17, Feb 2020 | Hemal Asher
The Bombay Catholic Sabha (BCS) along with the St Theresa Sabha unit held a meet on Saturday night at the St Theresa’s hall in Bandra West. The meet was titled, ‘Understanding Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC)’.
The first speaker Fr Frazer Mascarenhas told his audience, “I will not speak about CAA but Christian spirituality.” Fr. Mascarenhas went on, “Prayer is powerful but it must be backed by action. Today, Catholics have become content with being quiet and simply praying about things. We must take action for justice and motivated by compassion and love. Democracy has to be worked at. You must allow us to dissent. Our religious duty is to make the country and the world a more just place.”
Senior advocate Mihir Desai part of the speakers’ panel, gave a background of the different acts and said that, “there are large sections of people who do not have any documents or proof. These are many women, abandoned children, the homeless. If one is unable to prove one’s citizenship then you will be put in detention camps.” Desai claimed this (CAA-NPR-NRC) was an exercise in futility and divisiveness, it is aimed at marginalising, creating fear and should be stopped. “We have laws for migrants, and those should be used. The government is bringing in a Hindu-Muslim divide, with this,” he stressed.
Teesta Setalvad, activist, explained that, “when your citizenship is taken away then you lose the right to have rights.” Setalvad said, “With this exercise NCP-NCR, what is most disturbing is that there is an onus on the individual to prove that they are citizens. They are the ones who have to furnish documents.” Setalvad claimed crores are being spent in this exercise, “but what are we unleashing on ourselves?”
Telling the primarily Christian audience that they, too, were the “enemies of this regime, but have made it out because of Donald Trump,” Setalvad went on, “One way civil society can make itself more effective is to talk to your elected representatives. Maharashtra is going to implement the NPR from May, this is arbitrary and dangerous as it empowers a lower level government officer to declare you a doubtful citizen.”
Mihir Desai at the meet
In the end Setalvad rounded off with, “with Mumbai Bagh, modelled on Shaheen Bagh, Muslim women are breaking the back of patriarchy,” earning a round of applause.
As late evening turned to night, last speaker Bombay Catholic Sabha’s Dolphy D’Souza began by saying, “We are almost turning into a police state and we must not allow this to happen. It is also condemnable to dub those who protest, who stand for the truth, as anti-nationals.” D’Souza exhorted the women in the audience, “to visit the places where so many women are protesting. We must stand in solidarity with them as they are sticking their necks out for us.” D’Souza earned a laugh as he said, while telling the audience to take a stand, “those who sit on the fence will have their pants torn.”
There was high drama in the interactive session. While most speakers were against the CAA and concurred with the BJP government-bashing, a woman who said she was an advocate S Collaco took the mike and dissented.
“The Assam problem did begin with Muslim migration,” she told the hall and added, “is it possible that one cannot have any documents at all?” She also asked people, “why not support this government and give them a chance…” This led to an agitated Aftab Siddiqui, Bandra activist in the audience, to shout back: “who are these illegal Muslim migrants? How many are there? Do you have the figures? You must know the figures. If you have a voice, even I have one.” The organisers rushed to Siddiqui to restore calm and then replied to Collaco’s claims, categorically refuting them as the meet ended.
The original report may be read here.