As chants of “azaadi” engulphed the square, and the warm strains of “Hum Dekhenge” pierced the chilly air, the Indian tricolor was raised on a wintry morning in Kraków. Not Tamil, nor Bengali, nor Maharashtrian or Bihari but rather united as Indians in united, protestors stood there together, demonstrating “unity and diversity” in protest and in solidarity.
The concerned Indian diaspora – supported widely by Polish friends of India – organized a protest at the Rynek Głowny in Kraków, Poland on 26 January 2020. Protestors spoke of the concerns against the unconstitutional and divisive Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and expressed solidarity with the students, the youth and women leading the mass movement in India. Indians in Kraków stood up as deeply concerned and committed Indian diaspora should – to defend our constitution.
This protest was momentous for two reasons; (i) it marked the Republic Day celebrations – the day on which the constitution of India was adopted by the Indian state, guaranteeing equal rights for all citizens irrespective of race, colour, religion and gender and (ii) the organisers were all women – thereby bringing a small bit of the spirit of Shaheen Bagh to Kraków.
The protest gave voice to speeches, slogans, singing and poetry, placards and posters – in the true spirit of passive resistance that our compatriots are exercising all over India and the world.“Our aim is to emphasize the unconstitutional nature of the Act on the very day that the constitution was adopted as the guiding principle of our nation,” said one of the organizers of the protest. The proceedings began with everyone reading the Preamble to the Constitution of India together followed by a speech that highlighted the idea of India our forefathers created – diversity and secularism. As the laws were explained in English to the general public they were also translated to Polish. Poland too has seen a wave of protests against their own constitutional rights and therefore holding the banner ‘Save the Constitution’ resonated with the Poles. The combination of CAA with the impending NRC, which would lead to the disenfranchisement of Indian Muslims (legitimate citizens of India) – while granting citizenship to religiously persecuted communities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan was highlighted to the participants and the public.
The speeches ranged from highlighting the attack on students and educational institutions and also relaying a voice message from activist – Kavita Krishnan from India! The main organiser of the protest, stated that it is important to know why people choose to legitimise authoritarian laws and decisions. She explained, based on her research, that authoritarian ideologies in combination with ‘attachment’ nationalism, and the perception of any situation as uncertain makes people to opt for any leader that offers a ‘safe’ place. When the speech about significance of the Shaheen Bagh protest was delivered, from afar, one heard Indian men shouting ‘’Hamaari Naari ,Saabe Bhari’’ showing their support to women in India and the women who came forward to organise this protest despite several hate mails they received!
The Kraków protest was the latest in the string of such demonstrations held across Europe and the United States where students, the diaspora and local communities have come out in full force to voice their opinion against a law that seeks to change the ethos of India – a diverse yet united country that speaks 22 official languages and hundreds of dialects and is home to the second largest Muslim population in the world. “By singing songs of revolution and change, we are voice our peaceful protest. This is our right as Indian citizens and we will not give it up no matter what.’’, said one of the organisers.
Even though there were impending threats from pro-CAA diaspora members, the protest was a successful one, within the bounds of Polish law and marked a peaceful gathering of concerned Indians and Polish friends of India. “We are fighting for the idea of India as envisaged by our founding fathers and recorded in the constitution. We are challenging the onslaught of communal and divisive forces and will continue until our goal is met,” said a protestor. A plethora of expats and Polish friends stood in solidarity with the Indian diaspora, holding banners and chanting “azaadi” – signifying the fundamental impulse of people from all over the world to envisage the concepts of rights, dignity and fraternity as principles of human behavior and interaction.