The protest rally against Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 was attended by thousands in Chennai today. The rally was jointly organised by the opposition parties of the state led by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). The police had denied permission for the rally, but the parties decided to proceed with it. The rally was attended by leaders and members of various opposition parties and civil society organisations.
On Sunday, a public interest litigation was filed against the rally with the vacation bench of the Madras High Court. The bench declined to stay the protest and instructed the police to maintain peace during the rally.
The opposition parties have been conducting rallies and demonstrations against the CAA in various parts of the state. The civil society, various dalit and Muslim organisations too have been protesting since the Act came into existence. The rally was reportedly attended by more than 50,000 people.
The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are vehemently defending the Act while the opposition led by DMK is accusing the government of betraying the minorities and Sri Lankan Tamil refugees. The DMK leader M K Stalin called CAA ‘anti-constitutional’. “The Act is granting citizenship based on religion, which is against the Constitution of India,” he said.
He also condemned the police action on the protesters and students across the country. “The students are protesting to safeguard the constitutional principles of the country; they are being met with police brutality,” he added.
The rally was attended by leaders of DMK, Community Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)], Community Party of India, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), Congress, Indian Union Muslim League, Dravida Kazhagam, Manithaneya Makkal Katchi. The Left mass organisations including Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), Students Federation of India (SFI) also participated.
The number of youths and students participating in the protests was high. The DYFI and SFI cadres carried placards calling for protection of the Constitution and condemning the police excesses on student community.
The state government, in a move to dilute the student protests, has announced closure of colleges till January 1.
The state Transport Department had earlier denied leaves to its staff members to prevent them from participating in the rally. But the workers led by CITU defied the instruction and participated in the rally.
Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president K S Alagiri claimed the entire nation was "awed" by the rally which highlighted 'flaws' of BJP-led Centre vis-a-vis the Citizenship amendment. “It is our duty to take forward another freedom struggle and we have done that duty,” Alagiri said.
State Secretaries of CPI(M) and CPI K Balakrishnan and R Mutharasan, IUML leader K M Kader Mohideen, VCK chief Thol Thirumavalavan, Manithaneya Makkal Katchi M H Jawahirullah were among the leaders of alliance parties of the DMK who participated in the agitation.
MP Kanimozhi and Stalin's son and DMK Youth Wing chief Udhayanidhi were among the prominent participants. About 5,000 personnel were deployed on security duty, police said.
The DMK had extended invitation to other civil society organisations and political outfits to participate in the rally. The Makkal Neethi Maiam led by actor Kamal Hasan turned down the invitation. Actor Rajinikanth—who has been terming all democratic protests, including Thoothukudi police firing, as violence—took the same stand on this issue also.
On Saturday, the state police had filed a case on CPI(M) state secretary K Balakrishnan and Tirunelveli district leaders for visiting the Sri Lankan refugee camp. The cases were filed under sections 153A, 188, 505(1)(b), 505(2) accusing them of inciting violence and spreading hatred.
The state continues to witness protests opposing the CAA even as the chief minister has published a statement claiming that the AIADMK is secular and will protect the interests of the minorities.
(With inputs from PTI)