"Jeena Yahan, Marna Yahan": Kerala Unites as 'One India'

New Year's day saw the state of Kerala coming together as 'One India' in a peaceful rally, the biggest ever across the country, against the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act). While the rest of India has been up in arms against what is widely perceived to be an act in gross violation of the Constitution, people from several walks of life, across different states of India, have been engaged in holding rallies and protests against the Centre.

What stood out in Kerala was that the rally was completely peaceful. The event was organized in Kochi, the commercial capital of Kerala, and an estimated 5 lakh people participated in the peaceful protest. Several Muslim organizations were supported by civilians and people from other faiths in the peaceful rally. Protesters arrived from other parts of the state and assembled at the Jawaharlal Nehru International  Stadium, before they undertook the long march towards Marine Drive. Thousands of volunteers pitched in to ensure the protest was peaceful and orderly.

Religious leaders and members of various political parties too had assembled to address the gathering. The protesters maintained peace and discipline, displaying placards of Mahatma Gandhi. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad.

The state President of the Indian Muslim League, Panakkad Syed Hyderali Shihab Thangal said,"We are born in India and will die in India, since every Indian citizen has the right to do that." He added that the newly implemented CAA divided people on communal lines.  Sunni leader Kanthapuram Aboobacker Musliyar said, "We are disciplined and staying within the parameters of the law. We are questioning everything that is our right," and added that this was only the 'beginning' of a series of protests.

Mr. Aboobacker wondered why the Centre was perturbed about people living peacefully, based on the rights enshrined in the Constitution. He observed that Indian Muslims had never worked against the Indian ethos of 'unity in diversity'. Mr. Aboobacker then made a telling statement that no Muslim had killed Mahatma Gandhi or the two Prime Ministers. "In the Babri Masjid verdict, the Supreme Court had found evidence about a mosque being demolished, but had still chosen to grant the disputed land to build a temple. "Our sentiments were hurt but we stayed quiet, urging all Muslims to maintain law and order," he said. However, he said that the CAA and NRC did discriminate against the Muslim community.

The Muslim leaders said that nothing could match a peaceful protest and make one's voice heard. They did not agree with political leaders who went to the courts and filed petitions against CAA or other legislations. "A peaceful protest is the best option, rather than going to court  everytime," they remarked. The protest reflected the secular mindset of Kerala, as the local Muslims took to the streets to express their concern against the passage of the CAA.

Muslims came out in thousands and marched across the streets of the port city, joined by people from other faiths, and held the national flag and placards that read,'Born in India, Lived in India, Will Die in India'. They said that if the Government asked them to submit documents to prove their citizenship, they would refuse to do so.

Several Muslim organizations came together for the peace rally, that included the Kerala Muslim Jamaat, the Dakshina Kerala Jamiyyathul Ulama, the Samastha Kerala Jamiyathul Ulama, the Jamaat- e-Islam, the Kerala Nadvathul Mujahideen and the Muslim League.

There are numerous Muslim organizations across the state that are a part of the joint council. They said that lakhs of people under different Mahallu committees had attended the rally.  Protesters were emotionally charged holding placards and chanting slogans saying,"We are Indians firstly and lastly". The road along the city's coastline was swamped by people.

The convention called for a long-term agitation until the Centre withdrew the amendment, and assured the people that henceforth no discriminatory legislation would be implemented. The rally culminated at the sprawling Marine Drive, located five kilometres away from the stadium.

Earlier, the Kerala Assembly had passed a resolution against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan rejected the law, stating that the state assemblies had their own privileges. The Kerala Chief Minister also added that such actions were unheard of anywhere, but it could not be ruled out as anything was possible under present circumstances, with unprecedented things taking place.

Kerala became the first state to pass such a resolution after the law was passed. CM Vijayan said that the law violated the fundamental principles of the Constitution. Chief Ministers of other states too announced that they would not implement the CAA, but Kerala is the only state that has taken the legislature route, to register it’s opposition to the law.

The ruling CPI (M)- led LDF and the Opposition Congress- headed UDF cast aside their differences, to stand united and launch a joint fight against the Centre, registering their protest against the CAA.

Around 1,000 police personnel were deployed for crowd control and traffic management in view of the massive protest organized at the Marine Drive. The police wanted to ensure the prevention of any untoward incident, although the protest rally was among the most peaceful witnessed across India.

Of late, the country has seen several incidents of violence, arson and illegal destruction of public property and other forms of vandalism by rowdy elements, who were later identified. What stood out was the aggression by the police against students of different universities across states, that was roundly condemned by the public and opposition parties alike.

Meanwhile, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan stated that the resolution passed in the Kerala Assembly had no legal or constitutional validity. He echoed Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, adding that citizenship was exclusively a central subject, so the resolution meant nothing. The Union Law Minister said that there was 'no escaping the law', although chief ministers of nine states had refused to implement the citizenship law."The parliament has complete power to pass laws regarding naturalization and citizenship," added Mr. Prasad. It is a case of the people of india  vs. the government.