Permission for rally boomerangs on CM Yediyurappa

Policemen frisk young boys participating in the rally on Monday. DH PHOTO/JANARDHAN B K

When the government gave its consent to 35 Muslim organisations to hold a rally on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) on Monday, it did so with the hope that the community leaders would convince their people that the Act would not affect them. But that hope was thrown out of the window.

A battery of high-profile speakers and community leaders brought together by the Joint Action Committee of Bangalore, relentlessly bashed the Union government for passing the controversial bill and for the plans to link it to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) during a half-day rally held amid the sprawling grounds of Eidgah-e-Khuddus Saheb on Miller’s Road.

S Sasikanth Senthil, a former IAS officer who resigned from the service over what he felt was the government’s undermining of democracy, described the CAA as another in a long line of strategic moves by the Modi cabinet to hold onto power by stoking communal tensions. 

“However, I don’t think that he expected the unity which has grown up against the bill. His government may have started out trying to retain power but now, based on the antagonistic reaction that the CAA has faced, they are starting to understand India,” he said to cheers from a 30,000-strong crowd.

Senthil called on people not to submit their citizenship documents to subvert the NRC. “If the centre wants us to go to the detention centres, let us go. The government will feed us three square meals a day,” he added, to laughter.

It was a statement, however, that closely echoed the sentiments of another ex-IAS officer-turned social activist, Harsh Mander.

He declared during the rally that he would write a letter to the home minister stating his intention to not provide any documents showing his legal status as a citizen of this country. “I will be the first to go into a detention centre,” he said.

Worried populace

Despite the affirmations of intent, the atmosphere at the
rally was one of rhetoric intended to reassure a worried populace. Several Imams demanded that the government withdraw the CAA or else to prepare for total resistance from minority communities all over India.

“Everyone now and again there is pressure on the Muslim community to leave the country. But this is our country as well. We have a great love for it. We are not Indians by chance. We had the opportunity to migrate to Pakistan, but we chose this country,” said Sayed Tanveer Hashmi, the Sufi spiritual leader from Vijayapura. 

The Joint Action Committee took great pains to ensure that the rally does not assume political overtones.

When Shantinagar legislator N A Haris came to the venue, he was barred from the dais by organisers who told him that the event was not political. 

Later, when a man in the crowd shouted “down with the BJP,” he was swiftly chastised by a community leader. 

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