People protesting against the newly-passed Citizenship Amendment Act in New Delhi | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint
File photo of people protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act in New Delhi | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint
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As 2020 begins with the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, led by students, still echoing in our hearts, our minds must turn to the next stage of the Bharatiya Janata Party‘s Hindu Rashtra project — the National Registry of Citizens. Together with the CAA, the NRC is intended to further the BJP’s goal of disenfranchising India’s Muslims.

In spite of the harrowing ordeal our country has been through in the last month — with the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duopoly steamrolling the CAA through Parliament, the incidents at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), the detention of thousands of Indian citizens exercising their democratic right to protest, the imposition of Section 144 and internet shutdowns to prevent this exerciseand the ultimate cost paid by more than two dozen people who lost their lives in the process — I believe the New Year is being ushered in by Indians with steely belief and hard-fought hope.

That is because when the ruling BJP dispensation embarked on legalising its brazen contempt for the pluralistic and constitutional ethos of India through a breathtakingly communal legislation, it is hard to believe that it accounted for the almost instantaneous and nationwide furore that sprung up in response to the Modi government’s malfeasance. 

But the fire that began in the northeastern states spread rapidly across India and today, the Modi government finds itself on the back foot and without a competent response to the present agitations. Even politically, the BJP stands alone, with almost all its allies and partners — from the Shiromani Akali  Dal to the Lok Janshakti Party (both of which enjoy ministerial positions in the cabinet), and the habitual BJP-leaning fence-sitters who voted with the government in Parliament voicing their concern over the CAA and refusing to cooperate with the NRC process.


Also read: Vajpayee-Advani imagined an all-India NRC and Modi-Shah added a Muslim filter


Disenfranchising Indian Muslims

But this is a fight that is far from over. The more lethal aspect of this entire ordeal lays in wait in the form of the National Register of Citizens. Despite Prime Minister Modi’s claim that a nationwide NRC was not being considered (a claim belied no less than by his own colleague, Home Minister Amit Shah’s previous admission in Parliament, and the promises within the BJP’s own widely circulated manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha election), the trajectory of the Modi government’s priorities, legislative and administrative decisions suggest that it is serious about its intent to conduct the NRC in all states across India. Remember the promises made about demonetisation? We have already seen the announcement of the National Population Register (NPR), which, in all likelihood, could be the first step towards a nationwide NRC, since it asks about one’s parents’ place of birth and its rules specify that people of “dubious citizenship” will be identified.

The danger is evident: Through the CAA, which considers all Muslim immigrants as illegal by summarily excluding them, and the NRC, the BJP government could further disenfranchise any Indian Muslim who is unable to prove his or her citizenship in India. Many Indians, especially the poor, lack documentary evidence of when and where they were born; even birth certificates have become widespread only in recent decades. While non-Muslims would, thanks to the CAA, get a free pass, similarly undocumented Muslims would suddenly bear the onus of proving that they are Indian. Such an act would not just be deeply and communally biased; it would further disenfranchise Indian Muslims and generate a strong sense of fear among the people. 

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I shudder to imagine what will happen if such an exercise is carried out at the national level. The NRC in Assam was deeply flawed and proved administratively and politically disastrous. Replicating those flaws nationwide is both unwise and dangerous. Even the smallest error could be fatal — as researcher Shruti Rajagopalan reminds us, a mere 1 per cent error rate could lead to the displacement of 13.5 million Indians, similar to the Partition.


Also read: BJP’s failure to see dissenting students as citizens belies Modi’s own youth activist history


The hopes of India

The good news is that this exercise cannot be done without the cooperation of the state governments, and I believe that the vast majority of the non-BJP state governments will not cooperate with such a divisive exercise. In addition to the non-cooperation of opposition-led state governments, an interjection by the Supreme Court on the validity and the necessity of the NRC may also prevent its implementation across the nation. 

But perhaps the biggest hope in 2020 to put the brakes on this sinister project rests on the shoulders of the youth of India. Admittedly, it has become a cliché for politicians to often speak about young people as the engine of tomorrow’s India, but if the last month has taught us anything, it is that the young people in our country are indeed prepared to assume this mantle and to serve as the dynamic motor of democratic India. Enraged at the brutality unleashed upon their peers in universities, the protests that emerged in the aftermath of the CAA were not just spontaneous and organic, but a sharp message from the youth that they would not take the divisive politics from the Modi government lying down. In a magnitude that we haven’t seen in recent memory, the youth have taken to the streets to defend the ethos of liberalism, secularism, and equality that our forefathers enshrined in the Constitution. 

A university-gold medallist returning her recognition in protest; individuals forming a human chain at their gathering so that their Muslim friends could break for their afternoon namaz; students speaking eloquently in defence of their protests to police and the media; and, above all, their determination to stand up and continue, day after day, in the face of all the forces of intimidation arrayed against them by the state – this is something more than the routine protests, short-lived agitations, and “relay fasts” we have got used to seeing from the political class. 

This is young India rising up to take back control of their own country. And it is a great note on which to usher in a hopeful New Year.

The author is a Member of Parliament for Thiruvananthapuram and former MoS for External Affairs and HRD. He served the UN as an administrator and peacekeeper for three decades. He studied History at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University and International Relations at Tufts University. Tharoor has authored 19 books, both fiction and non-fiction. Follow him on Twitter @ShashiTharoor. Views are personal.

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23 Comments Share Your Views

23 COMMENTS

  1. No India’s youth wants Modi to go ahead with his plans. Tarts like you can suck your own lollies. We are fine with Modi’s idea of India.

  2. dear all comments I want tell caa Nrc is against the constitution, you people want Hindu rastra that s y u supporting, yogi Is shows he is Hindu terrorist, Amit shah in parliament clearly told that except Muslims all immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghan we get citizenship, y not the Muslim even rohinga Muslims faced problem in Burma,? Bjp manifesto keep their in pocket, RSS was anti Indian created toghter with jinha, we Muslims choose India because of democracy setup, modi and Amit shah both are hindutava terrorism supporters, modi not done anything good for country, he did all nonsense in India, we reject this bill, modi should take it back this bill immediately, yogi should be arrested immediately because he order to kill Muslims in u. P, he proved he is Hindu terrorist suitable to sit in temple not in c. M seat, we will fight till our last breath, this freedom movement after 1947,freedom from Hindutava terrorism govt

  3. Where Modi govt has failed is in its complete lack of communication in building up public support in favour of CAA. Even traditional BJP supporters were left in the dark. This was solely due to the arrogance of Modi but especially Shah who is using BJP’s Parliamentary hegemony to sully India & Modi. The other issue that worked against the BJP’s CAA was the state of policing in India especially in the Northern states like UP & Delhi. Had the Delhi police not invaded Jamia & UP Police on AMU so violently, the anti-CAA protests wouldn’t have garnered nearly as much support as it has. This of course has given oxygen to Islamists & Pakistan to foment trouble in India while handing out undeserving leverage & a leash on India to the US & EU in any trade negotiations in the near future. What would Modi do if the US starts pushing India to turn overtly hostile to China using these protests? Modi-Shah & BJP have fked it up beyond belief. Time to step back & eat the humble pie for Modi-Shah. The law itself is TOTALLY FINE. Its the defence of the law by the Government and complete lack of communication & signalling that has handed the narrative around the protests to adversaries of the Government.

  4. Being a journalist, do you use brain to write or just write whatever you feel like correct?
    What is this Hindu Rashtra Project? Shame on you.

  5. No matter how much we admire Mr. Tharoor, it’s safe to say the Congress party is just washing their hands in the flow. If they truly support the cause they should lead from the front like Anna Hazare did, no violence.

    Even he had to experience of it’s repercussions recently.

  6. If Congress party is so worried for Muslim, let they reply to this question. Why their most favorite leaders– Rahul and Priyanka are afraid of using original name, religion and caste of their own Honorable Grand father— Feroze G- ???. Ask them to be honest about this. Shedding crocodile tears for minorities on self-assumed, self- projected vicim-hood of Minorities will not take their political career to any further destination. . They have reached the summit of their career. If they aspire for the office of the PM of India, it has been now reserved for BJP s Candidates for decades to come.

    • Rahul and Priyanka are using their original names. NO NEED FOR USING CASTE AND RELIGION NAMES IN A SECULAR COUNTRY, WHICH INDIA IS.

    • because, Feroze, who was born a Parsi, was inspired by the Mahatma and changed his name from Ghandy to Gandhi. And so what? In a democracy, no office is “reserved” – that is exactly the problem with modi-shah.

  7. Rubbish article. This is written by an illigal. In CAA there is no provision of deporting Indian Muslims. Why people like you spreading false information. You people are taking advantage of illiterate mass and uneducated university students who are against BJP. We Hindu living any part of India never done any attrocities against any community. There are illigal Muslims from Bangladesh and Pakistan spread all over India. Govt should atleast try to identify them. In today’s world not a single person can be deported without solid reason and only after supreme court ruling. Then why you people and and all political parties trying to decide country in religion lines. There is court of law. You have challenged CCA in SC. Let us wait for SC verdict. Let people live peacefully in India. I pray good health, prosperity for all countryman. God bless India.

    • The author is a MP. In what way is he ,”illegal” ? The rest of your comment is best ignored as it is a meaningless rant of the brainwashed.

    • No there is not. But it’s not just the CAA. The NPR coupled it with can displace quite a large number of muslims. Dont be too blind with the government. NCR was an utter failure in Assam and not just muslims even Hindus were not in there. And to do this throughout the country is nothing but absurdity

      • Ah, John T! You are absurd. Are you complaining we Hindustanis are rightfully demanding a Hindu rastra? Try telling Vatican to stop preaching christianity. You dolt.

  8. There is fighting among opposition parties for the Muslim vote and that is why they are supporting agitation against CAA.

  9. Only thing sinister is the reminder the Congress gave about its power to partition by mobilizing muslim mobs fronted by so called civil disobedience

    • interesting how now paid-IT-cell guys have started fronting themselves with bong names. we hear that shahenshah is learning bengali. wait and see, Bengal will teach BJP a lesson.

      • This CAA NRC project is largely ta rgeted at Bengal. Let us see whether Mamata B can withstand that. People are generally communal. They are guided by fear, hatred and greed rather than intellect.

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