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Jan 26, 2020-2020


Human Chain protesting CAA in Kerala



Keralites protesting CAA


BJP Central Govt. India, PM Narendra Modi


Citizenship laws should be equal for all religious groups.


Issue and Opposition: PM Modi and his party (BJP) are accused of being right-wing Hindu conservatives nurturing anti-Muslim sentiments and formulating anti-Muslim policies and laws. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 2019 (CAA) is an example of that. Passed on 11 December 2019, the CAA introduced certain amendments to its 1955 version. These amendments eased out a pathway to Indian citizenship for the Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Jain, Buddhists, and Parsis who faced religious persecution in Muslim-majority countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan because of their minority status and migrated to India before the end of 2014. Following the rationale that Muslims are the majority in Islamic countries and hence exempt from religious persecution, the CAA of 2019 does not extend similar provisions for Muslims. This was criticized by Indian Muslims, left-wing and opposition parties, and student groups as discriminatory, resulting in anti-Modi and BJP protests in different parts of the country.
Dilemma Action: In protest, activists of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala formed an almost 700-kilometer-long human chain or Manushya Maha Sringhala (Mega Human Network) on 26 January 2020. The date was chosen because it is India’s Republic Day. The human chain was truly mega in size with 6 to 7 million participants covering Kasaragod in the north to Kaliyikkavila in the south of the state. With every passing hour, an increased number of protesters from nearby districts formed human chains and joined the main chain. The human chain covered about 14 districts. For protesters to join in high numbers, LFD provided local transportation. This dilemma action was part of a larger campaign against the CAA.
Outcome: The CAA was not withdrawn by the Modi government despite high criticisms and countrywide protests by Muslims, Islamic political and non-political groups, and the leftist parties. The anti-CAA campaign received mixed reactions from the Indian population. While the BJP introduced no changes in the CAA after the action, the factions between ruling and opposition parties deepened during the preparation and staging of the action. In Kerala at the time of this dilemma action, the ruling party was the CPM-supported Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the opposition was the INC-supported United Democratic Front (UDF). When the formation of the human chain as a protest against the CAA was conceived, both parties united to show opposition to the CAA jointly. However, the alliance was brief and soon the UDF leadership decided to separate themselves from participating in the human chain. The friction between the two parties further deepened when the UDF leaders began commenting on how the leftists were trying to leverage the CAA issue to grab more Muslim votes in Kerala to secure their position in future elections. Interestingly, the regional Islamic party Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) was in coalition with the UDF and the leftist LDF. As UDF backed away from acting jointly with LDF over the human chain protest, as a coalition partner the IUML followed in its footsteps. Subsequently, IUML suspended one party worker because he participated in the human chain. Following the left-backed human chain, the UDF formed human maps in 12 Kerala states. The human map was formed with the help of thousands of UDF supporters who gathered in the configuration of the Indian map. Both human chain and human map received a lot of national and regional media attention although in terms of concessions, nothing was achieved.


Accountability / Corruption


Assemblies of protest or support



10 / 12

(CONC) Concessions were made

(EREP) Dilemma action got replicated by other movements

(MC) Media Coverage

(MSYMP) Media coverage was sympathetic to the activists

(OR) Opponent response

(PS) Dilemma action built sympathy with the public

(PUN) Punishment favored the activists

(REFR) Dilemma action reframed the narrative of the opponent

(RF) Dilemma action reduced fear and/or apathy among the activists

(SA) Dilemma action appealed to a broad segment of the public


3 / 3

Activist group continued working together after the action

Encouraged more participants to join the movement

Internally replicated by the same movement


Project documentation

Dilemma Actions Coding Guidebook

Case study documentation


CC BY 4.0 Deed, Attribution 4.0 International


France 24. 2020. “385-mile human chain: Indians line up to protest citizenship law,” Retrieved July 23, 2023. (https://www.france24.com/en/20200127-385-mile-human-chain-indians-line-up-to-protest-citizenship-law).

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/18/india-clamps-down-against-citizenship-law-protests. Accessed April 15, 2022. https://time.com/5752753/india-protest-ban/

USCIRF. 2020. “Legislation Factsheet: India,” Retrieved July 23, 2023. (https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2020%20Legislation%20Factsheet%20-%20India_0_0.pdf).

Raghunath, Arjun. 2020. “Kerala’s CPM-Congress joint anti-CAA stir short-lived,” DH. Retrieved July 23, 2023. (https://www.deccanherald.com/national/south/keralas-cpm-congress-joint-anti-caa-stir-short-lived-797834.html).

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