Ever since the passage of the draconian & unconstitutional laws, namely, the CAA, NRC & the NPR, peaceful protests spontaneously arose across the country. These protests were organised in the best traditions of the Gandhian principles of non-violence and dissent. The movement that arose committed themselves to defend the Constitution of India and the fundamental values espoused in our preamble, as envisioned by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar & our Freedom Movement.
It was in the above context that the secular organisations of our city responded to the national crisis and organised the Mumbai Bagh. This movement, infact the entire “Bagh Movement” was unprecedented in Independent India! Not since 1942 when Mahatma Gandhi gave the clarion call – “British Quit India”, had our Nation witnessed such a massive non-violent mobilisation, in a movement largely led by women, students and youth. The Andolan galvanised the nation and sent a powerful message that resounded across the world. The message was clear – The People of India are united and committed to defend our democratic ideals, our Nation, against the dark forces of communal fascism.
It was also during this dark period that we witnessed the horrifying attacks on students and certain educational institutions. The students and youth responded by organising a peaceful protest at the Gateway of India. There was also a movement to save the forests in the Aarey Milk Colony, which too drew great support from the ordinary Mumbaikar.
In all of the above cases, the police have responded by foisting charges, cases, FIR’s, in a bid to deter, threaten & harass the peaceful activists. We witnessed with horror as the UP & Kashmir models were being applied in Mumbai. Thus we saw an activist who was asked to sign a bond of Rs 50 lakhs, a model followed in UP. Once again to our horror, activists from the Mumbai Bagh were targeted with Section 107, a law enforced in Kashmir. This is all unprecedented for our city and our state. These are all clear attempts to silence and spread fear amongst the activists, but this strategy is doomed to failure.
Worse, more than 3000 notices were served to the ordinary womenfolk of Mumbai Bagh, who for the very first time had participated in a mass movement, inspired as they were by the women of Shaheen Bagh. These notices created fear for a while, but the women decided to carry on undaunted, ready to face the consequences.
This was Gandhian Satyagraha in action, at its very best, as the fear melted away.
We thus unequivocally condemn this vile act undertaken by certain sections of the police authorities in trying to quell and suppress the peaceful mass movements, where millions across the nation were attending rallies, organising public meetings & protests & going to the Baghs.
It was then during the phase of the Lockdown that the Andolan had to abruptly halt our protests due to a new unprecedented national & international crisis. Here too it was these very same youth, students and various secular organisations who responded to the crisis, set up community kitchens, arranged for cooked food packets and rations for the poor & deprived sections who were on the verge of starvation. They risked their very lives to ensure that food supplies reached the vulnerable & the marginalised. Yet again at the time of the Migrant Labour crisis, these very activists from across the country responded to help those walking along the highways to their villages.
Thus we stand amazed at the fact that the activists are being targeted in the state of Maharashtra, currently under the rule of a secular pro-people government. We therefore appeal to the Govt. of Maharashtra to set up a High-Powered Committee under the aegis of our honourable Chief Minister and subsequently withdraw all the cases against the activists who have only done their bounden duty to defend our Constitution, our Nation.
We also appeal to all progressive secular organisations & political parties to come to the defence of the activists in our united struggle against fascism.
We stand committed to the path of peaceful dissent & protest in the best traditions of our freedom struggle.
By Feroze Mithiborwala, National Member of Central Committee
For Team Hum Bharat Ke Log