Directors Vishal Bhardwaj, Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar and actors Taapsee Pannu and Richa Chadha were among the host of Bollywood personalities who turned up at Carter Road in Mumbai in solidarity with those protesting against the violence at the JNU.
In a peaceful gathering of hundreds, Bollywood was at the forefront with prominent personalities from the fraternity, including Swara Bhasker, Sudhir Mishra, Rekha Bhardwaj, Anubhav Sinha, Dia Mirza, Rahul Dholakia, Ali Fazal, Neeraj Ghaywan, Reema Kagti, Hansal Mehta, Vikramaditya Motwane, Saurabh Shukla, Rajkumar Gupta, joining the protestors.
On Sunday, a mob of masked young people stormed the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus in south Delhi and systematically targeted students in three hostels, unleashing mayhem with sticks, stones and iron rods, hitting inmates and breaking windows, furniture and personal belongings. The attack triggered protests across the country on Monday and the clamour grew for the resignation of the vice-chancellor, who is being blamed for inaction during the violence that left 34 people injured.
"We are with the students of all the three universities (Aligarh, Jamia and JNU) who were attacked," Sinha said. "We want to tell them, we are with them and we will stand for them every time." Pointing out how students have been at the forefront of the protests against the amended Citizenship Act, Kashyap said students across India woke up the country and he takes inspiration from them.
"I condemn the way police are controlled. The common man has been intimidated so much that now he is not afraid," the director said. "We stand by the students and they are our inspiration." "I ran away from Twitter and was busy in my work. I was like, 'Why should I bother? I am earning money and doing my work. Students have shown me the way, they have woken me up," he said.
"I returned because of them. I stand with them. I stand behind them. I am learning from them." The filmmaker said his message to the government was clear: focus on real issues and stop dividing people in the name of religion.
"We aren't fools. We are watching. We know how riots are caused, how these situations are created. We can see what you want to do and what's your intention and where you are taking us. We won't let you take us there," Kashyap said.
At the protest, people recited poems, sang songs and held placards criticising the government.Music composer Ankur Tewari sang a new track as the crowed tagged along. "Tere khauf kay keher se khamosh hum rahe, woh hum nahi. Tere khauf kay kay darr se zulmo sitam hum sahe, hum woh nahi (We are not the ones to stay silent because of you. We are not the ones to tolerate injustice because of you)," the lyrics went.
Actor Swara Bhasker hoped everyone in the country would now break their silence as "it's enough". "There's a saying in Hindi, 'Bahut hua sammaan (Enough of showing respect)," she said. "So, we have reached that stage in this country where we have shown enough respect to the government, the law and order machinery, which have repeatedly failed to fulfil their responsibility."
As the evening proceeded, people sang songs like "Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna", "Ho Gayi Hai Peer Parvat Si", "We Shall Overcome", "Tu Zinda Hai Tu Zindagi Ki Jeet Mein Yakeen Kar." The crowd also chanted "Mumbai Police Zindabad", as Sinha quipped: "Thank you for not detaining us." Sinha asked Bhardwaj to lead in reciting Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz's 'Hum Dekhenge', which was recently dubbed "anti-Hindu" and was the subject of much debate.
The filmmaker then recited 'Hum Dekhenge' as the crowd joined in, clapping to every beat. Bhardwaj was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remarks: "I want this government to be criticised. Criticism makes democracy strong. Bhardwaj followed it up by singing "Ao Na" from his acclaimed political drama "Haider" as the crowd cheered.
Lyricist Swanand Kirkire said they were there to protest against the violence at JNU, "which they are calling a 'clash' which it wasn't." He then recited a poem, 'Hindustan Kehte Hai Mujhe Main Gandhi Ka Desh Hu'. Later, the crowd and Mishra sang "Bawra Mann" from his acclaimed political film "Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi." The two-hour-long protest ended with the crowd singing the national anthem and chanting "Inquilab Zindabad".
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