Thousands of people breaking into Jana Gana Mana and waving the national flag under an open night sky is perhaps the most heartening image of India’s ongoing mass protests against the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act. This picture of protest from Shaheen Bagh in Delhi might as well be that of Shahbag in Dhaka six years ago, but for the colour of the national flags and the rendition of two different compositions of Rabindranath Tagore.
The massive mass protests that have erupted across India over the citizenship law bear semblance to the secularist movement that started on February 5, 2013 in neighbouring Bangladesh.
Shahbag, a Dhaka neighbourhood that houses several premier educational institutions of that country, including the University of Dhaka, became the epicentre of the movement as protesters camped there for days much as dissenters have been camping in south Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh to protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act for over two weeks now.
In both the cases, youths and women were the forerunners of the agitation with social media playing a crucial role in mass mobilisation, leading to many intellectuals and celebrities joining the agitation and extending solidarity. But more than the mode of demonstrations, it’s the spirit of the two protests that has made them similar. In both the cases, people overwhelmingly hit the streets to uphold what they considered the founding principle of their respective countries. Hence, it’s imperative to draw some lessons from Bangladesh’s 'Arab Spring' moment in the context of the current uprising in India.
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