The 'Peace Protest' on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) organised by the Joint Action Committee attracted close to one lakh people in the city on Monday.
The rally was intended to examine how the CAA, coupled with the National Register of Citizens (NRC), would affect the minority Muslim community. Police who enacted strict security and traffic management measures to maintain crowd control had expected some 50,000 people to attend the event.
That expectation was initially on a par when about 2,000 people assembled at the site of the rally at the Eidgah-e-Khuddus Saheb on Miller's Road at 11 am. By noon, police estimated that the crowd had swollen to about 30,000 individuals, from all social backgrounds. Moments later, organisers were informed by police that a further one lakh people had gathered across the length of Miller's Road and Nandidurga Road in a bid to enter the rally site.
These sheer numbers added considerable credibility to a rally where speakers were vociferous in their condemnation of the Modi government's aspirations regarding the CAA and the NRC.
One of them, Mohammed Zulfiqar Noori, the Imam of Masjid-e-Bilal on Tannery Road, accused the Modi administration of trying to subvert the legacy of India's pluralism. "This is not their India. This Mahatma Gandhi's India," he declared, prompting the crowd to start shouting 'Hindustan Zindabad' (long live India). He added: "Only 10% of Muslims are on the streets right now. We will mobilise everybody and our protests will gain momentum if the CAA is not withdrawn."
Justice V Gopala Gowda, a former judge of the Supreme Court, clarified that anti-CAA protesters were not only fighting for Muslims but were fighting for the future of India. Those who were barred entry into the ground contented themselves by listening to the speakers via loudspeakers on trees along Miller's Road.
In the midst of all this, possible mobile phone jamming by law-enforcement officials prevented people from posting messages or making calls. When quizzed on the matter, a police inspector claimed that no jamming was taking place. "The large concentration of people in this area has collapsed the phone network," he suggested.
However, cellular networks had been inaccessible from the minutes before the rally began.