January 26 was a day of double celebration for the residents of Islak village in Ahmednagar district in Maharashtra. As part of the day of honouring the republic, the Islak gram panchayat resolved not to cooperate with the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), thereby throwing in their lot with similar protests across the country against the Act.
The Islak gram panchayat took a bold decision in resolving not to cooperate in the implementation of the CAA, the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR). A resolution signed by the Sarpanch, Babasahed Gorange, and his deputy was sent to the headquarters of the Ahmednagar district administration.
The resolution was passed based on the fact that (like many across the country) most of Islak’s residents are landless farmers who have no official documentation to prove their existence leave alone their nationality. According to the 2011 census, the village has a population of 1,604 people and about 325 houses. It has no Muslim residents, a fact that nips in the bud any potential allegation that it is only Muslims who are protesting against the CAA.
Rural Maharashtra has always been politically aware and outspoken about its beliefs. In November last year, in the neighbouring district of Aurangabad, the gram panchayat of Jarandi village passed a resolution to cancel the ration cards of those who defecated in the open. The village was one of those that had toilets in every home as well as water.
In April 2015, the gram panchayat of Burondi, a village in the Konkan region, had passed a resolution to resolve internally any issues that might escalate into communal strife.
While it may be common for panchayats to decide on such things, it is definitely unusual for them to take it to the next level and issue written and signed declarations.