New Delhi: From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Union home minister Amit Shah, several senior BJP leaders and some of their opponents like Yashwant Sinha, all have been talking about the ‘violent’ protests by Muslims against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC). Moreover, many media outlets, especially TV channels, have covered the protests in a manner which suggests that wherever there is large mobilisation of Muslims, violence is inevitable.
When secular India is fighting to protect secular values in the country why is the Muslim population taking to violence. In doing so, it is playing into the hands of those who want to polarise society on communal lines. It should stop forthwith.
— Yashwant Sinha (@YashwantSinha) December 17, 2019
This is far from the truth and ground reality. There has been large scale mobilisation by Muslims across the country and all of them had been peaceful. Jamia students were protesting for several days before the protest turned violent and hit the headlines. None of the people arrested by the Delhi Police for the violence reported during the protests were Jamia students, suggesting the violence was instigated by outsiders, not the protestors.
The ongoing protests by thousands of Muslim women in Shaheen Bagh, which has received considerable media attention, is a case in point. Similarly, the protest in East Delhi (Seelampur) was initially peaceful but took a violent turn after the police started pushing them back.
— باجی (@pepper_smoker) December 13, 2019
Mobilisations that have slipped the media’s sight
Ever since the law was passed by both houses of parliament, there have been dozens of large scale peaceful protests by Muslims in different parts of the country. The participants in the protests ranged from 5,000-10,000 to 2 lakh-3 lakh people. But they have hardly received any coverage or the attention they deserve. The ‘mainstream’ media, especially those headquartered in the National Capital Region, turned a blind eye towards these for several reasons.
On December 19, a massive protest rally was organised in Malegaon, a Muslim majority town of Maharashtra. The rally was organised by Dastoor Bachao Committee (Save Constitution Committee), in which at least 2 lakh people, mostly Muslims participated, a local reporter told The Wire. However, the Indian Express reported that 60, 000 people participated in it. According to the newspaper, speaking on this occasion, Maulana Umrain Mahfooz Rahmani, convenor of the Dastoor Bachao Committee and the secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said, “December 19 is a historic day. It is a day the British hanged two freedom fighters Ashfaqullah Khan and Ram Prasad Bismil. We are their descendants. If the need arises, we are willing to sacrifice our lives to save the country.”
On the next day, there was a massive protest against the CAA-NRC in Nagpur. According to reports, around 40,000 people and several Muslim organisations participated in it. “Raising “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” slogans, the procession started from Chitnis Park area and walked a few kilometres to reach Vidhan Bhavan in the afternoon. The organisers had specifically instructed people not to participate with any political party’s banners. Only national flags were seen fluttering across the whole procession,” the Indian Express reported.
Moreover, similar protests were organised in other cities and towns of Vidarbha. A journalist based in Nagpur told The Wire that people were surprised to see such large numbers of Muslims taking to the streets. Reports of large scale peaceful protests have also been received from Mumbra, Sholapur and other parts of Maharashtra.
In Bangalore, on December 23 a massive anti-CAA and NRC protest was organised by Muslims at the Quddus Saheb Edigah grounds of the city. By a conservative estimate, more than one lakh people gathered, mostly Muslims and there was no violence. Professor Mohan Rao, who attended the protest, said that the police believed there were close to 4 lakh people.
Around 1 lakh people showed up for a massive protest against CAA and NRC. Protesters pledge to start a civil disobedience movement of centre does not roll back this law. @thenewsminute #CAA_NRCProtests pic.twitter.com/3io8pz62i7
— Theja Ram (@thejaram92) December 23, 2019
On this Friday, Muslims of the city organised another protest, this time at the Eidgah in Banashankari, in which more than 10,000 people participated. Reports of several peaceful protests have also come from other parts of the state. Mysore witnessed a massive protest on both Thursday as well as Friday.
On Thursday, a large number of people turned up to protest against the CAA and NRC at the Town Hall of Mysore, holding national flags and placards, while the police threw a security blanket across the city. According to a report in the Hindu the call for the protest was given by the Mysuru United Muslim Welfare Trust and the gathering was predominantly Muslim.
The scale of the gathering can be inferred from the fact that, as the newspaper reported, more than 1,000 volunteers assisted the police in the smooth movement of demonstrators and vehicles near Town Hall. Maulana Tajuddin, head of the Mysuru United Muslim Welfare Trust, speaking on the occasion said the opposition to the citizenship laws should continue but remain within the limits of the law.
Peaceful protests in Bihar
There have been massive peaceful demonstrations by Muslims in Kishanganj, Forbesganj, Araria and Purnia of Seemanchal region of Bihar, but have not received the spotlight. A report in NewsClick says that on Monday, thousands of people took to the streets in half a dozen districts of Bihar: Bhagalpur, Patna, Samastipur, Darbganga, East Champaran and Araria.
Protests have also been reported on Friday in different parts of the state. However, the only time it was reported widely in the mainstream media when there was news of violence.
In Kota town of Rajasthan, a massive protest was organised by Muslims on Tuesday. Hindi daily Rajasthan Patrika reported that the protest was five-kilometres long and was peaceful. Jaipur and other parts of the state have also witnessed peaceful mobilisation of Muslims. In fact, on Friday, a large number of Muslims, including khadims of the Ajmer dargah, led a protest march against the CAA and demanded the rollback of the controversial law. As per the report, slogans such as “long live communal harmony” were raised by the protestors.
In Bhopal, protests have been held in Roshanpura, Iqbal Maidan, Budhwara among other prominent junctions in the city. Local reports said, “several protests have been held in the city in the last couple of days. One of the biggest protests meets was held at Budhwara. Legislator Arif Masood addressed the public meet and said that the law is not acceptable.”
In Dehradun, the state capital of Uttarakhand, a large number of the city’s Muslims observed a fast (Roza) on Friday as a mark of protest against the CAA and NRC. According to a report in the local edition of the Times of India, “the unique way of protest was adopted following a directive from the Shahar Qazi Maulana Mohammad Ahmed Qasmi.
The protesters also released black balloons as a mark of protest and white balloons as a symbol of peace in the country. “Today’s fast was observed by thousands of people and it all passed off peacefully. The main objective of the fast was to spread the message of peace across the country,” Qasmi told TOI.
As per the report, during the Friday namaz in around 90 mosques of the city, people also prayed for peace. The SP of the city Shweta Choubey told the newspaper that, “all the protests were carried out very peacefully. We didn’t witness any violence. Heavy security was deployed near the mosques. Not a single protester violated the law.”
This is not an exhaustive list but an indicative one. There have been peaceful protests in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Kerala, Goa, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu which have also not received attention from mainstream media houses. Highlighting them – and the ones which will take place in the future – will ensure that people are not misled and form a negative opinion about the Muslim community.