The Conversation – Shandilya, an associate professor of sexuality, women’s and gender studies, writes about the use of poetry in protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Recently implemented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the CAA discriminates against India’s Muslim population.

“Four years ago, university campuses and Muslim neighborhoods … were packed with people who, day after day, chanted slogans, belted out songs and recited poetry,” Shandilya writes, describing the response to the CAA’s passage. “Poetry seemed to unsettle the government the most.” Similar protests (though “more muted” because of increased police and paramilitary presence) have been happening since the law went into effect in March 2024.

Shandilya, who is at work on a book titled Urdu Poetry and Politics in Contemporary India, cites examples of poets—including Hussain Haidry and Faiz Ahmed Faiz—whose verses have sent resonant messages about the toppling of tyranny. She also explains the historical context and likely effects of the CAA: it “would effectively render millions of India’s Muslims, lower castes and the poor ineligible for government benefits. They would be unable to vote and would face a constant threat of displacement from the country of their birth.”