The ongoing citizenship law protest at Jamia Millia Islamia University usually sees a higher turnout on Fridays, when residents of Jamia Nagar join in after Friday prayers. Yesterday, February 14, was no exception but the mood was more charged and enthusiastic than usual. The protesters were waiting for the arrival of Bollywood director Anurag Kashyap.
Kashyap has been a vocal voice against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens. This was his first visit to the protest at the university. Jamia has been a centre of the protests from the start, especially since the against protesting students on December 15.
Before Kashyap’s arrival on Friday evening, a couple of people anchoring the protest invoked of the Constitution, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. Calling the Citizenship Amendment Act an act that goes against the Constitution and its preamble, one of them read out a poem:
"Haveli jhopdi, sabka muqaddar phoot jayega,
Saath agar Hindu-Musalman ka chooth jayega.
Dua kariye hum me pyaar yun hi rahe qayam,
Kyun ki agar ye rishta tut gaya toh Bharat tut jayega."
To paraphrase: Mansions, slums, all will get affected, if Hindu-Muslim unity is broken. Pray that the love between the two communities remains intact, otherwise the nation will break into pieces.
The crowd at Jamia.
When Kashyap arrived, the crowd burst into cheers. He stood on a wooden box and addressed the gathering.
Kashyap joked that he wasn’t able to secure admission to Jamia Millia Islamia during his youth. He started his speech by saying, “By looking at whatever is happening around us, it seemed as if we had all died. But after coming here, I feel so alive."
He paused and added, “I feel so good after coming here, I don't know what to say."
Kashyap said he’s “fully aware” of how the protests have been unfolding, since he regularly reads about them and follows the news. “Bahut taqat milti hai aap logon ko dekh kar,” he said.
He shouted, “Inquilab zindabad!” and the crowd joined in enthusiastically. He then said he “isn’t a slogan person” and asked the audience to shout slogans so he could join along.
When the sloganeering died down, Kashyap said the movement against the citizenship law started here, in Jamia. Referring to the police brutality on December 15 and later again in February, he said, “They [the government] know very well how to give an answer to violence. What they don’t know is how to respond to all the love and no violence here.”
Talking about the Bharatiya Janata Party government, Kashyap said, “You’re dealing with a government that manufactures provocators, that keeps people like Dr Kafeel in jail, invokes the National Security Act to scare them.”
Anurag Kashyap at Jamia.
He was referring to Dr Kafeel Khan, under the NSA for a “provocative” speech he made at a citizenship law protest at Aligarh Muslim University. On Twitter, Kashyap had said the BJP’s intentions are “dark and sinister”.
Kashyap said he appreciated the Jamia students and other protesters for their calm and nonviolent demonstrations against the citizenship law. “We need to reclaim the Constitution,” he said. “And this is how we will do it: by being out on the roads and without any violence.”
Pointing to the discrepancies between statements made by several BJP ministers on the National Register of Citizens and the CAA, he added, "What they say is not what they do. I stopped paying heed to anything they say long back."
Kashyap also brought up a subject that’s oft-debated on social media: the silence of most leading Bollywood celebrities on the citizenship law and the protests surrounding it. “You know, many from the industry are with you in this fight, in silence,” he explained. “Not everybody can afford to come forward.” The audience roared its approval and clapped.
A journalist asked Kashyap whether he thinks the student-led protests will yield results. “I salute the Jamia students, the public just needs to be dedicated,” Kashyap responded. “When they see huge numbers, they will be scared. We have to silently fight.”