On January 26, Sunday, – India’s Republic Day – progressive sections in the south Indian State of Kerala organized a 620-km-long Statewide human chain protesting the divisive Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) that is being pushed by the far-right central government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. More than 7 million people from all walks of life joined the unbroken human chain formed on Sunday by 4 pm that extended from the northernmost district of Kasargod to the southernmost district of Thiruvananthapuram. The human chain was organized by the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and is perhaps one of the single largest gatherings against the divisive tactics of the Hindu fundamentalist government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The protest culminated in a mass reading of the Preamble of the Indian constitution. The preamble defines India as a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. Participants vowed to defend the secular characteristic of the Indian state.
Mass protests have been going on for over a month against the controversial CAA and NRC. The CAA offers an expedited pathway to citizenship for non-Muslim immigrants who have been living in India from before December 31, 2014, and are from India’s three Muslim-majority neighbors, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Critics say that the true aim of this law, which excludes Muslims, is to redefine citizenship along religious lines. The National Register of Citizens seeks to makes a list of Indian citizens through the data collected from the National Population Register (NPR). The CAA, NRC and NPR together are expected to throw in doubt the citizenship of millions of people, a majority of whom may be Muslims. This will especially affect the poorer sections of society as many will not have the necessary documents to prove their citizenship.
On Sunday, while addressing a gathering as part of the human chain in the capital, Thiruvananthapuram, State chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan reiterated his stance that the state won’t cooperate with the execution of the NPR and the NRC. He congratulated the multitudes who made the human chain into a massive human wall in defense of secularism in the country. He appealed to the masses to continue this fight until the divisive and sectarian laws are scrapped.
The Indian state has unleashed a massive crackdown against anti-CAA/NRC protests and as of now, more than 25 protesters have been killed in police firing at various places and thousands have been arrested. Nonetheless, a number of protest sites have emerged across the country where people of all religions, castes and genders have been continuously raising awareness of the danger of these laws.
In Kerala, the government led by the LDF, along with all the democratic political parties in the State, has been in the forefront of the resistance. The Kerala State legislature passed a resolution on December 31 asking the central government to withdraw the controversial CAA and abandon the NRC exercise. The State government has already declared that it will not cooperate with the NPR survey. Kerala has also filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of such a divisive act.