Writers, actors, poets join the protest at Azad Maidan

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Journalists, writers, professors, poets and actors from the Marathi creative industry gathered at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan on Tuesday evening to stand against CAA, NPR and NRC. Their protest was further fuelled by the recent attack on the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University. They voiced their solidarity with the students through poems, quotes, stories and speeches. In their peaceful initiative to show dissent only through means of creativity and intellect, each speaker got a five-minute spot to voice their concerns.Marathi actor and poet Kishore Kadam told BusinessLine, “What happened in JNU yesterday and what has happened in Jamia Millia Islamia University, have been very unfortunate. The future of this country lies in its universities. These great universities have given us journalists, policymakers and intellectuals who have nourished the country with their contributions. The fact that a mob of masked men could enter such a university and go on a rampage, beating up these students is a shame. It is imperative that the government find out who is trying to kill the intellect of this country.” One of the concerns voiced by many speakers was the amount of misinformation and the amplitude of information that is being propagated about the issue through different forms of media. Marathi poet and activist Ganesh Visputay told BusinessLine, “There is so much information about the new Citizenship law and the NRC on the internet and on different sources of news that there is confusion. What adds to this confusion is the changing narrative of official sources of government.”According to Visputay, this is typical of the current government’s lack of clear communication. Citing the example of the recent education policy, he said, “The ministry uploaded a 450-word document on its website and circulated another 55-page document to confuse the citizens. Similarly, with the issue of CAA, NPR and NRC, the government is trying to create a rift among the public.”Another notable speaker IAS officer and former collector Lashmikant Deshmukh raised concerns about the issue being a distraction from the ground level issues facing the country. “The purpose behind CAA is vague, but it is the underlying rhetoric that is problematic. The original citizenship law already has provisions for the government to give citizenship to any person, regardless of religion. Citing religion as the basis of policy not only alienates a community further but also helps them distract the voters from the economic crisis and the 45-year high unemployment level.”There have been a series of official and unofficial statements about the documents that will be required in the case of a nationwide NRC. Emphasising on the feasibility of arranging the said documents social activist Dr Suresh Kharinar said that our underprivileged, tribal and nomadic communities spread across the country would not have the wherewithal to get and preserve, let alone show, these documents to prove citizenship. “The ray of hope in all of this seems to be the organic movement of students, writers, thinkers and intellectuals who have come out on the streets of this nation in unison. This is happening after a very long time and we intend to continue it,” said university professor Pradnya Daya Pawar. The sentiment that echoed across the Azad Maidan protest was that of unity of thought and solidarity with the students. “Their courage gives us courage,” said Marathi theatre actor Rasika Agashi.

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