Hyderabad tells a different story through anti-CAA protest

S M Fasiullah

Hyderabad: The nation is gripped with the fever of constitutionalism in response to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC). Symptoms are clearly visible right from Delhi to Kerala, Bengal to Maharashtra, and now Hyderabad.

Saturday has been unusual in Hyderabad for its dwellers. A sea of heads flooded the city eventually merging at Dharna Chowk to protest against the CAA. An obvious message was of discontent against the law, which is seen as discriminatory at its face value by large sections of the society including the Muslim community.

Beyond the obvious is another story, which these protestors tell either silently or subconsciously through the #MillionMarch protest. It busts the myth of one-man leadership of the Muslim community of the region and tells how a synergetic and swift response of the civil society was made possible.

One-man vs. many

It has been a long-held belief that a powerful politician is the only leader for all problems of the Muslim community in the region. Nothing would happen without his green signal in Hyderabad or beyond. It is rightly so because of his proximity with state government now and in the past too.

Following widespread protests across the country, social influencers of Hyderabad formed a joint action committee (JAC) to organize Million March against CAA and NRC. The idea of Million March was too heavy a meal for any political outfit to digest unless it’s done under their own banner.

Naturally, the organizers were denied police permission. They went public with their grievances and accusations. They approached the court. With initial setback, they finally got the permission with various conditions being imposed.

Many leaders and the protest

In what can be termed as a synergetic response against discrimination and denial, a lot seemed to have been efficiently planned and swiftly executed by the organizers.

Under the leadership of JAC members, tens of local influencers were brought on-board to voluntarily lead the campaign to inform, inspire and influence Hyderabadis to come out for Million March.

From social media platforms to Friday sermons, no-stone-left-turned strategy had been possibly used by the organizers. Some even urged Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) to lead the protest. However, people knew neither KCR nor his allies vocally supported the protest.

For Hyderabadis, a different Sun dawned on Saturday! Apparently, it was good for many reasons. In words of a protestor, Hyderabad broke its own record when Hyderabadis gathered in lakhs even when no biryani or chai was offered. In absence of “the leader”, local influencers have done what the political leaders could not. They brought such a huge number of people on road without any perks!

This was the second biggest public gathering under non-political banner after Telangana Garjana, which happened at the peak of Telangana movement. With this second awakening, Hyderabadis told a new story of hope and solidarity for a cause.

Time will only tell whether this awakening and formation of an alternative leadership of the Muslim community sustain longer and champion the causes of the community or disappear into the chapters of history as another event. Let’s wait and watch.

The author is an independent researcher and translator of Urdu fiction into English. He can be reached at smfasiullah@gmail.com

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