Durban march against India’s unjust citizen law meant to ‘unite not divide’

By Al Qalam Reporter

The protest march had two objectives – to raise awareness against India’s discriminatory CAA legislation based on religion and to preserve the harmony enjoyed by the Indian community in South Africa, writes an Al Qalam Reporter.

Even at 94, nothing was going to stop community icon Dr Zuleikha Mayat from making a bold statement against India’s discriminatory Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) law. So when the South African Muslim Network (SAMNET) organized a protest march on Durban’s beachfront last Sunday, Dr Mayat – a noted author, activist and humanitarian – decided she would join the march no matter how much her limbs hurt. To her, the newly passed Indian law that grants citizenship to persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries – but excludes Muslims, is abhorrent.

Other community leaders who joined the march included among others, Crispin Hemson (Director of the International Centre for non-violence); retired High Court Judge Thumba Pillay, Dr Faisal Suliman of SAMNET, academic and author Prof Betty Govinden, Father Reuben Phillips, Prof Jairam Reddy, Raymond Perrier of the Dennis Hurly Centre, Prof Jerry Coovadia, academics Dr Devi Rajab and Prof Salim Abdool Karim.

The protest march has two objectives: To raise awareness against the discriminatory legislation based on religion and to preserve the harmony enjoyed by the Indian community in South Africa. Her lawyer son, Aslam Mayat, another noted human rights activist, said in a speech that in India millions of citizens of every religion, caste, strata and age have banded together in peaceful mass protest. “We must emulate them. International pressure brought down apartheid. South African’s must reciprocate with ubuntu.

Mayat said many people did not participate in the protest march because they were “uninformed, confused or misled”. There were others who opposed the CAA law but were too afraid to come out publicly for fear of falling victims to bully boys.

“We respect their stance. We do not agree with it, because why should opposing an unjust law cause division? By giving in to the bully boys’ mischief, seeking to disparage and scuttle this protest, you merely embolden them.

The famous joint statement by Advocates Thakarsee and Khan condemning CAA – and also religious intolerance everywhere – is the true path to promoting unity and peace.

“To understand the Citizens Act you have to also know the National Register of Citizens (or NRC). Every country needs to know exactly who is a citizen. India introduced citizens’ census in Assam.

To prove that you are an Indian citizen may not be possible if records are destroyed. In Assam 2 million could not prove citizenship, a huge number being Hindus. BJP got the shock and awe of its life so CAA was introduced. Only Muslims who cannot prove citizenship will be immediately sent to a fortified detention prison.

“Myanmar borders India. But Rohingya Muslims who fled religious persecution are excluded, only because they are Muslim. CAA is so glaringly obvious religious discrimination.

He urged all freedom seeking people to make their voices heard.

“For those who remain on the fence, we leave you with the words of Amit Shah, President of BJP who says NRC is a step in the process. Referring to Bangladeshis, Amit Shah says and I quote: ‘The BJP Government “will remove every single infiltrator from the country, except Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs, and throw then into the Bay of Bengal’. He said such illegal Muslim immigrants are “termites in the soil of Bengal”. “Imagine if an African said this about Indians in KZN? Would you still say ‘do not protest, we must not cause division,” or will you be leading the protest? Makes you think, doesn’t it.

Mayat said the organisers have been accused of being “irresponsible as this protest will cause division.”

“Consider this: Prime Minister Modi under whose watch the Gujarat pogrom took place was given a rock star welcome in Durban. That was NOT deemed to be divisive. In Kashmir the soldiers, as a policy, shoot pellets into the eyes of children throwing stones.

Many took part when the Indian consulate commemorated these army martyrs at this very same venue last year. That was NOT deemed divisive. Yet this solidarity protest against an unjust law is suddenly divisive. Pardon me if this convoluted logic escapes me.

“Now consider our speakers and the messages of support. They are the epitome of standing up for justice and promoting harmony, for some it has been their life mission.

Those who have stayed away ARE irresponsible, it is THEY who are encouraging injustice, division and undemocratic bully boy tactics.”

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