Malerkotla: Tens of thousands of Punjabi Muslim women, several in burqas, peopled the massive rally against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) at Malerkotla in Sangrur district on Sunday.
Crowds from across Punjab converged at the city’s Dana Mandi (literally, grain market), where under the leadership of the state’s 14 democratic organisations, mainly the left-leaning farmers’ and students’ bodies, led a massive demonstration. The protesters accused the central government of carrying out a “communal agenda of targeting the country’s Muslim community”.
“Donate a book to the needy:
Student’s name – Amit Shah,
Book – Constitution of India”
The above was one of the messages on a placard held by a youth. A large group of youngsters walked around the rally venue in what they said was ‘a funeral procession’ for the country’s top functionaries.
at malerkotla today. various workers and farmers organizations and students unions from every corner of punjab participated in several mega rallies against CAA/NPR/NRC all around the city. long live the workers-farmers-students alliance. death to hindu fascism. pic.twitter.com/kbHvemmRYz
— 🌱🌼🍂 (@dialecticsoupy) February 16, 2020
Religious harmony was the toast of the protest which saw Muslims and Sikhs come together and raise slogans against the government at the centre. Loud applause followed fiery speeches on stage.
Renowned lawyer-activist Harsh Mander was one the main speakers. “I appeal to all of you not to show any document when the officials knock at your doors for papers that will prove your citizenship of your own country…I wont show them any document and I will declare myself a Muslim, and let them detain me. I appeal to you all to do the same,” he said, to loud applause.
He raised the slogan, “Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isai, aapas mein hai behen bhai’, and the crowds joined in.
“Yes, the countrywide protests are successful because of our Muslim sisters,” Mander added.
Malerkotla, which comprises a sizeable Muslim population, has become Punjab’s epicentre for the anti-CAA protests. The continuous dharna here began on January 9.
Punjab’s anti-CAA protesters have also thronged to Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh in large numbers.
The protesting organisations mainly include the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan), Punjab Students’ Union-Lalkar, Punjab Lok Morcha, Naujawan Bharat Sabha, Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union and other such factions of both famers and students.
Langar(community kitchen)to feed all those coming for @NrcProtest without asking for religion, its Malerkotla Punjab @ShaheenBagh_ @rkadelhi @akdwaaz @UmarKhalidJNU @RanaAyyub pic.twitter.com/jbPUS1OtvF
— Neel Kamal (@NeelkamalTOI) February 16, 2020
Lachhman Singh Sewewala of the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union announced on the occasion that the statewide protests would further intensify from February 24 to 29. “The people of Punjab won’t allow fascist forces to implement their agenda of ‘Hindutva’. We the people earlier held ourselves back on the government’s notorious and racial move of reading down the Article 370 in Kashmir, but we won’t sit quietly now as the regime goes about finishing the country’s minorities, beginning with the Muslims,” Sewewala said.
Professor Jagmohan Singh, the nephew of Bhagat Singh, said it was often seen that citizens have been punished for violating the law or denigrating the country’s constitution, “But it is the reverse now with rulers like Amit Shah and Modi maligning our country’s constitution and people protesting on roads to save the constitution,” the professor said.
Punjab Lok Morcha’s Amolak Singh echoed these sentiments. “The tirade of protests in Punjab will sustain for a very long period, to derail all the anti-people moves of the government, especially its communal agenda of targeting the Muslims.
The youth were seen forming security rings around the stage, keeping a vigil all around to scuttle any incident which could escalate to violence.
The citywide protests choked traffic for nearly five hours.
Prabhjit Singh is a freelance journalist with extensive experience covering Punjab and Haryana.