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CAA protests and Kerala's double standards

CAA protests and Keralas double standards

The uprising last year against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed by the Central government was one of the most popular movements witnessed by independent India. At a state level, Kerala was among the strongholds of the protest noticed internationally. All political movements, with the exception of the Sangh Parivar, came out against the Act. When Sangh Parivar organisations held events to justify CAA, locals responded by closing down shops in the area. The Kerala government and the ruling CPM also sided with the anti-CAA movement. The Assembly passed a resolution against CAA. The Chief Minister unequivocally declared that the Act would not be implemented in the state.

However, despite CPM's definite political stance against CAA, Kerala's home department took a different approach towards the state's anti-CAA agitations. The state police took special efforts to charge non-CPM CAA protestors. In Kuttiadi, Kozhikode, the police registered serious charges against a few who had called to shut down shops when the Sangh Parivar held a pro-CAA function in the locality. However, no case was filed against the RSS cadre who, angered at the shut-down, held demonstrations with slogans including "Gujarat will be repeated". It was only following popular outrage that a case was filed after several days.

As part of anti-CAA protests, a hartal was called for on December 17, 2019, by several social groups, democratic organisations, and prominent civil society members. The Home Ministry tried to thwart this from the start. The DGP pre-emptively declared that the hartal would be seen as a violation, and action would be taken against those participating. Organisers were arrested, and public meetings were disrupted. Kerala even became witness to the strange spectacle of office bearers of these organisations, other activists, and even the intelligentsia being charged for this hartal. Now with the Assembly elections fast approaching, the CM Pinarayi Vijayan has again come forth with the declaration, "CAA would not be implemented in Kerala".

On the same day, a dozen well-known intellectuals, activists, journalists, advocates and human rights champions were issued summons for the 2019 Hartal. Not even the police has alleged their involvement in any criminal activity. Other than the excesses from the police's side, the hartal was peaceful statewide. But still, the state response pits even those who supported the hartal as offenders. It is a case of doublespeak, plain and clear, to make statements against CAA on one side, while on the other, to treat protestors as criminals.

There is a strengthening demand to withdraw the cases filed against anti-CAA protestors in the state. However, neither the chief minister nor the government has positively responded to this. On Friday, Tamil Nadu CM Edappadi K Palaniswami announced that all such cases in their state would be withdrawn. The ruling AIADMK has the BJP as its ally in the coalition and yet the former decided not to hound the anti CAA protestors. Here, on the other hand, we have a government that has made grand statements against the CAA. They're going after not just the protestors but also people who gave calls for protest. The government shouldn't be under any misapprehension that the people are not aware of what's happening.

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