Kolkata: Protests in the city against the amended Citizenship Act (CAA) has broadened the outlook of many people who had stopped interacting with their friends from other communities over recent socio-political developments in the country.
One among them is Muzaffar Ali, a garments trader from Beniapukur area, who had felt hesitant to discuss with his friends from other communities about certain ‘sensitive issues’ and ‘felt ostracised’.
Ali, in his 40s, now participates in anti-CAA rallies and an indefinite demonstration by women in Park Circus area, being touted as Kolkata’s ‘Shaheen Bagh’, against the new citizenship law.
The businessman, who participated in one such rally at Zakaria Street recently, said he discovered a new side of the city, as strangers from other communities, many of them in their youth, turned up in droves at protests against the contentious law.
“From bright young boys and girls to social activists, writers and artistes, many people have assembled at a protest site in Park Circus and are giving speeches from a makeshift podium. This is a spontaneous, apolitical movement against the CAA and the National register of Citizens (NRC),” Ali said.
Ali informed he had never participated in similar rallies with people of other communities in the past.
“The outpour has made me realise the love and bonding among people and I have started to open up. My two school-going sons have told their friends from other communities that they will never part ways,” asserted Ali.
Around 30 women have been staging a sit-in protest against CAA, the NRC and the National Population Register (NPR) in Park Circus since January 7 on the lines of the Shaheen Bagh protest, mainly led by Muslim women, in Delhi.
Nirufa Khatoon, one of the protesters, said, “I was born here. My grandfather was born here. During partition, my predecessors had opted to stay back in India as it is our motherland. But now, I am afraid that the BJP wants to take my right to live in my city. Are we not citizens of this country?” Khatoon vowed not to withdraw the stir till the Centre takes concrete steps to revoke CAA, NRC and NPR.
Another woman participant, Sabina was equally vocal. “After several discussions, we had decided to begin the sit-in as the Muslim women, of all generations, expressed eagerness to take part in a dharna when our male family members were already out on the streets. Ours will be a peaceful protest,” said Sabina.
Also present in the sit-in was Moutusi Banerjee, a former Calcutta University alumna who is working with a production house.
“I had first participated in a rally from Sealdah to Esplanade where thousands of people had raised slogans against CAA, NRC and NPR. Since then, I had been planning to join the Park Circus protest and finally, I am here,” said Banerjee.
The women agitators have been joined by Ali and other men of the locality including Firoz Islam, a fruit-seller by profession.
“It has become my duty to be on the side of those who have left behind their work for a greater cause. I cannot stop my business as my earning depends on it. But, I can express my solidarity,” Islam said.