‘Am glad I went’: Ramachandra Guha explains why he joined CAA protests
Historian Ramachandra Guha was detained in Bengaluru on Thursday during a demonstration against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA. He spoke to Hindustan Times after he was released about his reasons for joining the demonstration defying a ban on public gatherings. Edited excerpts:
Why did you choose to join the demonstration?
Given the CAA’s draconian nature, I felt obliged to protest against it. Secondly, I am a biographer of Gandhi and recognise how dreadful and immoral the Act is. Thirdly, I am deeply heartened by the huge numbers of students and youth, who have come out all over the country to protest against (CAA)… they inspired me. Fourthly, the police brutality in Delhi moved me. Vandalising a library [on Jamia Millia Islamia University campus] in Delhi [on Sunday]? Even the British did not vandalise libraries. So I decided I must go [and protest].
Just yesterday I was giving a talk in Bengaluru in defence of pluralism. When I was doing that, the news came [of the protests] and I decided I would go [to protest]. If anybody saw the video where I am being arrested… I even told the police that all I am doing is speaking about Gandhiji and non-violence. I am glad I went to the protest because after being detained we were bundled together and put in a place in Audogodi, where I met more than 100 people of very diverse backgrounds. It was an ennobling and enriching experience for me to be with my fellow citizens when we most need to come together and protest against this despotic regime.
What happened after you were detained?
I was rudely taken away when I was alone and speaking to a member of the media. In the police station though, I was treated fine. They knew who I was. Unlike the students, I was not asked for any details. I was detained for about four hours and later told that I was free to go.
Police say that all those detained would be charged...
No such thing was mentioned to me. The protests seem to be gaining momentum across some parts of the country… I was part of the first two dozen people who were there at the [Bengaluru protest] venue and were detained and I am now told that there are thousands of people who are protesting. I am told the internet has been shut in Delhi… the important thing is every protest must be principled, non-violent and collective. That law [Section 144 that prohibits the assembly of five or more people] is illegal. I even tweeted saying mister police commissioner you are using an illegal colonial-era law to silence our voices but our voices will not be silenced.
Karnataka chief minister B S Yediyurappa has criticised the protests saying the CAA does not even apply to Indian citizens and protesters are being misled…
…Gandhi, 72 years ago, assured protection to 70,000 Muslims of Mewat [region in modern-day Haryana and Rajasthan] that they will not be made to go to Pakistan. The CAA is completely antithetical to the values of Gandhi... This regime does not believe in Gandhi but in that of his assassin… if this legislation is blatantly discriminatory to my fellow Muslims and is used to intimidate them and harass them, all of us have to stand up against it. The CAA is completely illogical. Many groups have been left out. All this is just headline management to divert attention from a sinking economy…
What is your next course of action going to be?
I will continue to write, speak my mind about the values enshrined in our constitution. I will continue to protest against discriminatory laws. I will continue to oppose Hindutva with every fiber in my being but non-violently.