Protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the National Register of Citizens and the National Population Register have been cropping up in Karnataka, even outside the state capital of Bengaluru. Since mid December 2019, there have been protests in the central and northern parts of the state, in areas such as Hubli, Shivamogga, Sagar, Bagalkot and Bhatkal.
Kalaburagi, known as Gulbarga until 2014, in northern Karnataka has seen several protests too—women’s protests, large rallies backed by political parties, human chains and also smaller gatherings on college campuses. Last month, when section 144 was imposed in the city, people descended upon on the streets in defiance. A resident of the city told me, “It feels like there hasn’t been a day without a hunger strike, satyagraha or people’s protest happening.”
On 19 January 2020, the United Brotherhood—an umbrella of student organisations in Kalaburagi—organised a student convention against the CAA, the NRC and the NPR. The protest was held in the grounds outside the National Girls College. A large tent covered the area in front of the stage, with one section to a side walled off for women.
Speeches, poetry readings, qawwali, a screening of explainer videos and dramatised debates about the CAA and the NRC, were on the program itinerary. Speakers from institutions such as the Jawaharlal Nehru University, the Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia had been invited to address the crowd, along with local teachers student activists and an ex-army official from the Muslim community. Many students and recent graduates I spoke to seemed to have different reasons for being at the protest, though they were united in their belief that it was important for students across the country to come out on the streets at this time.
Syed Aleem Ilahi, a student of Indian political studies at Bangalore University, chose to return to his hometown to help organise the convention. “We are in such a situation today,” he said, “that if we don’t speak now, we will be finished.” Ilahi felt that it is important to educate students outside the big cities about the growing protests around the country. “Gulbarga is an education hub,” he said. “We have students from all over the country here. But while there have been many rallies, they aren’t educating us students about what is CAA, what is NRC.”