Bengaluru shows you why it’s time to lose your protest.

Bengaluru shows you why it’s time to lose your protest.

Nasir and sabeena looked out of place. When I saw them sitting next to each other, they kept exchanging glances. Nasir looked at her, eyebrows raised, almost as if he had been asking,”Maybe we should not have come?” But the crowd swelled and as the tempo picked up, they relaxed. When I looked position had changed. She was sitting on the step below him, resting her back on his knees as his arms rested on her shoulders. If you had seen them you never would have figured that they were protest virgins.

The techie couple attended their first-ever protest at Town Hall in Bengaluru only a couple of hours before tens of thousands of concertgoers packed into a 50,000-capacity stadium in Navi Mumbai and waved their lit-up cellphones when U2’s Bono reminded them that”India gave the world its best gift-ahimsa” and performed a song by that title.

While Mumbai embraced a feel-good moment about living in the birthplace of non-violent protest, a day of terror commenced for pupils in Aligarh and Delhi as police entered their campuses. In the next few days, almost 50 schools, from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, to Banaras Hindu University, had protested against the police actions at Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).

Many diverse narratives unfold simultaneously across our nation every day when many of these stories fit into each other but we find ourselves in a moment. Unexpectedly, the Bhim Army’s Chandrashekhar Azad was perched on a car away from the old police headquarters in Delhi, stating,”They thought that if students get beaten up in Jamia and AMU, only Muslims would protest? That’s not true, the whole country will protest.”

The simple act of protest grows to become a cause. When it occurs at the end of the year, that time of reflection, of looking back at ourselves as a 26, it is great. In a year bursting with bad news, India wanted some Christmas cheer.

Azad was responding to Narendra Modi’s remark (made at a political rally in Jharkhand) that”those creating violence can be identified by their clothes itself”. The comment of the prime minister was translated as a one, reinforcing a stereotype that citizens have suffered in India.

As Rakhshanda Jalil says in the introduction to her most recent book, But You Don’t Look Like A Muslim:”With time I’ve understood that the speaker is trying to give me a back-handed compliment. Since I don’t seem like a Muslim, I am’okay’, I’m not really one of’them’-the bomb-throwing, beef-smuggling, jihad-spouting Muslim of popular imagination.” Jalil adds that far from camouflaging her individuality, she would like to celebrate being Muslim and Indian.

“If you keep silent now, you’ll be that individual who kept quiet when their country was burnt down,” says Ajmal Khan, assistant professor at Ambedkar University, on his Facebook page. Khan expressed his anger and distress in a poem I’m An Indian. “Write me down/ I’m an Indian/ This is my property / If I have born here/ I will die here/ Write it down/ Clearly/ In bold and capital letters/ On the top of your NRC/ I am an Indian,” the poem’s final stanza reads.

At the Town Hall of Bengaluru, web developer and history enthusiast George said this was his first demonstration in just two decades. “I just felt like this (CAA) was the beginning of something awful,” he said. “When you codify bias, it no longer functions as isolated incidents of discrimination.” He added that the CAA reminded him of the anti-Semitic Nuremberg laws. “Once these laws were in place, the bureaucrats just followed orders.”

Lakshmi, who runs a library for the children of ragpickers, said she was there because the CAA and the families will be immediately impacted by the NRC with whom she works. “These two things aren’t so much anti-religion or anti-community but anti-poor. When it really comes down, it is an attack on poor people,” she said, adding that it is the worst thing to be poor and Muslim in India today.

Like our fault lines disappear in such times, it is not. Who understands which moments unite a nation? Where were these protesters when Kashmir needed them? It can often seem a mirage, Despite the fact that we appear united.

“Do you want to move to that side? This side is the spiritual demonstration,” one organizer said, approaching a group of us who did not “look” Muslims.

And yes, Sabeena and Nasir, who for decades decided stoicism over public expression of any emotion, maintaining up their chin when landlords said,”Sorry we do not wish to rent to Mohammedans,” and buddies said,”Oh you must want Pakistan to win this cricket match.”

The couple say, stop this stereotyping and has finally found the courage to step out.

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