Kiran Vissa’s grassroot movement in Telangana to resist CAA-NRC [Interview]

Kiran Vissa

By Musheera Ashraf,

Kiran Vissa is a social activist based in Hyderabad working at the community level to raise awareness about the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR). He is currently working with “Citizens Against NRC-NPR-CAA, Telangana” which is a group of concerned citizens of the state out to inform people about the citizenship laws.

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Kiran has been working with Citizens Against NRC-NPR-CAA for four months now and is focused mainly on organizing Mohalla campaigns to reach out to multiple communities. In our recent interview with the activist, we tried to understand the problems and challenges involved in leading a grassroots movement against the CAA-NRC.

How did you start your movement against CAA-NRC?

When I came to know about CAA and NRC, my immediate response was to educate my own family and friends about it. Initially, I fasted for 48 hours to encourage dialogues with my own people to show them how CAA-NRC are dividing my country into fragments and I, as a citizen would not accept it. My fasting for a cause instantly drew concerns from my friends and family who realized it matters so much to me and that is how we started full-fledged awareness campaigns. Following the response we got, we started posting about this on Facebook and subsequently messaging our immediate circles asking them to join.

What was the response of the people? 

My position as a social activist is clear among my family and friends so many of them started to empathize by joining dialogues and hearing us out. Through my Facebook page, I started posting information about this Act under the title ‘Dialogue With Friends’ and soon many like-minded people who could think rationally, came together. Although many opposed me, I am glad that several others at least got convinced that something is definitely wrong with what is going on.

How and why did you feel the need to reach out to rural areas? Which areas have you covered till now?

When we saw rallies covering large distances, often rural areas among the vicinity, we realized that these people, away from the cities definitely understand something is wrong but due to lack of authentic resources might fall prey to paranoia situations and misconceptions. That is when we came together as “People Against CAA-NRC-NPR, Telangana” and began visiting mohallas or jhuggis in rural Telangana to educate them about the major threats of this Act.

Our mohalla campaigns are usually local people assisting us to gather at one place – usually rooftops or community centers where we initiate informative discussions and conversations at the ground level. As of now, we have collectively reached rural vicinities including Padmanagar Basti and Peerzadi Guda.

What is the response of people in rural areas? How is CAA-NRC different from other issues?

More women are attending the meetings than men. People from both sides (both Hindu and Muslims) have many misconceptions about the law.

Normally when an Act or issue is discussed, general consciousness among people is not built but CAA-NRC has become a big public issue and people are equally keen to know about it on a massive scale.

What have you been doing to persuade them in a better way?

To build a direct connection at the community level, our group has prepared informative pamphlets on NRC-CAA-NPR in both Telugu and English. In these pamphlets, we provide basic questions and answers about the laws. We also included some of the examples from NRC experiences in Assam. We distribute them to build a better understanding. One of the most widely distributed pamphlets is titled “Don’t Use Citizenship as a Weapon against the Poor, Minorities, Women, Dalit and Adivasis”.

We also reached out to organizations like Domestic Workers’ Union and other organizations working for homeless people and we are the first in Telegana to do so.

Among the people of rural areas, what matters more – the threat to their existence or coming together as a nation?

Among Muslims, there is a major perception that they are under threat. But it is not only the self-threat perception. Many people who are not under fear of being excluded are also convinced in coming out because they think that the nation is heading in the wrong direction.

Is it getting more difficult to get permission from the state officials to organize protests in Telangana?

The politicization of the situation is the main reason that is scaring people. The very first protest in Hyderabad was from our side. We project ourselves as citizens’ group and not as any political group.

But now after the Million March, internal politics is creating a major problem. The Police are reluctant to not permit many of the protests due to this. We are planning to file a case against the Telangana government for not allowing protests because they are basic to freedom of expression. In such a situation when protests are not being allowed, we still manage to call indoor meetings and mohalla campaigns.

What is the working strategy of “Citizens against NPR-NRC-CAA”? Do you think you have been successful so far?

As a group, we have divided responsibilities according to the differentiated prowess of the members. Some of our active members include Ms. Asma Zehra, Zahid, and Meera. They are the main speakers at events. However, we want to invite more people to join us. For this, we have now started sending an open invite so anyone who wants to join comes and speaks. We had sought permission for building a human chain and with a lot of struggle, we eventually got permission after assuring the concerned authorities that we have no political inclination. While many parallel forums and individuals are contributing to different causes at their own levels, we are individually focussing on ‘What is the real problem’.

 What is the future of these protests and what are your plans?

The main thing is we as a nation are reclaiming the democratic space. I am fasting for peace on March 1st. This is a call for a personal response to the Delhi riots. It is a call to fast for peace and dialogue with friends. You can keep a track of our future protests through