Protest is the one of the most fundamental instruments of dissent of any democracy. A peaceful gathering that does not amount to any loss of life or public property is legal when it has a strong agenda. For years, activists and people in India have exhibited such protests many a times to challenge some major decisions taken by the government that were unfruitful and impartial enough towards people. In recent years, one such prominent movement has been the India Against corruption movement led by famous activist Anna Hazare, which demanded approval of the RTI associated Jan Lok Pal Bill in the Parliament to stop corruption in the country.
This widespread protest gained massive publicity and many people came in support. However, the erstwhile UPA-2 government under the leadership of Dr Manmohan Singh tried to solve the agitation through dialogue, words and discussions.
Again, we have a similar situation in Delhi now. People are raising their voice against the much controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, which outrightly discriminates among citizens on only one basis – religion. Assam was the first to stand up against this Act, which was later joined by people from different parts of the country. In this row, protests at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi have been going for weeks now. The scenario, however, is not the same as it was with protests against corruption.
There have been instances of violence and attacks on protesters, which took the form of the recent riot that persisted in Delhi for almost five days, thereby leaving around 50 people dead. Mainly consisting of Muslim women, the protesters here have blocked a road through non-violent resistance for over 82 days as of 7th March 2020, thus making it the longest ongoing continuous protest against CAA-NRC-NPR. As a precautionary measure, the Delhi Police have barricaded the neighbouring major highways around the area. Following the North East Delhi riots, police barricading and presence in the area has increased, with over ten companies or 1,000 personnel, assigned to Shaheen Bagh.
To add a new low to violating the right to protest, the State government of UP, led by Yogi Adityanath, has put up hoardings with photos and home address of those it blames for the violence, placed at strategic traffic points in the capital city, as a move to publicly name and shame those who participated in the protests in Lucknow against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) on 15th December 2019, with the irresponsibility of jeopardising their lives.
Earlier, the state had issued notice to 28 people whose faces apparently feature in the videos of anti-CAA protests in Lucknow and a huge penalty of up to Rs 68 lakhs was imposed on them. The hoardings across the city of Lucknow display the identity, including those accused of violence during the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in December last year.
The names, photographs and residential addresses of the accused are listed in the hoardings, triggering those names to fear for their safety. They have been asked to pay for the damage to public and private property within a stipulated time, or have their property seized by the district administration. The total damage listed in the hoardings amount to ₹1.55 crore.
According to an NDTV report, the hoardings had been put up on CM Adityanath’s instructions as an act of ‘revenge’ on the protesters. After violence broke out last in December in Lucknow and other parts of the state, the police had videographed people who had attended the protests, in addition to identifying some protesters through closed-circuit cameras. Hundreds of people were arrested and accused of fomenting violence.
Is this a new low that the fascist government has been trying to put forward in curbing the rights to dissent and protest? This action must be criticised and should be termed as illegal because this is a potential threat for all those whose identities have been revealed.