On 24 January, the archdiocese of Goa spearheaded a rally against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 at the iconic Lohia Maidan in the southern town of Margao. It was first the church-backed anti-CAA rally in the state. Thousands from various religious communities attended the rally. The speakers also cut across community lines. They included well-known social activists, priests, writers and doctors who spoke against what they called the twin threats of the CAA and the National Register of Citizens.
Many leading members of the opposition parties in Goa sat in the crowd, listening to the speakers. This included Digambar Kamat and Luizinho Faleiro, former Goa chief ministers from the Congress party, and Churchill Alemao, who was earlier with the Congress and is currently with the Nationalist Congress Party. Vijai Sardesai, a former deputy chief minister from the Goa Forward Party, Alexio Reginaldo Lourenco, a member of the legislative assembly from the Congress, and Jose Philip D Souza, a former NCP MLA were also present.
The Council for Social Justice and Peace, the social-work wing of the archdiocese of Goa, had called the rally, together with civil-rights groups such as the Goa unit of the National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations and Concerned Citizens of Goa. Before the CSJP rally, several priests had spoken about it from their pulpits, during mass, asking people to attend in large numbers. The build-up to this rally was significant. In sermons preached in some parishes in south Goa on 19 January, the Sunday before the rally, priests urged parishioners to join the public gathering on 24 January to save democracy and save the constitution.
Savio Fernandes, the executive secretary of the CSJP, told the Herald, a daily newspaper in Goa, “The Citizenship Amendment Act and the government’s intention to implement a National Register of Citizens are literally shaking the foundations of India’s existence as a pluralistic, multi-faith society where all citizens are supposed to be equal before the law.” He added, “The amended Citizenship law would undermine the commitment to equality before the law enshrined in India's constitution.”
Until the 24 January rally, Goa had seemed to be sitting on the fence on the CAA issue. There had been no student protests and only one previous anti-CAA rally in Panaji in December 2019. But the church’s call galvanised Goans, including fence-sitters and political figures, to be emphatic in their opposition to the CAA.