‘CAA, Riots, Love Jihad… Where Will The Hounding Stop?’

Farheen Zaidi, 22, a student of Fine Arts in Delhi, says with millions of livelihoods at stake amid Covid-19, our leaders should redefine their priorities, and not constantly target one community

Where do I even begin? I don’t understand what is going on in our country for the past few years. First, the stalemate over Citizenship Amendment Act- and NRC, then the communal violence in Northeast Delhi and now a law against so called ‘love jihad’, which I do not even think, exists…

Where will this concerted and coordinated effort to target Muslims stop? Till a few years ago, the Hindu-Muslim rivalry was a one-off thing and people used to take extreme steps in the heat of the moment. But now it’s like this rivalry recurring periodically. There’s a constant undercurrent of hatred running in India these days.

Even the November 11 High Court order that UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath Ji had cited to justify ‘love jihad’ law earlier, has now been overturned. The HC now says that it was ‘bad law’ and two consenting adults have the freedom to choose the way they want to conduct their lives. Love is a matter of the heart, how can it be governed by law?

I wonder if the people who talk about ‘love jihad’ even understand the meaning of love. It takes so much for people to be able to find another person who understands them well and how can they be judged by people who don’t even know them? If conversion has been done forcibly, be they of any religion, then the government can step in, but one can’t assume that people will behave a certain way and take pre-emptive measures.

ALSO READ: ‘Love Jihad Law Kills Beti Bachao Spirit’

Shouldn’t the government be worrying about and working upon handling the pandemic, or soon there will be no people left to fall in love with each other or marry. So many people have lost their jobs and livelihood because of the pandemic, and I feel the government should really give its priorities a rethink.

Farheen believes addressing loss of livelihoods amid Covid-19 must be a priority for leaders

This is not the time for people to feel hatred for each other. We all need each other to see ourselves through the coronavirus crisis. Our faiths should help us become better people and help each other and we need to fight coronavirus together. I sometimes feel sad about how we have changed as a country. When I was in school a few years ago, we had many friends from other faiths, but now just a few years later when I am still in college, our social circle has shrunk considerably. There is this whole ‘Hindu-Muslim’ talk going on always.

Sometimes I feel if the matter of ‘love jihad’ is so serious why doesn’t Modiji talk about it in his ‘Man Ki Baat’? He could give us examples when cases of people marrying someone just for the sake of converting them has come to light and talk about those cases from all angles. That could be the beginning of a serious dialogue on the topic, but in my life I have personally seen no such incident and feel it is a just a bogeyman of an issue.

ALSO READ: ‘Love And Jihad Don’t Go Hand In Hand’

And if the law is brought in, the poor of the poorest will suffer; the rich will take to legal recourse. I hope better sense prevails and more thought is given to social harmony. When people are secure in their own faiths and identities they don’t even try to convert people to their ideas, forget changing their religion.

Whatever decision Yogi Ji and his counterpart in Bihar, Nitish Kumar Ji take in this matter will have far reaching implications for the rest of the country. I am waiting to see what Nitish Ji has to say in this matter as the Chief Minister of a state where there is a large Muslim population.

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.