'The Modi government thinks that once the CAA protests are over, they will bring in the NPR that will help to get the NRC.'
For almost a month now, Delhi's Shaheen Baug area has witnessed massive protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens. Braving the Delhi cold, men, and women with tiny children, have been agitating against the Narendra Damodardas Modi-led government's latest policy decision.
Among the thousand faces at the protest is a familiar one -- of actor Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, who has acted in films like Raees, Tanu weds Manu and more recently, the critically acclaimed Article 15.
"Muslims were struggling for their future, but now thanks to the NRC they are also struggling for their past," Zeeshan tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf.Rediff.com.
What is happening at Shaheen Baug? Why is it that people aren't giving up on their protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens?
They (the Bharatiya Janata Party) have brought about a desperation among the people like never before, and therefore, they have come out on the roads. Muslim society is more conservative, as everyone knows, and the women don't come out openly on the roads.
However, in this case they have come out because they know that there is no option left. They (the BJP) used to say that Muslim women are weak and they used to play to that narrative. That narrative has failed after seeing the Shaheen Baug protests, as you come to know the strength of Muslim women.
They are ready to fight for their rights. If you feel nothing is going to happen with the protests against the CAA, NRC and NPR, you just have to go to Shaheen Baug. After seeing their energy, I too get motivated and don't feel tired of the protests.
Why have you been so vocal against the CAA and NRC?
The first danger you see about this law (the CAA) is that it threatens the secular fabric of our country. This is our basic Preamble and if you see Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution, you see this law violates that.
One can clearly see that this was done for vote bank politics. How did you choose these three countries -- Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh -- only?
If they had so much concern for Hindus, why did they not include the persecuted Tamilians in Sri Lanka?
Also, if they say minorities in these countries are being persecuted, then why not talk of the Shias or Ahmediya Muslims of Pakistan who are in a minority in Sunni majority Pakistan?
The Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar too are a minority in a Buddhist country.
Prime Minister Modi has stated that the NRC won't be introduced in the country. Why don't Muslims believe the PM?
This is like the story of the boy crying wolf. In 2014, people trusted Modi, but his speech at the Ramlila ground in New Delhi (on December 22, 2019) has exposed him.
Either Amit (Anilchandra) Shah is lying on the NRC or Modi is lying.
Moreover, Modi has lost all trust slowly. He said black money would come back in 50 days, but that never came back after demonetisation.
Why is Muslim society so disheartened over the CAA, NPR and NRC? What do you hear while interacting with Muslims on the ground?
It is not a Muslim alone issue. It is just that Shaheen Baug has become famous and this protest started from Jamia Millia. Right now, it is a mixed protest as other communities are also joining in.
Yesterday (January 12) at the Aaram Nagar (north-west Mumbai) protest there must have been 15 per cent Muslims.
More importantly, till the time you were fighting on religious grounds, the Muslims preferred quiet. They started snatching one right after another right of Muslims.
This time, the BJP has targeted every Muslim from the middle class and lower middle class. They are taught in homes to study hard, get a job, get married, have two kids and buy a home. Now when they (the BJP) want to snatch away my home and then say that probably one of your family members will be included in the NRC list, then what future is left?
Muslims were struggling for their future, but now thanks to the NRC they are struggling for their past.
They were living peacefully and now they have to prove whether I am from this country. Therefore, this shayari, Tum Kaun Ho Be? (Who are you?)
You are trying to snatch away my basic existence. You snatched the Muslim's religious identity, but people kept quiet.
You then snatched away their eating rights (through the beef ban) and people kept quiet.
This time they have come to question the Indian Muslim's basic existence.
The BJP says the CAA is not for Indian Muslims and has nothing to do with their citizenship being snatched. Why are people not believing the BJP?
The BJP is trying to sell the BJP by saying that the CAA gives citizenship, doesn't snatch it.
However, the first question is: Why should citizenship be given only on the grounds of religion?
It is clear in our Constitution that no person should be discriminated on the grounds of her/his religion. This is the first objection.
Secondly, the NRC is their main weapon. It cannot work without the CAA.
For instance, the 19 lakh people whose names were not included in Assam's NRC. Out of them, 14 lakh were Hindus and they wanted them to be their vote bank, so they got the CAA. Furthermore, Amit Shah's statement of the chronology on CAA and NRC added fuel to fire.
When the CAA is combined with the NRC it is very lethal for Indian Muslims. They (the Modi government) think that once the CAA protests are over, they will bring in the NPR that will help to get the NRC.
Some lawyers told me that once you are declared a non-citizen you cannot fight on legal terms. The basic right of an Indian citizen will not apply to you. You will be heard only by a foreigner tribunal.
This sole discretion of accepting papers is on the bureaucrat who comes to your home for NPR. I can challenge his decision with him and no other authority. He will see me and if he thinks I look like an Afghan, he will deem me to be an Afghan citizen.
There is no way I can prove that I am not an Afghan citizen to that bureaucrat. They will send my papers to Afghanistan and obviously that country will not have my citizenship record. So I will definitely be sent to a detention centre.
The BJP won the Lok Sabha election bagging more than 300 seats. The NRC was mentioned in its election manifesto. The people of India voted for the BJP so they are just implementing what was promised by them to the people of India. Are you not insulting Parliament with these protests?
The Constitution of India is bigger than Parliament. If you change the Constitution of India, then I have a right to protest.
This is a democracy. I agree when PM Modi said he is a pradhan sevak. We elected him to solve our problems, but he is unable to do that. He has made a mess of the economy.
Don't you feel that the Shaheen Baug protests are futile as Amit Shah has categorically said that the CAA won't be rolled back? What will this protest then achieve?
Protest is the only thing we are left with. They have changed the Constitution, so why not roll back on the CAA?
Every day their (the BJP) IT cell is attacking those who are speaking up against the CAA.
If you say that these protests are going nowhere, then why is the police catching everyone who is going for the protests?
Why is Section 144 imposed in so many places?
The BJP is in a bad condition now and you see how they are changing their statements every second day.
Yesterday (Sunday, January 12), Modi said students have understood what the CAA is all about and therefore are not protesting. This is not true.
Students are on the roads to protest. He is saying Opposition leaders are instigating them to protest, but the fact is that there is no Opposition party.
The anti-CAA protest has become so strong that the Modi government is shaken. Now they are saying that people are coming out in support of the CAA.
In the history of India, never have people come out on the road to support it. They are asking people to give missed calls to support it.
Don't you feel that the anti-CAA protests are polarising the Hindu vote?
It is happening. In 2019, they came to power because of this reason. Nobody had any doubt that they worked badly from 2014 to 2019 and yet they came to power only because of the Hindutva agenda. After they beat up students, people are feeling bad about this government.
Can you illegally occupy roads this way?
There are permissions required, but a protest means you are raising your voice against injustice.
If you go to Azad Maidan in Mumbai you will not know what kind of protests are happening inside Azad Maidan. Nobody cares.
You are noticing anti-CAA protests because your regular life is getting affected as protesters are sitting on the roads.
Bhagat Singh said to make deaf people hear you need an explosion. If these protesters go to Jantar Mantar, no one will bother.
Irom Sharmila sat on protest all her life. What happened? Nothing. Only journalists knew about her protest whereas no common man knew the reality. When she stood in elections she barely got any votes.
What about your acting work?
I am going to work, but as of now more important is the work for my country. Here, my basic rights of citizenship are going to be snatched.