Sunday 22nd December, Montreal


For a democratic, secular and inclusive India!!


On Sunday 22nd December, Place Norman Bethune Square rang out with slogans of “Azaadi!” as over 60 Montrealers of Indian and South Asian origin, friends and allies gathered in downtown Montreal (in Tiohtià:ke, unceded Mohawk territory)  to voice their absolute opposition to the just passed Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and institution of the National Register of Citizens, and to stand in solidarity with those in India who were on the streets to protect a secular, pluralistic and inclusive India.  The protesters were also motivated by the extreme police brutality against students protesting the tabling of the bill that then got voted in as an act, in particular at the universities, Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University.  The people in Montreal also condemned the revocation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution concerning Kashmir. 


Many of those gathered were students themselves and they took leading roles in the demonstration with the raising of prescient slogans and the sharing of their thoughts and positions on these issues, as well as the general descent into fascism that is happening in India.  Organizations that were represented were India Civil Watch Canada and CERAS, the latter, a two decades old organization founded in the wake of the destruction of the Babri mosque and a forum in support of peace, secularism and democratic development in South Asia. 


Speakers also drew parallels with what was happening in other parts of the world, including in Quebec where the passage of Bill 21 has made it illegal for individuals in positions of authority – crown prosecutors, teachers in public schools and police – to wear visible religious symbols.  Opponents of the Quebec law, which the government has dubbed its ‘secularism law’, have identified it as legalized bigotry and racism as most of those affected by the law are Muslim women who wear a head scarf (hijab).  Those gathered were reminded of similarities between the CAA and the Nazi Nuremberg Laws of 1935 or the Law of Return of the state of Israel in 1950. And they were reminded that they stood at the foot of the status of Norman Bethune, who had sacrificed his life in the fight against fascism.


That such numbers showed up at a protest that was organized very quickly and at a time when many people were out of town for the holidays is testament that this latest assault on the democratic and secular fabric of India and its constitution has hit a nerve – a line has been crossed and many who earlier did not come forward to protest what has been happening in India under the Hindutva ethnonationalist government of the BJP-RSS conclave led by Modi and Shah, are now doing so.  Several times during the protest, the preamble to the constitution was spoken aloud; a line being read into the microphone and  repeated by all present.  As the words echoed in the square in the afternoon winter sunlight, they came with the weight of history and the power and determination of people emerging from centuries of colonial rule to establish a free and egalitarian country.



having solemnly resolved to constitute India


and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual

and the unity and integrity of the Nation;

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