Po­etry, rap high­light the rift over In­dia ci­ti­zen­ship law

Kuwait Times - - Internatio­nal -

MUM­BAI: On a re­cent balmy evening at a Mum­bai sports ground, writer Varun Grover, a pink flower tucked be­hind his ear, read his new poem to thou­sands of peo­ple protest­ing against a ci­ti­zen­ship law. “Dic­ta­tors will come and go. We will not show our pa­pers,” Grover, who has writ­ten lyrics for sev­eral Bol­ly­wood mu­si­cals and was the writer of Net­flix’s flag­ship In­dian show “Sa­cred Games”, told the crowd.

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s new law grants ci­ti­zen­ship to fol­low­ers of non-Mus­lim re­li­gions flee­ing per­se­cu­tion from In­dia’s three Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity neigh­bors - Afghanista­n, Bangladesh and Pak­istan. But crit­ics say the law is Is­lam­o­pho­bic and a threat to In­dia’s sec­u­lar con­sti­tu­tion. The gov­ern­ment says the law seeks to help per­se­cuted mi­nori­ties and it ac­cuses its op­po­nents of mis­con­stru­ing it.

The nearly two months of protests, spear­headed by stu­dents, rep­re­sent the most con­certed chal­lenge to Modi and his Hindu-na­tion­al­ist gov­ern­ment since he was first elected in 2014. The cam­paign has been cham­pi­oned by mu­si­cians and po­ets, both Hindu and Mus­lim, high­light­ing the stand much of In­dia’s lib­eral in­tel­li­gentsia and artis­tic com­mu­nity has taken against the gov­ern­ment. “In the short term, songs or po­ems bind the pro­test­ers and keep the ca­ma­raderie go­ing,” Grover, 40, told Reuters.

“In the long term, which I think is more im­por­tant, it re­minds those of us who are voic­ing our op­po­si­tion why we aren’t like those who sup­port this gov­ern­ment.” Grover’s Hindi-lan­guage poem, “We Will Not Show our Pa­pers”, which he first posted on so­cial me­dia on Dec 21, has be­come a ral­ly­ing cry for the demon­stra­tors. It has been trans­lated into sev­eral In­dian lan­guages, and is re­cited at ral­lies, and hash­tagged on Twit­ter. Rap and folk mu­si­cians have also ral­lied to the anti-gov­ern­ment cause.

“There is a strong el­e­ment of re­sis­tance to rap mu­sic - it was a sym­bol of protest against white supremacy, and it also feels rel­e­vant to the mostly stu­dent pro­test­ers,” said Shu­mais Nazar, a stu­dent at New Delhi’s Jamia Mil­lia Uni­ver­sity, who has writ­ten rap songs for the cam­paign and per­formed them at ral­lies. Nazar was at the uni­ver­sity last month when po­lice stormed in, fir­ing tear gas shells as scores of stu­dents took shel­ter in­side, in a night of vi­o­lence that shocked many and gal­va­nized the protests. — Reuters

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