Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath on Wednesday warned that those raising the ‘Azadi’ slogan during protests against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) will be charged with sedition in his state.
“If anyone will raise slogans of ‘Azadi’ in the name of protest, it will amount to sedition and the government will take strict action. It can’t be accepted. People cannot be allowed to conspire against India from Indian soil,” he said while addressing a pro-CAA rally in Kanpur.
The ‘Azadi’ slogan has become ubiquitous at the demonstrations held nationwide against the new citizenship law that speeds up the naturalisation process for six communities from India’s three neighbours, but excludes Muslims from its ambit.
Once shunned and branded as “anti-national”, the chant has reverberated at the protests, taken up by youngsters in universities and by old women in Shaheen Bagh in Delhi and the clock tower in Lucknow.
Meaning freedom in English, the slogan has been used to seek ‘azadi’ from CAA, NRC, divisive politics and the many other socio-economic problems that India faces. But Adityanath implied it was only being used to demand the ‘Kashmir-wali azadi’ from UP’s soil.
Protests against the CAA have continued in the state despite a brutal crackdown by the police, leading to the death of 19 demonstrators last month.
Adityanath claimed that as the opposition lacked the courage to hold protests, it was using the women and children as a “shield”.
“These women do not even know what they are protesting against. Women are being made to organise dharnas while the men are sleeping in quilts at their homes. These women say the men now say they have become disabled,” Adityanath said at the rally.
He was referring to the sit-in agitation by women at the iconic Husainabad clock tower in Lucknow, which is similar to the over a month-long protest by women in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh.
The UP Police had recently seized blankets and eatables, switched off the street lights, and locked the public toilet near the venue to force the women to call off their dharna, but the vigil has continued. Their resistance has also inspired women in other parts of the state to sit on dharna against the act.
“Now these people (anti-CAA protesters) do not have the courage to participate in the protests themselves. They know if they indulge in vandalism, their property will be seized,” said the chief minister who had earlier warned protesters against vandalising vehicles and properties in state, saying they would have to compensate for the damages.
Adityanath also slammed the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the Left parties, accusing them of playing politics at the cost of the nation.
“For them, the country is not important. The Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis are not important. Now, for the Congress, even the Christians are not important. And they have said the protests will continue against the CAA until the ISI agents are given entry in India. This is a shameful statement made by Congress leaders,” he alleged.