Anti-CAA Rangoli Protests: A Pakistan Connection Emerges; And It Seems Protesters Drew ‘No To CAA’ Kolams Without Consent Of House Owners

Anti-CAA Rangoli Protests: A Pakistan Connection Emerges; And It Seems Protesters Drew ‘No To CAA’ Kolams Without Consent Of House OwnersAn anti-CAA kolam in Besant Nagar, Chennai. 

On Sunday (29 December), the Chennai police detained eight persons, including five women, for drawing anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019 kolam (rangoli) in Chennai’s upmarket Besant Nagar area.

The eight had protested against CAA as part of the “Citizens against CAA Group”. Their arrest drew criticism from Opposition parties in Tamil Nadu, led by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).

Each party’s views on the arrest reflected their own stand on CAA. But the following day, the protesters met DMK President M K Stalin, and his sister and DMK Lok Sabha member Kanizhmozhi.

The meeting resulted in the DMK asking its cadres and others opposed to CAA to draw such kolams in front of their homes. There is an amusing twist to this, which we will come to later.

Of particular focus in this kolam episode was Gayatri Khandhadai, a lawyer who calls herself ‘people enthusiast’.

In an interaction with the media on Wednesday (1 January), Chennai Police Commissioner A K Viswanathan said that his staff have found out that Khandhadai is a research personnel with Pakistan-based Bytes For All, which claims to be a human rights organisation and a research think-tank.

The evidence was found on her Facebook profile, which has since been removed.

Bytes For All, in a tweet on 12 June 2014, said that Khandhadai had taken part in an Asia Forum For Human Rights and Development meeting.

On 14 June 2014, the activist herself tweeted a photo of her meeting with the staff of Pakistan Foreign Office.

The Police Commissioner added that it had links with the Association of All Pakistan Citizen Journalists and his men were trying to gather more details.

Khandhadai is also an active member of Association of Progressive Communications, which opposes any curb on freedom in the digital world.

Probably, the police are heading towards finding her source of funds and whether she or her supporters have used them for these protests.

On social media, particularly WhatsApp, the argument against these “anti-CAA kolam protest” is that there could be some sort of Pakistan connection since many twitteratis from the neighbouring nations actively took part in the #gobackModi campaign against Prime Minister Narendra Modi since April last year.

The campaign was active even recently during the Sino-Indian summit at Mahabalipuram, 50 km from Chennai, between Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

This is one part of the anti-CAA kolam protests incidents. The other aspect, according to A K Viswanathan, is the way the protest was held.

The Police Commissioner said the department had not given permission for holding the protest.

“But no one stopped them from drawing the kolams. The protestors had drawn these at seven or eight places, including public places and in front of some houses. They went in front of another house and drew ‘No to CAA’ near a kolam that had already been drawn,” he said.

This act drew instant protest from the owner of the house, who questioned them for drawing “No to CAA” without his permission and how could they do it in front of his gate.

The protestors argued that there was nothing wrong in doing so since it was a road. It was after this that the police was called.

“The police asked the protesters to move away but they refused to heed. Police asked them why they were doing something against the wishes of the people there and insisted they should leave the place,” A K Viswanathan said.

At that time, the protesters began raising slogans, including against police. Then, they were removed and sent away.

“No one was arrested because they drew a kolam. The police intervened only because they drew ‘No to CAA’ in front of a house and the family there objected to it. It is not as if arrests were made because someone drew a kolam,” the police commissioner said.

He also played a video of the objections made by an old man to the protesters’ activity in front of their house.

Coming to the amusing twist to the anti-CAA kolam protest, social media reported about “modelling” for these. Some of the photos of these protests show even those who don’t know English posing before “No to NRC” or “No to CAA” kolams.

Critics of these protests claim that these “models” are paid Rs 200 for posing before such kolams, which are drawn by the anti-CAA protesters.

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