Kolkata: On Wednesday afternoon, Kolkata witnessed the first public protest by students and social activists against the arrests of CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) protesters. Sporting masks and maintaining social distance, the protesters at Jadavpur 8B bus stand, Gariahat crossing and Nagerbazar, were seen carry placards saying – Sab Yaad Rakha Jayega (Everything will be remembered).
Groups of students and social activists, who had been an active part of the anti CAA-NRC-NPR movement in Kolkata, raised slogans and carried posters condemning the government’s move of continuously arresting dissenters, especially students. Some even carried posters demanding the immediate release of political prisoners.
Speaking to eNewsroom, Navamita Chandra, a former student of Jadavpur University (JU) said, “The present central government is a coward. They are afraid of dissenters and have been arresting the faces of anti-NRC movement in Delhi, during the lockdown.” She then added, “Ironically, the same government has been telling us not to do politics during the pandemic. I would like to ask them, isn’t the arrests of protesting students, petty politics?”
Chandra, a regular at the Park Circus Dharna site, when the anti-CAA movement was at its peak, accused the government of deliberately denting the image of the activists spearheading the movement. “Notice the style and strategy. Why only students and activists associated with the anti-CAA movement are being arrested for allegedly orchestrating Delhi riots. We all know that it was a well-planned genocide of Muslims at the call of BJP leaders like Anurag Thakur and Kapil Mishra.”
Continuing from Chandra’s allegations, Jhelum Roy, a member of Feminists in Resistance added: “The arrests of the anti-CAA activists are a deliberate attempt by both the central and Delhi governments to change the narrative of the Delhi pogrom and delegitimize the anti-CAA activists. It’s sad to see the government hounding activists when they were doing relief work during the ongoing pandemic.”
She paused and said: “The pandemic, unlike in other countries, is being used to witch hunt dissenters in India. Especially at a time when globally political and under trial prisoners are being released on parole, here we are seeing activists being rounded up and being slapped with draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), even when the Apex court has asked for the decongestion of prisons due to Covid-19 pandemic.”
Explaining the reasons to hit the streets during the pandemic, Sampriti Mukherjee, a research scholar and member of AIPWA said: “We all had been raising our voice, digitally, when our fellow activists were being rounded up in Delhi. Now, that the lockdown is a bit relaxed, we decided to hit the streets, as public protest is the best way to get heard.”
Mukherjee maintained: “We need to remember that the Delhi pogrom was instigated at a time when the anti-CAA movement was a full-grown movement with Muslim women leading us. The pogrom was a well-planned one to move the attention away from the movement and make the activists leading the movement look like conspirators of the pogrom.”
She accused the government of using the pandemic as a cover to hound activists, especially Muslims. “We can’t wait anymore. Nothing is being done about Safoora and Gulfisha,” she added. “What more can we expect from this government, which during the lockdown has done no work. It has left the migrant workers to march on their own and has not fed the hungry and poor. The only work that they seem to be interested in doing is hounding activists and crush every voice of dissent.”
In the past three months, a number of arrests have been made by the Delhi Police. A huge chunk of those arrested are social activists and students of Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University. Most of the arrested students have been held responsible for the Delhi riots.
The Kolkata protest was part of a nationwide protest called by a large number of social activists and political outfits to condemn the arrests of activists during a pandemic and also to demand the release of all political prisoners. Activists who couldn’t make it to the streets registered their protests digitally. The theme of the protest was coined from Amir Aziz’s poem ‘Sab Yaad Rakha Jayega’.