Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Outlook India
Patna: Similar to the protest in Shaheen Bagh in the national capital, women-led peaceful sit-in protests against CAA-NRC-NPR are continuing at more than 90 places across Bihar. Thousands of people, led by women, have resolved to not end their Gandhian protest until the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act, the proposed National Population Register and the National Register of Citizens are scrapped.
The protests have continued despite Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s repeated assurances about non-implementation of NRC in the state. However, the protesters are apprehensive owing to the CM’s support to the CAA in Parliament.
Sixteen days after Bihar’s Legislative Assembly passed a unanimous resolution saying there was no need for the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the state and that the National Population Register (NPR) exercise should be done as per the 2010 format, protesters in thousands in 35 districts of the state are joining the ongoing dharnas to express their opposition.
Chandrakanta, who is actively involved with the CAA-NRC-NPR Virodhi Sangharsh Morcha, said that protesters have no reason to believe Nitish Kumar, whose party Janata Dal (United) (JD-U) has been supporting CAA. She added, “Nitish Kumar’s half-hearted stand on NRC-NPR is a kind of eyewash ahead of the upcoming Bihar Assembly elections later this year. He is in support of CAA.”
She further dared Kumar to break his silence on the ongoing protests, saying, “If Nitish Kumar wants people to believe him, he should reject CAA-NRC-NPR in toto, not conditionally.”
Also read: Gandhian Wave of Protests Against CAA-NRC Spreads Across Bihar
Tanveer Rizvi, who has been working with the protesters in over a dozen places in Patna, said, “Who will believe Nitish Kumar, who is a known paltu ram (a turncoat)? He was opposing CAB publicly till last November, but his party supported CAB in Parliament in December. He has now assured that he will not implement NRC in Bihar. Was he sleeping when the JD-U supported CAB? Or is he thinking that he can fool people by making one or two statements.”
She added that in January, Kumar had expelled two senior party leaders including Prashant Kishor and Pawan Verma for questioning his support to CAA. By expelling both Kishor and Verma, who were national vice-president and party general secretary respectively, from the party, the CM had sought to assure the BJP that there was no place in the party for those opposing the CAA. The expulsion did not come as a surprise to party members as both leaders had openly criticised the CAA even as the JD(U) voted in favour of the bill in Parliament.
According to Rizvi, most of these Gandhian waves of protest have been ongoing for more than a month, while over a dozen sit-in protests have completed 75 to 60 days. This include the protest at Shanti Bagh in Gaya; Sabzi Bagh, Harun Nagar, Lal Bagh in Patna; Maripur in Muzaffarpur; Lal Bagh in Darbhanga; Zam Zam Bagh in Purnea; three places in Kishanganj and one place in Araria district.
Taushique Alam, who is part of the Sabzi Bagh protest in the heart of Patna, said that women are determined not to end this protest. He said, “More than men, the women are vocal, and are strongly in favour carrying on the protests despite difficulties.”
He admitted that the number of protesters have reduced now as it is going on since early January. But women are still enthusiastically joining and are not willing to end it soon.
Omair Khan alias Tikka Khan, the convenor of Samvidhan Bachao Morcha in Gaya, said, “Protesters may be tired but they are confident to fight till the government fulfills our demands. No doubt it is a challenge to manage a peaceful protest for nearly two and half months.” He has been associated with the protest at Shanti Bagh which started on December 28.
Also read: Protests Against CAA-NRC Spread to Over 30 Districts in Bihar
Mahesh Razak,who has been associated with the Ishopur protest in Patna’s Phulwari Sharif, said that these protests are unique because people are joining the protests on their own. Terming these protests as unprecedented, Sahid Kamal, an activist from Muzaffarpur, who has been coordinating dozens of protest in 35 of 38 districts of Bihar, said, “This is really an example of people’s movement to oppose unconstitutional laws.”
“In Buxar district, the ongoing protest against CAA-NRC-NPR was started by Ganpat Mandal. Surprisingly, over 80% protesters here are Hindus, unlike other places where majority of protesters are Muslims,” said Kamal who belongs to the Rashtra Sewa Dal. He added that local Hindu residents had also staged protests for over a month at the Khudiram Bose Chowk in Muzaffarpur district.
These protests are thronged by hundreds of people everyday, with the crowds swelling into hundreds by evening. There is one thing in common – the protesters belong to different communities, carry placards with slogans against CAA-NRC-NPR, national flags in their hands, some wear tricolour badges on their heads and shoulders, and sit for hours, singing patriotic songs and reciting poems written by poets such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Kaifi Azmi and Rabindranath Tagore. The slogans widely heard are: Jai Bheem, Inquilab Zindabad and Hum Sab Ek Hain.
Another distinguishing aspect of these protests is that no flags of political parties are visible. Pictures of top leaders of parties are also missing. But, photographs of Mahatma Gandhi, BR Ambedkar, Maulana Azad, Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose can be spotted at many protest sites. However, political party leaders have addressed the people, expressing their solidarity with the protests.
A massive rally to protest against CAA-NRC-NPR was held in Patna on February 27 that was addressed by former Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) president and Communist Party of India leader, Kanhaiya Kumar and several others. The Desh Bachao Samvidhan Bachao (Save India, Save Constitution) rally was held to mark the end of the nearly month-long Jana Gana Mana Yatra by Kanhaiya, who faced at least nine attacks by Right-wingers during the yatra.
Also read: CAA-NRC Protest: 8th Attack Against Kanhaiya Kumar-led Yatra in Bihar