Uttar Pradesh is a smoking cauldron of violence these days. There have been increasing reports of police atrocities, with Muslims seemingly becoming the targets. Almost every district has witnessed protests against the CAA and police action. While the police lists deaths in Meerut, Kanpur, Sambhal, Bijnor, Muzaffarnagar, Rampur and Lucknow, it does not count the death of an eight-year-old killed in Varanasi on account of a stampede.

Gulam Sabir, an octogenarian political activist of the CPI in Nehtaur village in Bijnor, where two people were killed in police firing, said everything was normal till the Friday mass on December 19 was over.

“Police is still creating an atmosphere of violence with the help of administration. Despite two deaths, we were able to calm down the people who were agitated. But the police is coming to every household and threatening people. Many of the villagers have gone underground,” he adds, observing that police have collected details of Opposition activists in the area. He said Suleiman Malik, who was killed in the firing, was a bright student and the villagers had high hopes on him. Mohammed Anas, Sabir says, was going to buy milk for his child and was shot dead in the firing.

“A group of BJP workers, who came with police, started pelting stones on people coming from the mosque after prayers. Some people retaliated by throwing stones. I was also watching this, but the police, without any announcements or preparations, started firing. Two young men died, half a dozen are critically injured and hundreds injured. Some are not even capable of getting proper treatment as police is searching for them,” Sabir says.

The national secretary of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, Hakimuddin Qazmi, who travelled in the State to visit the families of victims, told BusinessLine that the bullet wounds on the dead bodies make it clear that they shot at the protestors with an aim to kill them. “In most cases, wounds are either on the chest or on the head. There is still no idea of the number of people who got injured in firing and lathi-charge,” says Qazmi. “Police personnel are not even picking our phones. Some senior officers told us that they have pressure from above to take action against all protestors. The repression has increased the anger of people,” he says.

Qazmi says in many places JUH leaders pacified the crowd. “In Amorha, Mufti Mohd Ahzan appealed to the people to disperse. The police was about to shoot at them. His intervention saved many lives.”

Saharanpur sheher Qazi Nadeem Akhtar, a prominent cleric who works for solidarity among religions, says the protests against CAA were peaceful in the city. “This entire hue and cry is to safeguard the Constitution. One should not see it as a step taken by Muslims. Detention Centres are a blow to this great nation. The Centre is trying to destroy the beauty of this nation by creating laws based on religion,” Akhtar explains.

He says the Muslim community has been silent on issues such as Triple Talaq, crackdown in Kashmir and the verdict on Babri Masjid. “But the issue of CAA is an issue that bothers us about our future generation. The perception is that one community is being pushed to the wall to divert attention from the real issues such as unemployment,” he says.

It all started with student protests, after the police attacks on Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia. “AMU campus was turned into a torture camp within no time; men in uniform holding lathis, rifles and grenade launchers were seen patrolling everywhere. Students were forced to leave the hostels with immediate effect,” says AMU students’ union president, M Salman Imtiaz.

Beyond UP

The angst among the Muslims is visible in other parts of India. Fatima Nasrul* is an award-winning filmmaker from Assam who graduated from the prestigious Pune film institute a few years ago. Trained in Bharatnatyam and other classical dance forms, the thirty-something artist draws murals on the walls of temples, offices and residences. Nasrul’s partner is a Hindu man from Himachal and they are planning to get married when they are up for it.

“But I’m scared now, seeing how my kind is being treated in this country,” she tells BusinessLine from Mumbai where she lives and works now. “My father is an agnostic communist who was active with the trade union movement in the North-East and mother a strong advocate of Indian pluralism,” she says. “But now suddenly, thanks to new citizenship Act or CAA, we feel we are becoming aliens in our homeland and I feel my entire career and future is in jeopardy.”

Nasrul’s parents have roots in Bangladesh — a few of their ancestors arrived in Assam in the early decades of the past century to work in tea estates in the region and made India their home. “All of them have all valid documents and they love their country. But now, the CAA has cast a question over their citizenship and every one is scared, including me, given how the new Act resembles draconian citizenship laws that led to genocides in many parts of the world, including in Germany of the 1930s,” says Nasrul.

Nasrul’s has been an agnostic upbringing. “As a child, I read Hindu mythologies and got inspired by the tales in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana . Many of my murals are inspired by them. Nowhere in my life have I felt like a ‘Muslim’,” she says, adding that she is convinced that the new Act is biased against people like her.

Similarly, Malappuram is home to many Muslims who went to Pakistan during the Partition whose relatives had decided to stay in India. Many of those who had left India in the early 1950s later came back and settled in Malappuram and Kannur and a majority of them do not even enjoy voting rights now. “Society has been compassionate to these people and their love for India. In fact such experiences transcend borders and religious divides, which harsh, stringent and heartless laws such as the new Citizenship Amendment Act cannot fathom,” says Abdul Razak* a Ph D, who teaches at a prestigious college in the district and is an active member of the Congress party.

“I can clearly tell you that at least 20 per cent of my relatives and family won’t make it to the list and finding citizenship and nativity proof for my ancestors will be a tall order,” Razak adds.

With inputs from A Srinivas

*Name changed

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