive principles, values and dignity at any cost.
The rally ended with rich tributes to Mahatma Gandhi on the day of his assassination, with a minute of mass silence and the singing of the National Anthem.
Speaker after speaker reminded the gathering how those who killed Gandhi had reappeared now with greater aggression and determination to reduce minorities, particularly Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis, into second class citizens.
“CAA is a nefarious design to demonise a great majority of people of India who do not share the RSS-BJP vision of ‘Hindu Rashtra’,” said social and environmental activist Prafulla Samantara.
Speakers said that at a time when unemployment, food price, agricultural crisis and financial instability in the country have reached a point of no return, the BJP government at the Centre, instead of tackling them, has resorted to marginalise the victims of such situations by bringing anti-human and anti-democratic policies such as CAA and NRC.
“Higher education in the government sector has been made unaffordable for the poor to benefit the private education mafia. When the students are protesting against this, they are being suppressed ruthlessly,” said academic Birendra Nayak.
Odisha Congress chief Niranjan Patnaik who joined the protest and slammed the Naveen Patnaik government in Odisha for supporting the CAA in parliament.
The speakers reminded the gathering that the country was going under an unprecedented undeclared emergency and citizens must come out and speak against such oppressive tactics of the government and reject all its undemocratic and anti-people policies.
Many of them urged the Odisha government to follow the example set by Kerala and other states that have resolved not to allow CAA, NRC and NPR, which they said divide the society and create destitution and deprivation of all kind, in their states.
Narendra Mohanty, one of the organisers of the rally,said that their mission of universal brotherhood will not end with the march of January 30. “Rather, this is the beginning. We will take the message of peace and harmony to all regional, sub-regional and local levels across the state,” he said.