Anatomy of a Protest

In this account of the protests in Chennai against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Register of Citizens, important questions about the nature of dissent and who is allowed to protest are brought to the fore.

When we look back at our history, with India at the cusp of two decades, we will recall this political moment as one marked by a deep schism in our polity in response to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Lakhs of Indians have come out onto the streets to register their protest against the relegation of Muslims and indigenous tribes to second-class citizens. These (largely peaceful) protests have been met with violent repression and detainment by the police across Indian cities. In light of these political developments and the brutal violence of the past month alone, there are important questions to be answered: who is this country for, who is allowed to protest, and what is the nature of dissent at this critical juncture?

In Chennai, the first major public protest happened on 16 December 2019. We gathered with placards and slogans, and watched politicians speak about the injustice of the CAA while also pillorying their adversaries. The beat of theparai drum was electric and the chief sloganeer led us to animatedly raise our voices to decry how the CAA and NRC combined can affect its own citizens. The slogans simultaneously expressed outrage, hurt, and importantly, unity. The feeling of people coming together suffused the air with a brief optimism that the situation might turn out differently.

To read the full text Login

Get instant access

New 3 Month Subscription
to Digital Archives at

₹826for India

$50for overseas users

Updated On : 2nd Jan, 2020


(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

Having lost a dear friend, the author reflects on the nature of friendship, and its relationship with memory.

As mounting performance pressure on students lays the ground for increasing malpractice, what can academic administrators do differently?

At the root of sexual harassment in the arts is an unquestioning culture of subservience.

Could the lived experiences of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, shared with millions of Americans, be their ticket to the White House?

As the concert stage is left empty, what can music and musicians do differently for the art form?

Amitav Ghosh’s novel goads us to seriously rethink our world, and finds new relevance under current circumstances.

S P Balasubrahmanyam’s influence on the Telugu people extends beyond singing and cinema.

Back to Top