Though the CAA protests have significantly stood out for authority gone beserk, and a growing reign of fascism, one thing we can look at and thank the protests for, are the revolutionary forms of art that have emerged.
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) have been the recent inspiration for this creativity among Indians. Almost every street corner, you can find comedy, poetry, memes, art, sloganeering and quirky posters.
Young Indians around the country has left the government stumped with its posters and slogans from "Don't become a low budget Israel" to the "Aap Chronology Samjhiye" memes. As Zainab Sikander, a writer for The Print stated, this is India's renaissance movement.
Why We Should Look At The Art From CAA Protests
"In India today, we are seeing a renaissance through art and literature – people are getting their voice back. And what is aiding it is the social media coverage of the protests. Art has always been a medium of dissent – but now, a lot of people are getting exposure to it, thanks to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp," Zainab wrote.
She makes a very fitting point, the access to multiple mediums of expression has started a discourse amongst people that is both to learn and educate. It's important to realize that this form of art isn't restricted to just the animations, comics or paintings that have been circulating - it has a broader reach. From poetry, literature, speeches, songs, memes, slogans, placards, posters and so much more.
When we look at the images and videos coming in from these protests, it is crucial to note the words, pictures and music. For example, the recitation of "Hum Kagaz Nahi Dikhayenge" composed by Varun Grover, has been used at large by the crowd at Shaheen Bagh. The poem that states "We won't show our documents" is a large statement that envelopes the sentiment of the protests across the country.
Another example is the statement "As the Bengalis say, Omit Shah." Twitter was abuzz with #ResignAmitShah for a long time during December, bringing this sentiment to the street by simply holding a poster is as powerful as it can get. Speaking up about what is happening in the country by exercising our rights is the best way to express ourselves.
In a climate of force, hate and violence these slogans, posters, and art in general act as huge enablers for an environment of peace, love and unity. The fact that these protests are not just Muslim dominated, that there exists a huge range of diversity is another symbol in itself. Another important factor of these elements is the reclamation of public spaces and identities of the Muslim community.
From holding up posters that read “Miya bhai ek dawat na chore, mulk kya ghanta chorega” (Muslims don’t give up a dinner party, and you expect them to leave their country?) to being unapologetic about their clothes, identity and their overall “Muslimness”, these protests are addressing that awkward question that the Right-wing hammers Muslims with – “How ‘Indian’ are Muslims?”
Hussain Haidry questioning “main kaisa Musalmaan hoon? (What kind of a Muslim am I?)” through a poem he wrote, to a crowd in Azad Maidan, hits at the heart of the matter. Every Muslim is questioning their identity in this nation today. And the answer is in Haidry’s poem – “a Hindustani Musalmaan.”
How The Media Ended Up Changing The Narrative Of This Art
It's no surprise that the media's narrative of the posters, slogans and art is poorly accounted for. For example, at the Gateway of India protest in Mumbai yesterday, a "Free Kashmir" poster was spotted, and undoubtedly all media outlets associated this poster to the "Anti-National" narrative.
While the protest was filled with slogans like "Hum Dekhenge" and posters that read "Bas Mann Ki Baat Karoge Ya Economy Ki Bhi?" (Will you only speak your own thoughts, or will you also talk about the economy?), the media focused on the one poster that read "Free Kashmir."
This has been a repetitive pattern with the current media, another example is the doctored images that were passed around which read "Hindu Ch**ya", while the actual poster read "Hindu Hoon, Ch**ya Nahin."
It's difficult to manoeuvre through the constant negative media coverage, but the words, slogans and art are what keep the protestors going. Some media outlets also have made sure to get the right coverage and report ethically, which has been of help for those at the protests.
The voices of those that can make it to the protests are important now more than ever, and using art as a medium of expression has been of utmost cruciality and power.