In The Ongoing Protests Against CAA, People Are Turning To Creative Forms Of Expression To Promote A More Civil Discourse

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From Karnataka to Assam, Delhi to West Bengal, anti-CAA demonstrators are making music and penning poetry to express dissent, weaponise art. Students are also drawing comic strips, writing satire and spoofs to mobilise support and organise protests.

Last Saturday, 26-year-old Poojan Sahil performed his song ‘Wapas jao’ to Italian protest folk song Bella Ciao’s tune in Gurgaon where over 300 people had gathered to read out the Preamble to the Constitution. Kab tak jhelenge ye kaali raatein / Bhor dhakele tumhe wapas jao (How long shall we endure the dark nights / Go back, says the dawn),” he sang.

“We have been using songs as a weapon to counter the propaganda of hate. An artist can be a mirror to the society and we have been trying to capture the voice of resistance through our songs,” says Sahil, whose song has over 33k views on YouTube.

Calcuttan Sumit Roy has written and composed a rap number and posted it on his Instagram Page sumitroystudio. Titled ‘Go protest’, the song questions the environment of fear and calls for “Poorna Swaraj” which earned over 28,000 views.

“Darr raha hoon par samvidhani haq hai / Sabko dheere dheere ho raha ab shak hai (I am scared but it is my Constitutional right / Slowly everybody is growing doubts),” Roy raps.

“I went to art school in Baroda and every household there had a riot story. I wrote this song after the killing of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh but I was scared to put it out. These protests, however, have changed things. People are now looking for new ways to communicate through music, memes and posters,” says Roy.

Lyricist and comic Varun Grover’s poetry, ‘Hum kaagaz nahin dikhayenge (Won’t show you the papers),’ has become a clarion call for the student community. Grover had put out the poem on his Twitter handle on December 21, where it was retweeted 24k times. The post, which has over 50k likes, was inspired by “the spirit of every protestor and India-lover,” Grover wrote. It has since been translated into English, Gujarati, Tamil, Urdu, Telugu and Marathi.

On Tuesday, when over 1,000 students marched from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar, a student carrying a copy of the Preamble, invoked the spirit of the poem. “Hum desh ko bachayenge, hum kaagaz nahin dikhayenge (We will save our country / We won’t show the papers),” he wrote on the road with a chalk.

A popular satirical comic strip called ‘Rashtraman’ has also struck a chord with protestors. The comic strip features on the Instagram page ‘Brainded India’, which has nearly 60k followers. The comic is about a “fundamentalist” called Rashtraman who seeks to “protect” his country ‘Rashtria’ by “schooling” young people.

“I started creating Rashtraman in 2015, but put it out only a year later. The dystopian world he inhabits is a parallel of the reality we are living,” said the visual artist who goes by the name of Appupen.

“Art can be a spark. It is one of the most civil ways of registering protest, and it encourages plurality because everyone may have different interpretations. It encourages debates and discussions,” said Appupen, adding that students find resonance in these characters.

Jadavpur University student Angana Kundu also underlined the importance of “comic, cartoons and images” in protests because they “strike the eyes more easily”. “This government has been trying to use one size fits everyone formula. Art breaks that very homogeneity because it amplifies voices from different people,” she said.

Politics and education do not always have to be exclusive, students say. “Education is meant to make us aware and that’s what we have been doing. It is our responsibility to question everything,” says Kundu.

(Top) An illustration by an artist who goes by the name Appupen declares that ‘Hatred doesn’t sell’. (Right) A poster made by Angana Kundu, a student in Kolkata