H.D.Kumaraswamy reads anti-CAA poem in Karnataka Assembly

Published : February 20, 2020 11:43 IST

Siraj Bisaralli (blue shirt) and Rajabakshi H.V. with their lawyers outside the court at Gangavathi in Koppal district after their release. Photo: By Special Arrangement

A protest against the detention of Siraj Bisaralli and Rajabakshi, at the Town Hall in Bengaluru. Photo: K. MURALI KUMAR

In a discussion in the Karnataka State Legislative Assembly on February 19 on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 (CAA), former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal (Secular) read out the controversial poem penned by the poet Siraj Bisaralli. The 43-year-old Koppal-based poet and television journalist faces a First Information Report (FIR) for reciting a Kannada poem against the CAA on January 15 at a public event at Anegundi in Koppal district. Reading out the poem, Kumaraswamy asked, “What is wrong in this poem? Haven’t poets like Nisar Ahmed written poems against politicians in the past? Why has he been charged? Why is the BJP misusing the police in Karnataka?”

Siraj Bisaralli and Rajabakshi H.V., editor of an online Kannada news portal, were detained by the police on February 18 following the filing of an FIR against them on January 24 under Sections 504 and 505 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) on the basis of a complaint by a BJP worker. Their plea for interim bail in Gangavathi in Koppal district was rejected and they were detained overnight. On February 19 they were granted bail.

Bisaralli’s poem, which went viral on social media platforms, is titled “When Will You Show Your Papers”, and asks Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah (even though it does not mention them by name) for their documents in the context of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which even senior BJP leaders including the Home Minister have linked to the CAA.

Rajabakshi’s crime is even more innocuous. All that he did was to share a recording of Bisaralli’s reading on social media.

The first paragraph of the poem states:

“In the queues for Aadhaar and ration cards,

Dealing with the foolery of biometrics and servers,

They are losing their livelihoods

You, who are asking for these documents,

When will you show your papers?”

The seven-paragraph poem continues in a similar vein with each paragraph ending with the refrain ‘When will you show your papers?’

Bisaralli’s custody has led to widespread condemnation. Neela K., a Kalaburagi-based activist who is associated with the All India Democratic Women’s Association, said that an undeclared emergency had been imposed in the country. The custody of Bisaralli follows the slapping of sedition charges against the mother and teacher of a 11-year-old girl who participated in an anti-CAA play in Bidar in north Karnataka. While the mother and teacher are currently out on bail, the charge of sedition remains and investigation is under way.

Former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, along with other senior Congress leaders in the State, attacked the B.S Yediyurappa-led government in the Legislative Assembly yesterday for misusing the police to further the BJP’s political agenda and to intimidate anti-CAA protesters.