We Must Pause Outdoor Anti CAA‑NRC Protests, but Keep the Fight Going
Thousands gathered on Chennai’s streets to protest the CAA-NRC legislation on Wednesday, 18th March, despite the highly contagious coronavirus pandemic. In Kolkata’s Circus Maidan and Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, women are continuing protests, though tweaked significantly in order to keep the elderly and children away, and with temporary health and safety measures like sanitizers and masks.
There is no doubt of the bravery and the sacrifice that these women continue to make on a daily basis. In an ideal situation — that is, if they lived in a nation that showed concern for their rights — they would stay home, safe because protecting themselves from a deadly pandemic would be their highest priority. What has actually happened, is that the women of Shaheen Bagh, Delhi continue to protest while reeling from the passing of legislations that threaten their citizenship, the horrific violence inflicted upon their loved ones and community soon after, and continued attempts to hurt them — a petrol bomb was just thrown at the protest site this morning — all while a pandemic threatens to infect them, no matter how safe they attempt to be outdoors. Not to forget the women of Kolkata, Bangalore, Mumbai and more — who still continue to protest no matter what.
But it is now time that they leave those spaces, and go home. Physical gatherings to protest CAA-NRC protests must stop, in order to ensure the safety and health of all those who have fought so long and hard to keep dissent from dying down. Now, citizens like us, who have attended these protests — maybe once, maybe multiple times — must pick ourselves up from the Covid19 quarantine-induced lull to keep this dissent going — either online, or in conversation, or in any other way that does not require in-person gatherings.
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Yes, this is not ideal. We all know that any mode of protest we attempt now will not bother the government in the slightest. However, the least we can do to try our best to make our rage and disappointment evident, despite limited means. For example, Brazil’s citizens banged pots and pans, honked cars and shouted “Fora Bolsonaro!” (Bolsonaro out!), to protest Brazil premier Jair Bolsanaro’s poor handling of the Covid19 pandemic.
Similarly, an Indian civil society group called United Against Hate has urged citizens to protest the CAA-NRC legislation from our balconies this Sunday — the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for a people’s curfew, and a communal banging of pots and pans in order to thank healthcare workers who are at the frontlines of fighting the pandemic. Citizens will shout slogans against the legislation, ring bells and smash utensils to show solidarity with those who the CAA-NRC legislation threatens — Muslims, trans people, disabled individuals, nomadic tribes and more.
The coronavirus pandemic has crippled a powerful tide of dissent. What’s worse is, it is now time to stop what is left of the protests, to protect those who placed themselves at the front lines of the anti CAA-NRC protests. But this is not the end of dissent and awareness — it is merely a temporary pause. Though the gatherings need to pause, the fights must go on.