Mumbai: Aarey, Bhima Koregaon activists come together against CAA
A peaceful free speech demonstration was held at the Dadar and Matunga Cultural Centre on Friday
Even as people from across the nation continue to protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), about 500 students, members of a human rights group formed in the aftermath of the Bhima Koregaon violence — Mumbai Rises to Save Democracy, Aarey activists and common citizens gathered at the Dadar and Matunga Cultural Centre at 5 pm on Friday to participate in a peaceful free speech demonstration.
The demonstration, organised by the 'Mumbai Rises to Save Democracy', was held in the cultural centre's auditorium. While the opening musical act comprised a spin-off of the popular Hindi song 'Yeh hai Mumbai meri jaan' performed by one of the participants, its lyrics soon changed to 'Zara roko, zara toko, yeh hai Mumbai meri jaan. The panelists — Prakash Bhoir, Manisha Dhinde, Arfa Khanum and Prabhat Patnaik — inspired the crowd through their own stories of revolt against the authorities and survival. Wristbands with 'sedition' and 'Urban Naxal' written on them were handed out to members of the audience.
Shefali Saini, a PHD aspirant currently studying at TISS, opened the evening's speeches. "I'm an aspirant because although I want to pursue PhD, there are other things that bother me — like police entering universities and using tear gas on students," she said. "The RSS has substantial control over our system. Their brahmanvadi, manuvadi and hinduvadi thought process has divided the society. The democracy has become a mobocracy today."
Explaining how 'Mumbai Rises to Save Democracy' came into existence last September, she said, "Bhima Koregaon is an important landmark for opposing Hindutva. Vehicles of people who had gone to attend it were burnt, and later the police lodged cases against activists and protesters. The authorities then found a new conspiracy, and based on it, they arrested nine human rights activists. The most frightening was the clout with which mass media was used…it has embedded the term 'Urban Naxal' into everyone's head." Recalling the recent Aarey protest, Prakash Bhoir said, "I am an adivasi and I have never left the jungle. But now I have to. How can I not, when even leopards are being driven out…"
Another tribal, Manisha Dhinde, who was detained during the Aarey protests, said, "I do not understand the police. We have all grown up learning that we should save trees and should be non-violent, but I don't know which school the cops have gone to that they beat up students and detain people for no reason. Nowadays, when I see the videos of their brutality, I am shocked. Are they the Indian police or cops from the colonial times, beating up young students mercilessly?"
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