I Refuse To Protest Against CAA – And I Am An Indian Muslim

Image Via India Today

Here’s the post that I have been dreading ever since the anti-CAA protests kicked off last December. But after I received a few messages questioning my silence, I realized I could no longer put it off, especially now that I have chosen my stance.

Initially, I was more than willing to be one of the many Indians who came out on the streets to peacefully protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). After all, I believe that India is home to people of all races and religions, people who coexist peacefully even if they don’t always understand each other. However, at the time I was unwell and cramming for my PGJMC exams, so I was unable to join the crowd. But today, owing to certain events, I have decided not to protest on the ground.

If you think that this decision comes from a place of fear or cowardice, well, who are you to judge me for my human right to dignity and self-preservation?

These are the primary facts behind my decision:

1. So far, protesters have been subjected to uncalled for brutality.

While male protesters have been beaten up and detained by the police, female protesters, particularly ones who are visibly Muslim, have been molested as well. Here’s a bone-chilling excerpt from a recent report by The Times:

The crowd scattered and word spread up the street in panic: “Police, police.” While protesters scrambled to flee over the rooftops of the block in old Lucknow, dozens of officers burst in below, raining blows on women and children. The Muslim families cowered from their attackers.

“Take her veil off, check if she’s a man,” one officer yelled, pointing to Salma Hussain, 29, who wept as she recalled the humiliation. The women were groped and officers commented on their breasts as they beat them.

“One man put a gun to my head,” said Tabasum Raza, 26. “He said: ‘Tell me where the men are hiding or I’ll shoot you.’”

Like many of my Indian sisters, I have been groped in public spaces and I have no intention of going through the trauma that comes with this violation. Unfortunately, having a very Muslim surname (Shaikh) only puts me at a higher risk.

2. Facial recognition software was used in Delhi to “identify miscreants”. The software was used without the consent or knowledge of the protesters.

What’s more, Economic Times reported that protesters in other cities like Pune, Chennai, and Uttar Pradesh have also been video recorded using drones. Given the dystopian age we are living in, this footage is definitely going to be used against these folks in the future. They could be fired from their jobs, thrown into prison, even be deported from the country like German student Jakob Lindenthal. Again, Muslims and other minorities stand to suffer more than anyone else. This is not a conspiracy theory or my imagination running wild, and here’s proof thanks to Huffington Post.

Facial recognition software poses the biggest threat to “those whose lives are already economically precarious, who can’t afford to lose their jobs, or whose behaviour is somehow different to “normal”: subcultures, migrants, those who identify as LGBTQ and other minority groups”.

3. Being a protester takes a massive toll on one’s mental and physical health.

For a while now, I have been in a bad place when it comes to both. This piece by The Swaddle delves into how young and old female protesters have been dealing with health conditions like anxiety and high blood pressure.

Sehmat (name changed on request), a protester at Kolkata’s Park Circus, says she can no longer sleep at night. “Whenever I hear a loud bang, I feel like it’s the police coming to beat us up.” Sehmat, a student, was present inside Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University on December 15, when the police barged in, fired teargas and beat up students. Two hundred students were injured that day and at least 50 were detained overnight.

Ever since the Jamia protest, her mother says, Sehmat has been waking up in the middle of the night “shaking and sweating.” “She doesn’t sleep alone anymore. I don’t remember the last time she got good, peaceful sleep and I don’t know how I will send her back to study again,” Sehmat’s mother, who is herself protesting at Park Circus, adds.

4. Protesting can now get you killed.

On Thursday, January 30, a man named Gopal showed up in broad daylight with a gun at the Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi. He chanted pro-CAA slogans and proceeded to fire a shot that hit a student. The student was rushed to the hospital and the shooter has been taken into custody but the act has certainly set a dangerous precedent. It would be naive to think this situation was not a result of hate speech.

Students told News18 that the attacker tried to hijack the peaceful protest and threatened the anti-CAA agitators, while the cops stood as mute spectators. The shooting comes in the aftermath of communally charged and violence provoking rhetoric by several BJP leaders in the run-up to the assembly elections in Delhi.

Junior finance minister Anurag Thakur had on Monday led chants of ‘shoot the traitors’ at a poll rally in north Delhi’s Rithala. The minister prompted,”desh ke gaddaron ko…” to which the crowd responded,”…goli maaro sa***n ko”. The chant translates to “shoot down the traitors who betray the country”.

After Thakur’s hate speech, a man carrying a gun was also caught at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, the venue of mega protests. The man had walked into the protest ground and allegedly brandished the weapon till he was overpowered by the surrounding protesters, eyewitnesses said.

These aren’t the only reasons, but I cannot go on. The mere thought of exposing myself to such situations strikes immense fear and anxiety in my heart.

However, I cannot turn a blind eye to this growing violence and hatred. It took me a while to pick up the courage to share my anti-CAA views with people who were unaware or had succumbed to communal propaganda, but I did it in the end. I got some hate and lost a few friends in the process, but I have no regrets for standing up for what is right.

With humanity and democracy at stake, choosing to be apolitical right now is joining the ranks of the apathetic and the privileged. And I refuse to be one of them – even though I have never had any interest in politics.

Image Via Facebook

It is no longer a secret that there are detention camps in Assam and all over India where people are dying due to inhumane conditions, yet I see people “living their best life” as if nothing is amiss. Worse, most celebrities and influencers who could use their platforms to spread some much-needed awareness have decided to take the same route. (By the way, if you aren’t using the power of your fame to do some public good, do you even deserve it in the first place?)

Maybe they have forgotten, but this is not the multicultural India we grew up in. Today, Muslims are being targeted. Tomorrow, it will be Christians and other minorities. And if only Hindus are left in India, they will be discriminated against on the basis of caste. You see, segregation has no end and spares no one.

I don’t know if and when I will work up the courage to attend the next peaceful protest. What I do know is that I will continue my online advocacy with renewed vigor. It’s the least you and I can do as secular Indians. As they say, every little step counts.

Click on the image below to sign Avaaz’s ‘India Stands Undivided’ petition.

India Stands Undivided Petition

Recommended Reading:

India Against CAA: Being a First-Time Protester Can Be Daunting, Don’t Hesitate to Ask Questions
Cheatsheet for responding to state propaganda on CAA/NRC

Most importantly, follow @iawaken.in on Instagram for all the latest news and updates.

5 thoughts on “I Refuse To Protest Against CAA – And I Am An Indian Muslim”

  1. Hi Mahevash,
    I fully agree with your decision to not participate in the anti-CAA demonstrations. Self-care comes first.
    This is going to be a long struggle and each one of us will find different ways to stand up to the bullies and tyrants.
    Most importantly, we must be careful not to let their negativity affect us. The biggest defeat would be if we started to give in to hatred, however justified.
    I commend and applaud your courage in these difficult times.
    Know this: you are not alone.
    Though it seems as if the darkness and ugliness of prejudice is all-pervading, ultimately goodness will prevail.
    This is the land of the Buddha and Gandhi, of Maulana Azad and Nehru, of Bhagat Singh and Dr. Ambedkar.
    We will not fail their legacy.
    Much metta,

  2. I agree this is not the time for being apolitical. Not in India, not in the US. Good on you for taking a stand. Every step does count and apathy in such difficult times is plain vile. You said you lost friends? I say you got rid of the trash.

Comments are closed.

Life's better when you are aware of your surroundings.

Life's better when you are aware of your surroundings.

Sign up for a free membership to get all the inside info.

Thanks for subscribing! Please find the confirmation link in your mailbox.