‘Traffic At Shaheen Bagh A Mess But A Small Price For…’

Mohammad Atif, a 24-year-old M Tech student who stays in Shaheen Bagh, says the cause to save our Constitution is bigger than the minor inconvenience for the local commuters in the locality

I belong to Lucknow but have been staying in south Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh area for several months at my cousin’s house. I came here to complete my M. Tech dissertation which coincided with the eruption of Jamia protests and the aftermath. And what a time it has been to be in Shaheen Bagh!

I had to visit my institute in South Delhi daily when the protests were in full swing. I did have to take a longer route to reach because of the arterial 2.5 km stretch at Shaheen Bagh being closed. The protest site isn’t disturbing people as much as the excessive blockades /barriers put in place by the administration even when some feel they are not needed.

ALSO READ: ‘Govt Must Talk To Protesters’

Even newspapers/websites are now reporting that a few of the alternative routes didn’t even need to be blocked and is causing problems to people unnecessarily, especially those travelling to and from Noida, Sarita Vihar, Kalindi Kunj, Jamia, and an alternative route to Faridabad.

Indeed travelling into and out of Shaheen Bagh is even more cumbersome for a daily commuter. For me too, with petrol prices remaining consistently high, travelling the extra stretch to reach my institute on a bike has increased the budget for sure, though not considerably.

ALSO READ: ‘Shaheen Inspired Kadru Bagh In Ranchi’

Many people who earlier used to get picked up and dropped at their respective houses for their offices in Noida now have to take the Metro as the cabs can’t enter inside Shaheen Bagh. This might be a difficult thing, especially for women who get dropped during the night. Moreover, travelling in the Metro also cause a dent in many people’s pockets. Middle class might not feel the pinch as much, but the lower income group for whom every penny is important, is finding it more difficult.

However, most locals are considering it as their contribution to nation-building and don’t mind suffering a little bit if the protest makes their voices reach the powers that be. Ambulances and school buses are moving easily though.

WATCH: ‘Modi Has Woken Up A Sleeping Tiger’

The protest site is near the commercial hub of Shaheen Bagh, so many a shop, outlet etc. have been closed for two months now. It is affecting the livelihoods of people, but again they feel that they are contributing in saving the Constitution and all that it stands for. We just hope that a solution is reached soon and the government initiates a dialogue with the protesters.

There are a few residences near the protest site and I wonder how they are handling all the sounds from loudspeakers day in and day out, though I have been told and have witnessed too ke protest bahut tameez se ki ja rahi hai. Poora khayal rakha ja raha hai ke kisi ko koi pareshani na ho (The protests are being done in a very nice manner and care is being taken that nobody suffers because of the protests).

‘CAA Protesters Are Ill-Informed, Govt Must Talk To Them’

Aashi Sanjaya, an IT professional in Delhi-NCR, feels anti-CAA protesters at Shaheen Bagh do not fully understand what NRC and CAA are all about. The government must initiate dialogue with them to allay their fears

I wholeheartedly support the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). For a country as huge and populous as ours we surely need to be in the know about the people living here, so that our safety and security isn’t compromised. First, we should remove illegal immigrants with the help of NRC and later, with the help of CAA, give relief and refuge to those who have come to India after being persecuted in the neighbourhood on the basis of their religion. We have suffered for far too long when it comes to security concerns and we can’t afford to be lax anymore.

As for people who are opposing it, I think they need to inform themselves better. On the government’s part, it should open communication channel at multiple levels (right from the ground level authorities to the ministers) to alleviate the fears of people.

ALSO READ: ‘CAA Will Give Citizenship, Not Take It Away’

The logic behind CAA is simple. If Muslims are being persecuted in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, they have many Islamic countries (more than 50 I believe), but if Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists etc. are being persecuted on the basis of religion, which country do they turn to except India?

I think people need to understand this very clearly that the Home Minister Amit Shah isn’t going to take away the citizenship of Indian Muslims through NRC or CAA. Indian Muslims are safe here.

ALSO READ: ‘If Amit Shah Can’t Budge, Shaheen Bagh Won’t Either’

I don’t understand what the protests are all about. Sometimes, I feel people are protesting just for the sake of protesting. I belong to Lucknow where Hindus and Muslims have coexisted peacefully with each other for long. Believe me the ground situation is pretty difficult than what is portrayed in the media.

If people are scared, why are they sitting on the roads and making the lives of ordinary citizens difficult? Take a leaf out of a corporate setting. If, for example, I fear that something wrong might happen with me in future jobwise, shouldn’t I try to talk to my seniors or should I just go out on the road and start telling everyone that I am being treated unfairly? A public protest should probably happen after every other peaceful option to talk to the senior managers have failed.

ALSO WATCH: Modi Has Woken UP A Sleeping Tiger

Similarly I feel people from Shaheen Bagh should have formed a committee/group and taken the matter up with local representatives first and then to the higher authorities. Then if the authorities didn’t take any steps, the ball would be in their court. That might actually bring about some real change as well.

Do these protesters realise the hardships being caused to daily commuters and road users because of their protests?

My father has been keeping unwell since last year and I travel every weekend from Gurgaon to Noida to meet him, many a times alone. Due to the Shaheen Bagh protests I have to take a longer route (which goes through deserted stretches in some places), plus I am able to spend less time with my parents. I wonder how other people with family members who are unwell are managing, or women who have travel on this stretch everyday are managing. Proper communication from both the sides is the need of the hour.

Will JP Nadda Come Out Of Shah’s Shadow?

The humiliating defeat suffered by the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Delhi assembly election has not proved to be an auspicious beginning for the party’s month-old president JP Nadda. Though it is true that it was Union Home Minister Amit Shah who led the party’s high-decibel campaign in Delhi, history books will record the result as BJP’s first electoral drubbing under Nadda’s stewardship.

Out of power for over two decades, the BJP was predictably desperate to take control in Delhi. But the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party proved to be a formidable opponent and the BJP fell by the wayside once again.

Well before Nadda took over as the BJP’s 11th president, it was widely acknowledged that he will not enjoy the same powers as his predecessor Amit Shah did but, nevertheless, would be called to take responsibility for the party’s poll defeats as well as organisational matters.

Nadda began his tenure with a disadvantage as it is difficult to live up to Shah’s larger-than-life image. Amit Shah, who served as BJP president for five years has easily been the most powerful party head in recent times. Known for his supreme organisational skills, Shah is chiefly responsible for the BJP’s nation-wide expansion, having built a vast network of party workers and put in place formidable election machinery. No doubt Modi’s personality, charisma and famed oratory drew in the crowds but there is no denying that Shah contributed equally to the string of electoral victories notched by the BJP over the last five years.

ALSO READ: Shah Could Be Most Decisive HM

Given that Shah has revamped the party organisation from scratch and placed his loyalists in key positions, there are serious doubts that the affable, low-key and smiling Nadda will be allowed functional autonomy. Will he be able to take independent decisions, will he constantly be looking over his shoulder, will he be allowed to appoint his own team or will he be a lame-duck party president? These are the questions doing the rounds in the BJP as there is all-round agreement that Shah will not relinquish his grip over the party organisation. This was evident in the run-up to the Delhi assembly polls as it was Shah and not Nadda who planned and led the party’s election campaign.

In fact, it is acknowledged that Nadda was chosen to head the BJP precisely because he is willing to play the second fiddle to Shah. Party leaders maintain that the new president is unlikely to make any major changes in the near future and that he will be consulting Shah before taking key decisions. For the moment, state party chiefs appointed by Shah have been re-elected, ensuring that the outgoing party president remains omnipresent.

ALSO READ: Anti-CAA Protests Erupt In Country

Though Nadda has inherited a far stronger party organisation as compared to his earlier predecessors, the new BJP president also faces a fair share of challenges. He has taken over as party chief at a time when the BJP scraped through in the Haryana assembly polls, failed to form a government in Maharashtra and was roundly defeated in Jharkhand. The party’s relations with its allies have come under strain while the ongoing protests against the new citizenship law, the National Register of Citizens and the National Population Register have blotted the BJP’s copybook.

These developments have predictably came as a rude shock to the BJP leadership and its cadres who were convinced that the party was invincible, especially after it came to power for a second consecutive term last May with a massive mandate.

WATCH: Modi Has Woken Up A Sleeping Tiger

Nadda’s first task has been to boost the morale of party workers and make them believe that the recent assembly poll results were a flash in the pan and that the BJP’s expansion plans are on course.

After Delhi, the Bihar election poses the next big challenge this year. The party’s ally, the Janata Dal (U), has upped the ante, meant primarily to mount pressure on the BJP for a larger share of seats in this year’s assembly elections. Realising that the BJP cannot afford to alienate its allies at this juncture, Amit Shah has already declared Nitish Kumar as the coalition’s chief ministerial candidate, which effectively puts the Janata Dal (U) in the driver’s seat. This has upset the BJP’s Bihar unit which has been pressing for a senior role in the state and is even demanding that the next chief minister should be from their party.          

The BJP has to necessarily treat its allies with kid gloves as they have been complaining  about the saffron party’s “big brother” attitude and that they are being taken for granted. While Shiv Sena has already parted company with the BJP, other alliance partners like the Lok Janshakti Party and the Shiromani Akali Dal have also questioned the BJP’s style of functioning.

The crucial West Bengal assembly election next year will also be held during Nadda’s tenure. The BJP has been working methodically on the ground in this state for the past several years now and has staked its prestige on dethroning Mamata Banerjee.

ALSO READ: West Bengal Follows AAP Model

But the Trinamool Congress chief is putting up a spirited fight, sending out a clear message to the BJP that it will not be so easy to oust her. Banerjee has declared war against the Modi government on the issues pertaining to the CAA-NRC-NPR and also activated her party cadres who have spread across the state to explain the implications of the Centre’s decision to the poor and illiterate. The BJP, on the other hand, is struggling to get across its message.

As in the case of Delhi, Shah can be expected to take charge of the Bihar and West Bengal assembly polls while Nadda will, at best, be a marginal player. Again it will be left to Shah to mollify the party’s allies as it is too sensitive and important a task to be handled by Nadda.

Like all political parties led by strong leaders, a BJP defeat will be seen as Nadda’s failure while a victory will be credited to Modi and Shah.

Anti-CAA Protests – Opposition Must Seize The Moment

Contrary to an earlier public perception, the agitation against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens is not petering out. In fact, the January 5 armed attack by masked “goons” on students and teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University has triggered a wave of protests on university campuses across the country.

It  is still not clear if the student community, which has been joined by others, will be able to sustain these protests but there is no doubt that the youth is angry and is not afraid of hitting the street and taking on the ruling dispensation.

ALSO READ: Deconstructing India’s New Citizenship Law

The Modi government, however, has refused to backtrack on the implementation of the CAA though Prime Minister Narendra Modi has attempted to allay fears over a proposed nation-wide NRC, saying the matter has not been discussed in the Cabinet. Home Minister Amit Shah, on the other hand, has made it abundantly clear that the government has no intention of revoking the new citizenship law and that a nation-wide NRC was very much on the table.

Instead of opening a dialogue with the agitators, the Centre has sought to crush the protests by unleashing the police on the dissenters and accused the opposition of inciting violence with its faulty interpretation of the citizenship law.

At the same time, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its ministers have embarked on a door-to-door campaign to explain the provisions of the CAA to the people and dispel any misconceptions about the law. The citizenship law, it is being explained, is not about taking away citizenship but giving citizenship to persecuted Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Christians from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. Muslims have been omitted from this list.

ALSO READ: Citizenship Law And Justice For All

Convinced that the protests will gradually peter out, the Modi government has undoubtedly been taken aback by the fact that the demonstrators are continuing with their fight. But the Centre is confident that this crisis will blow over as it believes that those opposing the CAA are in a minority and that the new law has failed to erode its support base. On the contrary, the BJP is convinced that the new citizenship law enjoys the popular support of the silent majority who are unmoved by the argument that it tinkers with the basic structure of the Indian Constitution. As for the NRC and NPR, the implications of this exercise have yet to be comprehended by the people who are, by and large, unconcerned about it as long as it does not affect them personally.

In fact, the BJP is actively working to ensure that the ongoing protests are perceived to be organized and led primarily by Muslims. This strategy has been particularly effective in Uttar Pradesh where its rabid chief minister Yogi Adityanath ordered a brutal police crackdown on Muslims in which 20 persons were killed and several injured. In a state which is already highly polarised, it is not surprising that Yogi’s tactics have resonated with the people and resulted in further Hindu consolidation in favour of the BJP.

The objective is to keep the “communal” pot boiling in order to reap electoral benefit first in Delhi and, more importantly, in next year’s assembly election in West Bengal, a state which the BJP is extremely keen to wrest from Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress. Here again, the BJP is not unduly worried about the intellectuals, writers and activists who are agitating against the CAA. The party is instead keen on weaning away the underclass from the Trinamool as it is the BJP’s understanding that playing up the Hindu-Muslim divide with its repeated emphasis on illegal immigration appeals to this section.  

ALSO READ: If Amit Shah Can’t Budge On CAA, Shaheen Bagh Won’t Either

The BJP is also helped by the fact that the opposition is hopelessly divided and has been virtually rendered irrelevant during these protests which have been led by students and ordinary citizens.  While most opposition parties have rejected the new citizenship law, the NRC and the NPR, they have proved incapable of taking leadership of these protests or giving it any direction.

The opposition has also failed, so far, to communicate how the NPR and NRC will impact an ordinary citizen, especially the poor and the illiterate. The only exception here is West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee who lost no time in hitting the streets and spelling out the dangers of the BJP’s latest policies. However, the political class is still trying to gauge if the protests are confined to the urban areas and whether the message has truly percolated down to the rural hinterland.

In an attempt to take advantage of the growing anger among the people, Congress president Sonia Gandhi called a meeting of opposition parties on January 13 to draw up a joint strategy on the CAA-NRC-NPR as well as the students’ agitation but several parties including the Trinamool Congress, the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Shiv Sena and the DMK chose to stay away from it. The 20 parties which did attend reiterated their opposition to the new citizenship law and demanded that the NPR be suspended and the NRC be put in cold storage.

However, the big challenge before the opposition is to enlarge the protests beyond students and activists in urban areas by bringing in different sections like Dalits and farmers to cash in on their disillusionment with the BJP. For this, they clearly have to move away from conference rooms and connect with the people. Unless the opposition gets its act together and ensures that its message reaches an ordinary citizen, the BJP’s powerful and well-oiled propaganda machinery will always have the upper hand. 

Anti-Citizenship Law Protest In Delhi

‘If Amit Shah Can’t Budge On CAA, Shaheen Bagh Won’t Either’

Shaheen Kousar, a 44-year old protester at Shaheen Bagh, tells LokMarg why Muslim women have come out to resist Modi government’s move on Citizenship Act and National Register of Citizen

Yes, I am Shaheen from Shaheen Bagh. And I, along with many other women, have resolved to take this battle forward with my faith and inner strength. The Modi government has to listen to what we have to say about CAA-NRC. Is the government wondering as to why the Muslim women who did not take to streets even when the Triple Talaq Bill was brought in, have now come out in such a strong manner? Because now the very existence of our children and our own existence and this country’s social fabric is at stake.

Our protest site is located near NH-24 and is known as the Shaheen Bagh Highway. While some people are complaining that our protest is affecting traffic, many other people from other parts of Delhi are coming to us and interacting with us and telling us that they support us.

It is heartening to see that people from all religions are showing their love and support to us. It’s not like we don’t feel cold and tired. We go home only for 4-5 hours every day. But till the time we are at the protest site, people who have their residence near the site have opened their homes (including their kitchens and washrooms) for us.

People used to say that in big cities people don’t even interact with their neighbours, but look at the beauty of it, how people are now trusting complete strangers because they believe in a common goal. To put it succinctly, the warmth of human interactions isn’t letting us feel the cold.

Moreover, we are protesting in an organized manner. We have divided duties among ourselves. Some people are responsible for food, others for sanitation, and a few others for security. Thankfully the organisation of the protest has been so good that no untoward incident has taken place. Is bar aar ya paar wali bat hai (This is a do or die situation). If our Home Minister isn’t ready to go back an inch, then we are also staying put here.

It’s not like we don’t understand the nitty-gritties of what an act like CAA entails deep down. Having to manage chilly weather, biting winters coupled with rains, police batons, household work as well as office work, nothing is going to weaken our resolve that the government take this act back.

Amit Shah as well as our Prime Minister Narendra Modi have said it is just about giving citizenship to people (except Muslims) from three countries. Fine, but then what are these detention centres being prepared for? It is for those inside the country who won’t be able to prove their citizenship. The government is giving confusing signals whether detention centres exist or not. This time we aren’t going to take things at face value.

If they can hurt unarmed and vulnerable students in Jamia and JNU, who is to say that things are going to be better later on? The NRC exercise in Assam showed there were only 19 lakh people who couldn’t prove their citizenship, then the government brought in CAA. Now they are talking about NPR (National Population Register).

I am a director at a school and by God’s grace, like many other women, I have been able to manage my home, my professional life as well as coming to the protest site. We are doing all this for our nation, for our children and we hope God will keep providing us with the strength to carry forward. If the kids can be strong and fearless in the face of brutality fir to hum bhi beraham aur tang-nazar logon ke samne aawaz utha hi sakte hain. Magar hum wo aawaz shanti se uthana chahte hain. (if students can show their resistance to police brutality, we too can raise our voice against a suppressive, and narrow-vision regime. But we want to raise this voice democratically and peacefully). Our resolve should speak volumes.

Modi Govt Has Dented India’s Image Abroad

When External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, a seasoned diplomat who understands America well, declined to meet a US Congressional delegation that included an Indian-origin member critical of India’s current Kashmir policy, eyebrows were raised. Besides Kashmir, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and a National Register of Citizens (NRC) that are widely perceived as discriminatory have painted a negative picture of India abroad.   

Signals are unmistakable. United States Ambassador to India, Ken Justor, has removed from his official web account pictures of him visiting different religious shrines. Diplomats posted in New Delhi do not speak on record but they convey their ‘concerns’ privately. Their classified reports sent back home couldn’t be positive.

Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe, although a friend of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and foreign minister of Bangladesh, India’s friendliest neighbour, recently postponed their visits. Dhaka is having to do diplomatic fire-fighting to prevent domestic fallout. While foreign governments are silently monitoring, some of their lawmakers, representative bodies and the media are vocal.

For many weeks, protests over the two laws are raging across the country and not just in the winter-hit North; in cities and not just the university campus where they are accused by the Modi Government and its voluble political and ‘cultural’ arms as housing “urban Naxals”. The government says these protests are engineered by disgruntled political parties and groups of Left-liberals and “anti-nationals” who are “pro-Pakistan”, having an agenda to “break” (tukde-tukde is the term).

The reality is quite different. Violence which has hit many a university campus, critics say, is officially sponsored. Only, the government does not want to acknowledge it. Over 25 protestors have died. Unsurprisingly, the world sees it as a Hindu-Muslim conflict. Nothing draws international attention to a country more than a religious conflict.

Some of the government’s political allies and members of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) are, after supporting it have, quite opportunistically, done a U-turn.

The government has been assuring foreign governments that its actions, taken and those intended, are its “internal matter”. But widespread protests indicate that concerns persist.  Being a democracy, shutting out the Internet in parts of the country in this information age, legislating and acting without conducting due processes and marshalling of evidence before declaring chunks of population as “illegal immigrants”, even if they came from neighbouring countries, cannot exactly be seen as “internal”.

More so, because far from being a hush-hush exercise, it is part of a high decibel public discourse. The government’s credibility is being seriously questioned. Its aggressive, even toxic justification, calling supposed illegal migrants ‘termites’ and its policy’s critics ‘traitors’ has worsened things.     

Worst, perhaps, is enacting CAA to accord unsolicited citizenship to people in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. If it is meant to undo ‘injustice’ done to them during 1947 Partition, as the official argument goes, why Afghanistan, not really a part of the British Empire, and where India has invested billions to earn goodwill, is included? Why Buddhist majority Sri Lanka, the Maldives with near-total Muslim population, Hindu majority Nepal are excluded remains unexplained. Why a number of communities with microscopic or zero populations in those countries like Jains and Zoroastrians, are included? It is obvious, by process of elimination, why Muslims are not.

Asking people of other countries to become Indian citizens casts aspersions and is an affront to their sovereignty. Two questions arise. One, have those people sought Indian citizenship and two, what has been done about those who have sought and are already in India?           

The Modi Government with over four years left to renew its current popular mandate is firmly in saddle. But the restiveness at home has certainly hit its popularity abroad. What message an expelled foreign student on university exchange scholarship and a Norwegian woman tourist asked to leave for participating in protests carry back? 

Leaving out political shenanigans, the issues coming to fore are how the world looks at India. Since its Independence, it has been comfortable with an India that, despite all its flaws, is pluralist, tolerant of its great diversities and essentially democratic and federal, where rule of law by and large has prevailed. Indeed, progress following economic reforms of the 1990s, democratic values, culture and the positive role of the diaspora have defined India’s image so far.

Pakistan figuring in India’s political discourse has had many debilitating effects. It has revived the “two-nation” theory – treating Hindus and Muslims as separate ‘nations’ that India had rejected right from the beginning. But this has been Home Minister Amit Shah’s principal justification for enacting the twin laws.

The Hindutva fervour has made India seem a mirror image of Pakistan. Ordinary Indians seem like Pakistan-haters and by implication, wary, suspicious and even hostile to fellow-Muslims. Despite recurring sectarian violence that is mostly politically inspired, this has not been India’s record.   

The tragedy is that Modi Government’s own development agenda has been overtaken by the political one. This is compounded by an economic slowdown, a halved GDP, dip in rural spending, increasing evidence of joblessness and farm distress. Most of the political agenda that it is in haste to implement is strongly divisive and two together have contributed to its current image abroad.

Many Indians reject this as foreign ‘interference’ in internal matters. But being democratic, India is not water-tight. There is no absolute freedom, be it political or economic on how religious, ethnic and other minorities are treated in a country. Support to this thinking comes from some European scholars who are mesmerized by Hinduism but are unable to distinguish it from the political agenda currently sought to be thrust. Sadly, many Indians have also fallen victims f this.       

Some of the Modi Government’s own achievements during its first term (2014-2019) are being undone on the diplomatic. Modi’s close rapport with Trump, including “Howdy Modi” has not prevented Congressional censures, the US from trying to block crucial defence purchases, restricting visa facilities, pressurising on “buy more” of American goods and getting India into the US-China trade crosshair. Rapport with Saudi Arabia and the UAE have fetched investment pledges. But that has not stopped the two royalties from holding a Kashmir conference to boost Pakistan’s standpoint. The personal rapport that Modi has painstakingly struck with many a world leader has its limits.

Ditto, the diaspora. They respond to the Indian situation because the governments in the countries they live treat them accordingly. The admiring crowds that thronged Madison Square Garden and Wembley are silent. After Shinzo Age postponed his India visit, a small group was shown supporting the controversial laws in Tokyo. You wonder for whose benefit these expensive shows of solidarity are staged. Politicizing diaspora, even assuming many are Modi admirers, has its limits too.

Granted that we are living in a world — societies down to individuals and families — that is getting divided, if the birthplace of Yoga does not have peace for its own citizens, its plans to become “vishwaguru” (teacher to the world) carry little relevance.

The writer can be reached at mahendraved07@gmail.com

Watch – ‘With CAA, Modi Has Woken Up A Sleeping Tiger’

LokMarg visits Shaheen Bagh in south Delhi, where hundreds of protesters, largely women, have been sitting on demonstration against Citizenship Amendment Act since December 14. They say Modi government has woken up a sleeping tiger and they will not back down till the anti-Constitutional law is revoked.

Citizenship Law And Justice For All!

The blood in Uttar Pradesh has still not dried. At least 22 people have died in various towns of this state, even as clashes continue. The police in a bizarre argument has said that the people killed, died because of the crossfire within protesters. Only the UP Police can give such an argument even while media reports say they allegedly went inside homes of Muslims in Muzaffarnagar at midnight, beat up residents, including women and children, broke whatever they saw including refrigerators, TVs and washing machines, and stole money. Despite the police denial, there is visual evidence to prove how law enforcement agents became lawless goons loaded with a communal bias. After all, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had called for ‘revenge’. That the Prime Minister, the Home Minister are backing Yogi is also without doubt.

Will the people of Uttar Pradesh get justice?

In 1984, media reporters, including this writer, were on the spot in the State-sponsored killings of Sikhs in Delhi and elsewhere, master-minded by Congress goons and politicians, especially in Delhi. The mediapersons covered on foot bloody lanes and bylanes in east and west Delhi, witnessed the burnt out homes with the smell of kerosene.  

Also Read: Deconstructing India’s New Citizenship Law

When a big tree falls, the earth will shake, said Rajiv Gandhi, then. The Congress ran a diabolical and sinister anti-Sikh campaign after Indira Gandhi’s assassination by her own bodyguards. The Congress won by a huge margin in the next national polls. The BJP got two seats in the Lok Sabha. It took more than three decades to put Sajjan Kumar in jail. After god knows how many commissions of enquiry.

How did the Sikhs feel then? Did they get justice? No.

Ask the Muslims of Hashimpura, Maliana and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh about 1987 violence. Taken out with their hands up in the lanes of their colonies, with guns pointing at them, scores were shot in cold blood by a communal Provincial Armed Constabulary in mafia/Nazi execution style, their bodies dumped in the Hindon river. It was a Congress regime at the Centre and the state.

Did they, their relatives, the survivors, the community, get justice? No.

Not till date, after 33 years. And what was the message to the Muslims by a so-called secular regime? Trust, you know, you were, you are, you will be, always, second class citizens of independent, modern India, though you willfully chose a secular democratic State, not a theocratic State.

Did the secular Indian society get justice in the protracted Babri Masjid demolition issue which was trapped in the labyrinths of the judicial process for decades? Who led the demolition as a public spectacle under a BJP regime in Lucknow, who were the leaders who were openly celebrating the demolition in Ayodhya, while Indian and foreign journalists were getting bashed up by the Bajrang Dal activists? Who led the Somnath-to-Ayodhya regime with the slogan: Mandir wahin Banayenge?

Was anyone held responsible for the riots that followed and killed scores across the damned Indian landscape?

Did anyone get punished for the killings of Muslims in Bombay in the macabre winter of 1992-93, despite the meticulously documented Sri Krishna Commission Report? Did the Congress, NCP, BJP, Shiv Sena regime implement the report?

I will skip the details about the 2002 barbaric, State-sponsored genocide in Gujarat under the helm of Narendra Modi. Mediapersons reported the genocide in great details and even after 2002 kept digging and documenting. We waited for justice after the macabre gang-rapes and killings, the people burnt alive as a public spectacle, and the fake encounters that followed. Not one, a series of fake encounters. Mission Assassination Modi – they were called.

Did the mass murderers get punished? Did the fake encounter specialists get punished? Did the Muslims of Gujarat get justice? No.

Till date, almost four months after 8 million people in Kashmir, under military occupation, await justice from the highest court. In Assam, almost 19 lakh Indians, mostly Hindus, tribals, Gorkhas and indigenous communities, apart from Muslims, have been left out of the National Register of Citizens and condemned allegedly as foreigners or ‘doubtful voters’ – will they get justice? Undoubtedly, no.

It is a good thing too. The loss of faith should energise the political struggle. Because, it is the non-violent political struggle which will liberate us from our masters’ masculine arrogance and disregard for all institutions, including the Indian Constitution. Can we have faith in the courts in contemporary times? That is the widespread question right now across the spectrum which had always believed in the judicial process, especially the Supreme Court.

However, the peaceful political resistance and mass movement must do what it must, as a political struggle, and not seek judicial intervention which might effectively kill the movement. And it is a struggle which is secular. Everywhere, in Assam and the Northeast, as much as all over India now, from Kurnool in Andhra to Nuh in Mewat, from Mumbai to Kolkata. It has spread and taught the masculine arrogance of the current regime a good lesson.

But there is a remote possibility of justice, especially when it is political struggle for justice. But who will turn the tide? A mass movement, in synthesis with theory and praxis, led by the young. A peaceful, non-violent, united mass movement – as it is now happening across the Indian landscape, as a rainbow revolution. Yes, led by the young.

There is no defeat in a movement. All movements are victorious, for they create a spiral of new movements and ideas and adventures and literature and cinema, counter-culture and knowledge systems. They create new scaffoldings of resistance and barricades.

That is why an idea cannot be killed. That is why Bhagat Singh and his comrades, as much as Babasaheb Ambedkar, or even Lenin and Che and Fidel, can never die. Nor will Gramsci. Nor will the Mahatma.

There is hope in a non-violent, Gandhian, mass upsurge. ‘Don’t be silent, Don’t be violent’ – as the current slogan says, among an extraordinary repertoire of brilliant slogans. Like a hundred flowers blooming, and one hundred new sublime schools of thought.

Deconstructing India’s New Citizenship Law

In an impassioned speech to mark the launch of his party’s campaign for the Delhi elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi repeatedly assured Indian Muslims that the recently enacted Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAA) or the proposed roll-out of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) would not discriminate against those who were born in India. This comes in the wake of widespread protests, mainly by urban students, across India. The protests, including violent incidents leading to destruction of public property and clashes with police, spread across India, before being quelled.

What were the reasons for the sudden and spontaneous uprising by students? Mr Modi and his colleagues in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) attribute it to their political rivals, chiefly the Congress party, who they claim have provoked the agitations by the students in order to gain electoral advantage in the forthcoming state elections, notably in Delhi, which goes to the polls in early 2020. But Mr Modi’s critics and the student agitators believe that the CAA and, potentially, the NRC, discriminate against Muslims, while they favour almost all other religious minorities. The Act and the register, critics feel, will further marginalise India’s population of 200 million Muslims and turn the country into a majoritarian state, dominated by Hindus, which is contrary to the secularist tenet of the nation’s Constitution.

What exactly does the CAA intend to do? Primarily, the Act amends the existing Indian Citizenship law, which prohibits illegal migrants from becoming Indian citizens. The old law prohibits illegal foreigners who enter India without valid visas or travel documents from staying in the country and denies them Indian citizenship. Under the new Act, which Mr Modi’s government has formulated, there are exceptions to that law. Now, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, and jains (notably not Muslims), if they have genuinely immigrated from Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afghanistan, will be allowed to stay in India and can be eligible for citizenship if they live or work in the country for six years. The government believes that this will provide sanctuary to those who have fled other countries because of religious persecution.

What then is the controversy surrounding the CAA? The Modi regime’s critics argue that the new Act discriminates against Muslims and, therefore, goes against the secular principles in the Indian Constitution. By separating Mulsims and non-Muslims, the Act, critics feel incorporates religious discrimination into a law and that runs counter to India’s long-standing secular principles. If illegal immigrants from other religions are allowed to seek refuge legally in India, why not also the Muslims who are persecuted in other countries. People belonging to certain sects in Pakistan (Ahmadis, for instance) or in Myanmar (Rohingyas) face oppression and persecution in their countries. Why should they be denied sanctuary? they ask.

What is the controversy over the NRC? The NRC is a register of people who are able to show proper credentials to prove that they came to India before March 24, 1971, the eve of the formation of Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan), which neighbours India. Initially, the register was introduced in Assam, which has for decades faced a problem of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Before the register was published, the BJP government had rooted for it but after it was found to be ridden by errors—millions, primarily Bengali Hindus, were excluded—it was scrapped and could now be re-framed. The CAA and the NRC are interlinked. Now, non-Muslims who were exclude from the register could seek citizenship and not face deportation, particularly in states such as Assam.

The Modi regime, led by Home minister Amit Shah, now wants to roll out the NRC across all Indian states. This would mean illegal immigrants would have to prove their credentials in order to be entitled to permission to stay on in India. Critics believe that coupled with the CAA this could discriminate against Muslims who have migrated to India and have been staying in the country for a long time. Non-Muslims who are not on the NRC could be protected by the CAA and, hence, seek citizenship by naturalisation, while Muslims who are on listed on the register would be denied the right to stay.

What is the provocation for the protests? The student agitation—which Mr Modi and his colleagues in government say is a movement by “urban Naxals” (a reference to the ultra-Left Wing violent uprisings that peaked in the 1970s)—is fuelled by the view that the new law would discriminate against the largest minority community in India (the 200 million Muslims in India make it the country with the largest Muslim population outside of countries that are Muslim dominated) and , therefore, not only violate secularist principles but drive in the wedge further between the Muslim minority and the Hindu majority. A citizenship law that is based on religious affiliation destroys the secularist fabric of India, critics argue. But the student protests have to be viewed from a broader perspective.

The trigger point for the recent agitation by students was the CAA and NRC and the first protests took place in or around the campuses of two Muslim-centric universities—Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh and the Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi. They quickly spread to other universities in India where students empathised with the protesters and organised their rallies, marches and assemblies. However, there have been other build-ups to the actual protests. The Modi regime is viewed by students as being intolerant and non-secularist. In particular, students have been apprehensive about recent developments that have demonstrated discriminatory trends.

The crackdown in Kashmir where leaders were put under house arrest, and communication was blocked after the government repealed special status for the Muslim-majority state is one provocation for the restiveness that has come to prevail on Indian university campuses. The Babri Masjid verdict, which, in essence, gives the go ahead for Hindu activists to gain control over a plot of land where an old mosque stood (it was demolished by Hindu activists in 1992) and build a temple dedicated to the mythological figure, Rama, is yet another point of discord.

India’s students are a significant force. As much as 50% of Indians are below the age of 25 and in recent years many of them feel insecure both economically as well as socially. Unemployment rates are high (although authentic data are difficult to access in India); the economy has been slowing down; consumer demand and, as a consequence, investment by industry is at its nadir. Increasingly, this is making India’s youth disenchanted with the establishment. The recent protests could, thus, be a foretaste of more serious agitations. It is time the Modi regime took note of the stark writing on the wall.