The Statesman – CAA, NRC, and Jamia-JNU violence will be major factor in assembly polls: Kapil Sibal

Congress had won just eight seats in 2013 and drawn a blank in the 2015 Delhi Assembly polls.

New Delhi – India, 19 January 2020. In the upcoming Delhi Assembly polls, the uproar over the amended citizenship law and the Jamia-JNU violence will be a major factor, said senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal on Sunday adding that Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s “subdued” response to the issues “smacks of opportunism”.

He said the Congress will play a “significant” role in the polls and exuded confidence that the party could get enough seats to emerge as the “determining factor” in government formation.

“He (Kejriwal) did not show up in Jamia (Millia Islamia), he did not show up in JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University). His statements were not frequent enough, strong enough and open enough,” Sibal told news agency PTI.

The Rajya Sabha MP, who is a member of the Congress election and campaign committees for the Delhi polls asked “What has Kejriwal done? Kejriwal has not even visited the campuses, not even visited JNU, because this is politics.”

Sibal also alleged that the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was not talking much about CAA, NPR and NRC for the fear of losing a section of a vote bank that it “desperately needs”.

He asserted that Kejriwal has to answer to the people for his response to CAA, NPR and NRC. Asked if the Congress can form the government on its own, Sibal said, “I don’t think that we should be making such tall claims, but at the same time I think we will be a significant factor in this election, maybe giving us enough seats to be the determining factor in the formation of the government.”

On whether the Congress can join hands with the AAP if it turns out to be the “determining factor”, he said: “Let us first get the results out in the open. What our strategy is will be known to everybody at that point in time.”

Sibal also dismissed suggestions that the Congress’ chances in the polls may be hampered by the absence of a popular and credible face, saying the credibility of a face has no relationship to the party’s credibility in terms of its functioning on the ground.

“In 2014, we had a credible face in (Narendra) Modi, that is what the people of India thought, see what has happened since then. So let us not talk about the faces. The face of the common man is far more important than the face of the chief minister,” he said.

It is only the Congress party that has always looked at the face of the common man or woman and worked towards his or her concerns, said Sibal, who has been elected to the Lok Sabha twice in the past from Delhi’s Chandni Chowk constituency.

Responding to a question about Congress mounting a formidable challenge to the AAP, Sibal said his party does not have any seats in the Delhi Assembly, so the ruling party certainly has an advantage.

“I think they (AAP) claim more than what they have done on the ground. They have a fabulous media campaign. This is somewhat like our prime minister’s media campaign which sort of tries to claim much more than what the reality is.

I think people know the reality. So let’s see what happens,” he said. The Congress leader claimed that the BJP is on a sticky wicket in the polls as it has “lost credibility” and people are very unhappy with it.

He cited the examples of Maharashtra and Haryana assembly elections, in which the poll pundits were proved wrong, to stress that a surprise could be in the offing in Delhi and his party could deliver a strong performance in the polls.

“I think the people of Delhi, as a member Parliament and (someone) who has fought elections in Delhi I can say, have realised that it is the Congress party that has delivered in Delhi.

There is no other party that has delivered in Delhi. As far as AAP is concerned, it has been in constant conflict with the Centre,” Sibal said.

“I remember the days when Sheila (Dikshit) was the chief minister and (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee was the prime minister. Even though we were different political parties with different ideologies, the administration worked together,” he said.

This talks well of Atal Vajpayee’s administration and Sheila Dikshit’s quality to embrace everyone and get the work of the people of Delhi going, he said, adding that, Arvind Kejriwal doesn’t have that art.

“In a constant state of conflict, I don’t think you can achieve much. I want to know how many great bridges have been built, how many underpasses have been built (under the AAP government). There is no infrastructure development at all,” Sibal alleged.

All the schemes that have been taken forward in Delhi have been the brainchild of the Congress, he said. Polling will be held on February 8 for the 70-member Delhi Assembly and the results will be declared on February 11. Congress is seeking to revive its fortunes in the national capital this time. It had won just eight seats in 2013 and drawn a blank in the 2015 Delhi Assembly polls.

CAA,NRC, and Jamia-JNU violence will be major factor in assembly polls: Kapil Sibal

Associated Press of Pakistan – Pakistani, Kashmiri, Sikh diaspora to hold a massive protest outside Indian High Commission on 26 January 2019

London – UK, 18 January 2020. Pakistani, Kashmiri, Sikh diaspora have announced to jointly organize a massive protest outside Indian High Commission London on 26 January 2020, and mark republic day of India as a “Black day”.

Announcement to this effect was made in Birmingham (UK) at a joint Press conference on Friday convened by Raja Fahim Kayani President Tehreek-E-Kashmir and leaders of the World Sikh Parliament.

The event was attended among others by Ranjit Singh Srai, World Sikh Parliament, Joga Singh, Babbar Akali Organisation, Amrik Singh Sahota, Council of Khalistan, Raja Javed Iqbal, Farooq Azam Tehreek e Kashmir UK and others.

The participants said that India was violating and stealing the independence and basic human rights of Kashmiris, Sikhs and other minorities in the country.

They strongly condemned BJP Government’s new discriminatory citizen Bill of CAA, NRC and NRP.

They also said it was crucial that “we expose the real face of so called Indian democracy in front of the International Community and must participate in the upcoming protest to be held in front of the Indian High Commission, London on 26 January 2020.

They on the occasion urged the Pakistani, Kashmiri and Sikh community to come together and show their support for the Kashmir cause, Khalistan and humanity itself.

Pakistani, Kashmiri, Sikh diaspora to hold a massive protest outside Indian High Commission on Jan 26

The Print – Under Modi-Shah, BJP is back to being the Bharatiya ‘Baniya’ Party

BJP under Modi-Shah is returning to its protectionist, anti-MNC, technophobic old notions, underlining that strong governments can also be more risk-averse.

Shekhar Gupta

Op/Ed, 18 January 2020. Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal has been quick to clarify his remark on Amazon founder Jeff Bezos not doing India a favour by investing here. He now says all investment is welcome, as long as it complies with India’s regulations. You can’t argue with that.

Although, if read with the fact that monopoly watchdog Competition Commission of India had hauled up Amazon earlier this week for “unfair” trade practices, a move hailed breathlessly by the Swadeshi Jagran Manch and trader/retailer associations, you wouldn’t make such a benign interpretation.

It won’t be some diabolical conspiracy either. It’s only pure politics. It will underline the BJP’s inevitable return to its basic instinct: Mercantilism.

This needs explanation. For decades, until the Congress-Left, post-Rajiv Gandhi, began describing the BJP as a Hindu party, Indira Gandhi had avoided doing precisely that.

In an earlier National Interest, I had quoted from a conversation with Seshadri Chari, former editor of RSS mouthpiece Organiser, that she only described the BJP as a baniya (trader caste) party. The BJP has shown signs lately of proving Indira Gandhi right and returning to its trader mindset.

This is where the philosophical impulse of swadeshi also comes from. If someone has to profit from trade and entrepreneurship, it better be one of our own. And even if we let an outsider come and do so, he better be grateful to us rather than the other way around. Several strong emotions get meshed in this:

Nationalism, protectionism, mercantilism, and arrogance. Who the hell are you to walk all over my market, out-compete my native businessmen and then expect me to say thank-you?

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) had first started becoming fashionable in 1990-91, just as the Cold War ended. It was also a time when a deep economic crisis was building up in India.

Madhu Dandavate was the finance minister in V P Singh’s cabinet. Addressing one of those industry chamber gatherings, he famously, or infamously, said, something like, “I am not against FDI. But I won’t go looking for it”.

Since he was a dyed-in-the-red old socialist, even this reluctant acceptance of FDI was seen as something to celebrate. But no foreign investor was impressed.

The reform of 1991 changed things. But attitudes deep down didn’t. India had already had four decades of socialist, protectionist, swadeshi, import-substitution, ‘exports are good/imports bad’ toxification across the political spectrum. The only force of the economic Right, the once-powerful Swatantra Party, had been destroyed and entombed under Indira Gandhi’s populism.

Even the Jana Sangh by this time was singing the same socialist song, only fortified by its own economic nationalism. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the only truly reformist BJP leader in a modern free-market sense, ran with the baton of reform. He had too little time.

Old ideologies, and we say this in a purely non-partisan sense (as in Left or Right, Congress or BJP), are extremely obstinate. Like the proverbial dog’s tail, you can’t straighten or bend these even in a dozen years. Some individual leaders can make a difference: P V Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh for the Congress, Vajpayee for the BJP. Under others, the ‘tail’ goes back to the way it always was.

Over the past five-and-a-half-years, we have seen the protectionist, anti-MNC, technophobic old notions return with a vengeance. This government now gives a 20 per cent advantage to capital goods made in India over imports, signalling a return to the old regime.

All it meant was that now a foreign company could ship its kits to India and assemble, for example, metro coaches in ‘joint venture’ with an Indian minority partner or even directly, and sell the same coach at a price much higher than an import.

In budget after budget, we’ve seen tariffs go up, sectoral protections extended, steel is only the most visible example, and all kinds of government agencies, from regulators to quasi-policing organisations, go after foreign investors, especially in retail. After the last budget and the BJP discourse around it, that happily forgotten old, Indira-esque expression ‘import substitution’ staged a comeback.

That is the reason global business has seen its romance with Modi’s India fade. No one would say so in public, especially those that already have investments in India, or employees and other interests. Who wants ‘panga’ with a strong government?

Even the mighty Vodafone CEO has to retreat after saying in agony that he will have to leave India, although he still might do that, after writing off a couple of tens of billions because of regulatory and taxation shocks and unpredictability.

Want more evidence? See how Jeff Bezos’ previous visit to India went in 2014, when he was feted by Modi and others, and his peremptory dismissal now. The explanation also sounds like Dandavate of 1990: I am not against FDI, but…

You still want to know where this sentiment or push comes from? Play back the part of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s Dussehra speech last year where he lays out his economic doctrine.

We can describe it in one word out of these: Protectionist, xenophobic, swadeshi. Or, it could also be stated as, ‘We are not against FDI, but only in sectors where we need it, as long as it doesn’t hurt Indian business, and control remains with Indians’.

The most fascinating aspect of Modi in his sixth year with a big majority is how compliant his government has been to Nagpur. It has delivered on all of its big concerns: Cow, Article 370, CAA, triple talaq, anti-Pakistanism, and so on. Yet, it has reversed two decades of reform on trade, FDI in retail, and technology to harmonise itself with the RSS, not defy it like Vajpayee did.

In 2014, and again in 2019, India elected a “strong” government and prime minister because it was fed up of a “weak” one for a decade under Manmohan Singh. It has been stronger and more decisive in many areas, from retaliation for terror attacks to Article 370 to anti-corruption activism.

But not on the economy. Besides GST, however flawed, and the IBC, it is difficult to find one big, bold reform, although I recently listed 10 bits of good news even in gloomy times for the economy.

Think about it. A government as weak as Manmohan Singh’s had the courage to deliver the India-USA nuclear deal, thereby fundamentally shifting India’s geostrategic posture. Modi’s strong government, meanwhile, is struggling to seal a tiny, partial trade deal with the US, even as it celebrates this ‘strategic partnership’ co-founded by Singh and Bush/Obama.

Vajpayee’s weak government ushered in the cotton revolution by permitting genetically modified seeds. Modi’s strong government is pussyfooting on agricultural biotechnology, more respectful of Swadeshi Luddites than a Vajpayee would bother to be.

Which takes us to our old argument: Are strong, full majority governments necessarily good, or do they have a problem? More to lose, no excuses to put off ideological demands and compulsions, and a constant need to save face?

Are weak governments actually more decisive and less risk-averse because they have greater flexibility and humility? It is a particularly contrarian and provocative point. Which, indeed, is what it was intended to be.

Under Modi-Shah, BJP is back to being the Bharatiya ‘Baniya’ Party

The Tribune – Punjab passes anti-CAA resolution

Assembly terms new law ‘inherently discriminatory’, seeks its repeal

Vishav Bharti – Tribune News Service

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 17 January 2020. The Punjab Assembly on Friday adopted by voice vote a resolution seeking immediate repeal of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, describing the legislation “inherently discriminatory” and a “negation of the secular fabric on which the Constitution of India is based”.

The resolution, which termed the CAA as divisive and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution, was introduced in the House by Cabinet Minister Brahm Mohindra, and witnessed extensive discussion.

Pointing to the omission of Muslims and other communities such as Jews from the ambit of citizenship under the CAA, the resolution asked for a repeal of the Act “to avoid any discrimination on the basis of religion in granting citizenship and to ensure equality before law for all religious groups in India.”

Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh

What is happening in this country? We need to learn from history. In the 1930s, the same happened in Europe. First, they were against communists, then they were against Jews. This is religious cleansing.

Concluding the debate, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh termed the “divisive Act” as a tragedy that he was “unfortunate to witness in his lifetime”. “What happened in Germany under Hitler in 1930 is happening in India now.

Germans did not speak then, and they regretted it, but we have to speak now, so that we don’t regret later,” he asserted.

“Where will all those people, who you brand as non-citizens, go? Where will the 18 lakh people declared illegal in Assam go if other countries refuse to take them? Has anyone thought about it? Has the Home Minister even thought about what has to be done with the so-called illegal people?

Where will the poor people get their birth certificates from?” asked the Chief Minister, declaring that “we all have to live together as citizens of secular India in our own interest.”

People of all faiths have harmoniously lived together in this country all these years, and Muslims have given their lives for this country, said the Chief Minister, citing the example of Indian Army soldier Abdul Hamid, who received the Param Vir Chakra posthumously for his actions during the Indo-Pak war of 1965, just like many others.

Earlier Finance Minister Manpreet Badal, who started the debate, said that before dividing people on communal lines, the country must learn from Punjab’s experience which paid the price with ten lakh lives during the Partition. He said people of Punjab “don’t accept injustice.”

https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab-passes-anti-caa-resolution-27647

Sputnik – Sikh rights group wants USA commission to single out India for ‘Religious Persecution’

New Delhi – India, 17 January 2020. A Sikh rights group, Sikhs for Justice, has given a briefing to the USA Commission on International Freedom (USCIF) on issues including the recently enacted citizenship law, suspension of communication in the restive Jammu and Kashmir region and alleged persecution of the Sikh community in India.

The rights group which has been actively working for the Khalistan Movement, demanding a separate independent country for the Sikh community, has appealed to the Commission to place India on the Tier 1 list that recognises states with the harshest level of repression.

“Citing the worsening religious persecution of Muslims, Sikhs and other minorities, we have urged the USCIRF to place India on the Tier 1 Countries list during its next assessment report on the condition of religious freedom around the world,” said attorney of the human rights group Gurpatwant Singh Pannum.

The group drew the Commission’s attention to protests over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, that have caused clashes and vandalism leading to hundreds of people being injured and 25 killed.

The law, which provides citizenship to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, has been opposed by several political parties and civil rights groups that say it is discriminatory.

“The problem that remains overlooked, is that the core of the problem lies within the Constitution of India itself, which is neither truly secular nor does it protect or treat people of non-Hindu faiths equally,” said the letter to the Commission, describing the lack of religious freedom for Muslims in India.

“What Muslims are facing in India today, the Sikh community has been facing since 1950 when they were labelled as Hindus in the Constitution,” it further stated.

Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a USA-based group launched Referendum 2020, seeking a separate homeland for Sikhs, a “Khalistan” in the Indian state of Punjab.

India’s federal government has banned SFJ as a separatist group, on the grounds of its secessionism and alleged anti-national activities.

https://sputniknews.com/india/202001171078061921-sikh-rights-group-wants-us-commission-to-single-out-india-for-religious-persecution/

Dawn – To defuse palm oil row, Davos diplomacy likely between India – Malaysia

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 18 January 2020. Trade ministers from India and Malaysia are likely to meet on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos next week amid a palm oil spat between the two countries, a Malaysian government spokesman told Reuters on Friday.

Hindu-majority India has repeatedly objected to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaking out against its recent policies which critics say discriminate against Muslims.

Malaysia, a Muslim-majority nation, is the second-biggest producer and exporter of palm oil and India’s restrictions on the refined variety of the commodity imposed last week have been seen as a retaliation for Mahathir’s criticism of New Delhi’s actions.

India’s trade minister Piyush Goyal denied on Thursday that the government was trying to hit out at Malaysia in particular.

The row between the countries, nevertheless, pushed benchmark Malaysian palm futures to its biggest weekly decline in more than 11 years on Friday.

No agenda has been set for the proposed meeting between Goyal and his Malaysian counterpart Darell Leiking on Friday, the spokesman for Malaysia’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry said, adding that the request for a meeting had come from India.

An Indian government source said a meeting was indeed likely with Leiking. A spokeswoman for India’s trade ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Reuters reported on Thursday that Malaysia did not want to escalate the palm spat with India by talking of any retaliation for now, after Mahathir’s media adviser called for tighter regulations on Indian expatriates and products. Malaysia instead wants to rely on diplomacy.

A separate Indian government source said it was important for New Delhi also to talk things out with Malaysia.

“We too have a lot to lose in Malaysia, there are 2 million Indian-origin people there,” the source said.

There were a total of 117,733 Indian nationals registered as foreign labour in Malaysia as at June 2019, accounting for nearly six per cent of the total foreign workforce in the country. Ethnic Malaysian-Indians are the third-largest community in the Southeast Asian country.

Another reason for frosty ties between the countries is the continued presence of controversial Indian Islamic preacher Zakir Naik in Malaysia, said one of the sources.

Naik, who faces charges of money laundering and hate speech in India, has lived in Malaysia for more than three years and has permanent residency in the country. He denies the Indian accusations.

The sources declined to be identified as they were not authorised to talk to the media.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1529093/to-defuse-palm-row-davos-diplomacy-likely-between-india-malaysia

The Asian Age – Nation is facing difficult times, bring peace: Supreme Court

The government has expressed the fear that different high courts may pronounce conflicting judgments.

New Delhi – India, 10 January 2020. The Supreme Court on Thursday said efforts should be made to douse frayed tampers in the wake of the agitations against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and to normalise the situation.

“As it is the country is going through difficult times. The object should be to bring about peace. Such petitions don’t help that. There is a presumption of the constitutionality of law”, said Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, who was heading a three-judge bench which comprised Justices B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant.

The strong observation from the bench came in the course of the hearing of a petition by one Puneet Kaur Dhanda seeking a declaration that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act was not constitutional.

“We have never heard of a petition like this, to declare an act as constitutional,” the Chief Justice said, adding: “The job of the court is to determine the validity of a law, not declare it constitutional.” The CJI then permitted the petitioner to withdraw the plea, with the liberty to intervene in a similar matter which the court is seized with.

On Friday, the Supreme Court is likely to hear the Centre’s plea seeking the transfer of all cases which are the challenging the Citizenship Amendment Act pending before high courts across the country.

The Centre has sought the transfer of cases contending that the Supreme Court is already seized of the matter as 60 petitioners have challenged the law that has led to protests across the country. The government has expressed the fear that different high courts may pronounce conflicting judgments.

The Supreme Court had on 18 December 18 sought a response from the Centre on a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the amended citizenship law that provides for the grant of Indian citizenship to illegal migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Christian and Parsi religions, barring Muslims.

The court will hold a further hearing on 22 January, when it will also consider the plea for a stay of the law which has been described by one of the petitioners as contrary to the provisions of the Constitution.

https://www.asianage.com/india/all-india/100120/nation-is-facing-difficult-times-bring-peace-supreme-court.html

Sikh24.com – Sikh businessman, who had opposed Mangu Mutt’s demolition, brutally thrashed in Odisha

Sikh24 Editors

Bhubaneshwar – Odisha – India, 16 January 2020. On 14 January several Hindu goons brutally thrashed a Sikh businessman named Parvinder Pal Singh in Laxmisagar area of Bhubaneshwar in Odisha following an argument over parking of vehicle in front of his house.

The video of this incident is getting viral over social media and it is being said that these goons intentionally preyed upon Parvinder Pal Singh as he had openly opposed the demolition of Mangu Mutt in Jagannath Puri.

In the video, it could be seen that around 5 goons mercilessly thrashed Parvinder Pal Singh after removing his turban. A goon could also be observed hitting on Parvinder Pal Singh’s head with a brick while two police cops standing there were behaving like mute spectators.

Speaking to media, victim Sikh Parvinder Pal Singh informed that he had an argument over illegal parking of vehicle in front his home with these goons following which they started misbehaving with him.

“I immediately called the police but the PCR van reached on spot after 20 minutes and the goons started thrashing me brutally in the meantime,” he said while adding that the cops were also present when he was being thrashed but police remained a mute spectator.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that only three goons namely Deepak Jena, Sankar Rout and Deepak Mohanty were arrested yesterday but were released on bail immediately as the police didn’t impose section 307 of IPC despite the homicidal nature of this attack.

“We demand CM Naveen Patnaik to take strict action against the main accused Deepak Jena who attacked Veer Parvinder Pal Singh in Odisha. This attack was done because Parvinder Ji was a frontrunner in opposing demolition of Mangu Mutt. DSGMC stands in solidarity with Parvinder Veer Ji and we would not allow anyone to touch the Turban of a righteous Sikh,” tweeted DSGMC president Manjinder Singh Sirsa.

VIDEO: Sikh businessman, who had opposed Mangu Mutt’s demolition, brutally thrashed in Odisha

AlJazeera – Recipe for solidarity: How Indian protesters are being fed

Individuals and groups come forward to arrange for food and beverages as protests enter second month.

New Delhi – India, 16 January 2020. A group of Sikh farmers from the northern state of Punjab arrived at New Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, picked a spot under a pedestrian bridge, and began to unpack its wares, a gas stove, huge utensils, and provisions and fired up a community kitchen, or “langar”.

Shaheen Bagh is the epicentre of ongoing protests, led by Muslim women, against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), an amendment to Indian citizenship law 1955 that is seen as anti-Muslim.

The Sikhs, helped by the protesting women who rolled “chapati” (bread) for them while continuing their sit-in, prepared breakfast and lunch for more than a 1,000 people, including children, protesting against the CAA, which was passed last month.

The new law aims to grant Indian citizenship to “persecuted” minorities from Muslim-majority Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan while blocking naturalisation for Muslims.

Muslims see their exclusion from the law that makes religion the basis of citizenship as yet another attempt by the Narendra Modi government to “marginalise” them.

Coupled with a proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC), the community fears the moves are intended to strip millions of Indian Muslims of their citizenship. Poeple from other disadvantaged caste and gender identities, as well as women, are vulnerable before NRC.

Since December 11 when the law was passed, millions of citizens across India have rallied against the CAA despite prohibitory orders and a brutal police crackdown, in which at least 28 people have been killed.

An act of kindness

Marching alongside the protesters, with no pomp or waving banners, is an army of people providing them with food and beverages.

At New Delhi’s India Gate, the iconic World War I memorial, on a windy December evening, the mercury dropped to a chilly 13 degrees Celsius. But that did not deter 44-year-old Mohammad Fuaad from leaning on a yellow police barricade and calling out to passers-by, holding out a rectangular packet.

“Biryani le leejiye, Sir, veg biryani (Please have biryani, Sir, it’s vegetarian biryani),” he called out, assuring people that the rice had been cooked with potatoes instead of meat, to avoid any trouble at a time when meat and the eating of it has become deeply polarised in light of rising Hindu nationalism under the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Fuaad was not trying to sell his biryani, he was offering it for free. In a space barricaded before the British-era monument, thousands of protesters were reading the preamble to the Indian constitution on a loop.

Sikh community people are preparing kheer for the Shaheen Bagh protesters.[centre/italics]

“You know, a dark law has been brought in to threaten India’s unity and integrity, and students from across the universities are standing up against it,” said Kamran Khan, Fuaad’s colleague from Khidmat Foundation, a social welfare collective.

“We have come here to support them in this mission,” Khan, who lived in the older part of the Indian capital, told Al Jazeera.

At approximately 8 pm, when police asked the protesters to wrap up, Khidmat’s 80 kilogrammes (176 pounds) of biryani were almost finished. Its fiery aroma lingered and met that of a winter comfort few metres away: “Chai langar” or tea offering by members of Khalsa Aid, a Sikh charity organisation.

“At a protest like this where people are there regardless [of their identities], I saw this as an act of kindness,” said 26-year-old Manpreet Kaur, who works as a travel agent.

Community bonds

Amarpreet Singh, Khalsa Aid’s managing director in the Asia Pacific region, told Al Jazeera it was the brutal police violence at two predominantly Muslim institutions, New Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia university (JMI) and Uttar Pradesh state’s Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), that caused them to step in.

In near-simultaneous attacks on the evening of 15 December police stormed the two campuses 130km (80 miles) apart, firing tear gas and live ammunition, attacking students with batons, and vandalising property. More than 100 students were wounded in the attacks, one losing an eye and another a limb. Students at both universities had been protesting against CAA.

Ishita Dey, food anthropologist and assistant professor of sociology at New Delhi’s South Asian University, told Al Jazeera that food is one of the oldest forms showing solidarity across communities.

“From natural disasters to conflict situations, the first thing you distribute is food,” she said.

In India, Dey said there is “resistance to partaking of food” between different communities because of the “rules of inter-dining, specifically prohibitions around exchange of water and cooked food”.

But the anti-CAA protesters are subverting such ideas, thereby challenging the divisive rhetoric of Prime Minister Modi.

Protest is a tiring thing

Ghazala Meer is a 26-year-old woman from the Ladakh region (it was carved out of Indian-administered Kashmir in August) participating in protests across New Delhi.

“To go to a protest is a very tiring thing, it’s not something you would do for fun. You identify with a certain set of ideas and go stand for them,” she told Al Jazeera.

Meer said the availability of food at such protests brings a sense of comfort and togetherness. “It isn’t just for a certain group of people, but for everybody,” said Meer.

Activist Umar Khalid, who is frequently seen demonstrating, said it is not unusual for people to offer food to protesters, but the scale of support in the ongoing protests is unprecedented.

“Because the attack is on the very citizenship of every citizen of this country, everyone wants to contribute,” he told Al Jazeera.

At Shaheen Bagh, hundreds of female protesters are shaking up India’s traditional domestic makeup as they brave New Delhi’s coldest winter in a century, standing at the front of resistance while men support from the sidelines, cooking and caring for them.

A dozen men in their early 20s are watching over a huge pot bubbling with “secular chai (tea)”. A banner hangs over their spot: ‘Secular Chai – Made in India’.

Ajaz Ahmad, 23, said their branding of the tea is a protest against Modi, who had based his 2014 election campaign on the claim that he worked as a tea-seller in his childhood.

“Chaiwaley, teri chai unsecular hai (Tea-seller, your tea is unsecular),” Ahmad said.

Hesitant to claim credit

However, many of those offering food and beverages are hesitant to claim credit.

Khidmat’s Kamran Khan said about his support: “It would be like getting a finger sliced and being counted as a martyr,” suggesting that his was a modest contribution to the movement.

On December 19 at New Delhi’s iconic protest site, Jantar Mantar, 28-year-old artist Daamini K was offered bottled water and bananas by a man in his 30s.

“I asked who is it by and he said, ‘it is by all of us’,” she told Al Jazeera.

The same day, Mumbai-based writer-photographer Anagh Mukherjee was offered water by a middle-aged man when he was marching with tens of thousands of people.

“I was really moved by the gesture because they were doing it to keep everyone charged,” Mukherjee said.

In West Bengal state’s North 24 Parganas district, anti-CAA protesters made food their mode of protest by blocking off a section of the highway and cooking biryani on an industrial scale.

Not all gestures are that large, 36-year old researcher Anusha Pandey (name changed upon her request) carried biscuits with her to a protest, anticipating detention by police in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad city. She did end up being detained, along with 200 others.

“I ate and distributed them [biscuits] among the fellow detainees, just two, three packets, nothing very large scale,” Pandey said.

The recipe for protest food

Protest food involves money; the logistics of preparing, sourcing and transporting food; and its distribution. Individuals, collectives, and strangers banding together are the spine of this protest infrastructure.

For nearly a month now, Mohamad Anas, a former student at Jamia Millia Islamia, has not gone to work at his disability rights advocacy organisation. He spends nearly 4,000 rupees daily to supply 30 litres (8 gallons) of tea at the protest outside one of the university’s gates.

Anas has a locomotor disability and utilises his specialised four-wheeled scooter to hold the large steel containers in which he fetches tea from sellers in nearby Sukhdev Vihar. His friends help too.

“I do whatever my financial condition allows to ensure that students here can protest peacefully and with ease,” Anas told Al Jazeera. He also offers tea to more than 150 police and paramilitary personnel stationed there.

Abdul Rahman, a 42-year-old baker, is funding his food drive through Nawa-e-Haque, a social welfare organisation he is part of. Neighbours contribute in kind for the protest food he prepares at his bakery.

“I come here [to the Jamia protest] around 4pm every day since I saw the kids injured and hungry at the hospitals on the night of December 15,” said Rahman, his voice cracking and tears streaming down his face. He gestured to say he could not speak any more.

His colleague’s 17-year-old son Saadiq Ghazi takes over. Ghazi has taken time off his grade 12 exam preparations to help with the protests. “Between my father’s five friends and their sons, we’re a team of 10-15 people on any day,” he said.

Others like Bushra Khan run crowdfunding efforts. A shoebox acts as a donation box, with a jagged slot cut into the cardboard; it sits on the table she serves tea and snacks from at the Jamia gate.

Back at Shaheen Bagh, where a round-the-clock protest by women has become emblematic of the anti-CAA and NRC movement, area residents have come together.

When 45-year-old Hussain Khan, who reserves his food support for specific groups, women, children, the elderly, artists, and journalists, realises that his biscuit carton has lightened, he waves to 18-year-old Amaan Saifi to go buy another carton.

“We’re both from Shaheen Bagh but I didn’t know him before these protests,” Saifi told Al Jazeera. At India Gate, as Fuaad packs off his empty biryani containers, he reveals his reason for charity and solidarity with the protesting students.

“When they are in positions of power in future, I believe they will be more involved with humanitarian causes.”

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/01/recipe-solidarity-indian-protesters-fed-200115115350715.html