Mumbaikars usher in New Year with civil disobedience pledge

Updated: Jan 02, 2020, 07:20 IST | Gaurav Sarkar | Mumbai

With permission to protest peacefully denied, anti-CAA protesters, bring in the New Year with midnight vigil, songs and poetry on Carter Road after cops ban posters

The gathering saw artistes recite poetry and sing songs
The gathering saw artistes recite poetry and sing songs

Undeterred by Mumbai police, who denied them permission for a music event for an anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protest, a group of citizens gathered at the Carter Road Amphitheatre for a peaceful sit-in, sang patriotic songs, recited explosive poetry and marked New Year's Eve under a waning crescent moon.

The sit-in, comprising 60 to 70 students and artists participating in Jashn-E-Ekta, kicked off at 8.30 pm. Music took centre stage as artists, singers, and musicians sat on the promenade while supporters formed a circle around them and sat on the ground, singing along.

Plainclothes and uniformed police officers formed a smaller circle around the group but did not interfere with the proceedings. One police official was recording the event on a camcorder. A few police constables stood guard on the path that leads to the amphitheatre from the jogging track, sometimes casually sticking their arm out to stop people from randomly joining the crowd or asking them if they were specifically a part of the gathering.

"Such security is there at Carter Road every New Year's Eve to prevent untoward incidents," said a senior police officer present at the spot.

'We ain't free at all'2020-01-02

The crowd swelled by 9.30 pm and included curious families and young revellers. By 10 pm, it was Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz's verses that earned thunderous applause from the crowd, followed by a rap song during which the audience sang the chorus, 'We ain't free at all'.

At one point an artist asked people to raise their hands for song requests and quipped, "Ye hai asli democracy. Aap bas haath upar karo, Bill apne aap pass ho jayega," he said to a laughing crowd. This was followed by a rendition of 'Roobaroo' from the film Rang De Basanti. At 10.30 pm, the lights of the amphitheatre went out, and members lit the area with mobile phone torches.

Advocate and activist Lara Jesani, a member of the People's Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL) and of anti-CAA platform 'Hum Bharat Ke Log', said: "After police permission for Jashn-E-Ekta was denied, a few of us decided to exercise our democratic right to use public places on the occasion of New Year's Eve. Participants were informed of the cancellation and the informal gathering via WhatsApp."

"Police cooperated with us. We asked them to join us too as the event was about the Constitution and liberty," she added.

Poet-musician Mayank Saxena played the Cajon throughout the night, and musician Rossi played the guitar and mouth organ. "We made sure there were no placards or posters. We did not want fringe elements from the right-wing Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to create problems as they have during other anti-CAA protests," Saxena said.

At 11.45 pm, the attendees and artists took a ten-minute tea break. As the moon turned a bright orange, and as the countdown to 2020 began, the number of people increased to almost 200.

"As the clock struck midnight, the participants took an oath, that we will be observing non-violent and peaceful civil disobedience by not submitting our documents for the National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC)," said Saxena. The gathering culminated in a reading of the preamble to the Constitution of India and dispersed at 12.35 pm.

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