Sunday, 27 November, 2022
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In 2020, don’t rely on routine rallies and marches. Modi’s India needs new ways to protest

India's rulers are out to divide the country. This calls for a new Bharat-jodo andolan.

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New Year resolutions are personal. That is how they should be, normally. But at this stage in our national history, when India is being disfigured beyond recognition, we cannot separate our personal from the political. When the head of the government singles out clothes worn by protesters – Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dog whistle against people protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act – when the police opens a war on one community, when children are tortured, when ‘spiritual gurus’ become peddlers of plain lies, and when the young have risen on and off the campuses, we cannot have a purely personal resolution. To invert the famous feminist slogan, now political is personal.

We are in the middle of a battle to reclaim the republic. The ongoing protests against CAA-NRC-NPR are not merely a powerful statement against a discriminatory law or a repugnant executive action.

People in Assam continue to be on the streets, cutting across religious lines, to defend their identity, to ensure non-violation of a sacred agreement, and to secure a dignified relationship with the rest of India. The Muslim community has participated in an unprecedented mass movement, cutting across regions, to demand equal citizenship, to express its anguish at de-facto second rate citizenship, and to prevent this from turning into a de-jure disenfranchisement. And the youth of India – cutting across the religious and regional divide – is coming together to assert that the nation’s present and its future cannot be held hostage by those who stoke its divided past. We are witnessing a movement to save the soul of India.

Also read: CAB protests a battle for India – either we are a secular state or we aren’t India at all

Usual govt tricks, unusual people response

Faced with an unexpected and unprecedented response from unusual quarters, the Narendra Modi regime is resorting to tried and tested tricks: spin doctoring to make white lies look half-respectable, sugarcoating to make hatred look harmless, unleashing the propaganda machinery to brainwash citizens, and using media power to play down the nature of protests and to play up the government version. Indira Gandhi used the same tricks during the Emergency.

Besides managing news, the Modi regime is resorting to brutal suppression and repression. Most BJP state governments have effectively banned any peaceful and democratic gathering or protest against the CAA-NRC. As and when the protests are allowed, the law enforcement agencies are actively looking for, if not creating, trouble. Excessive use of force has become the norm in handling these protests. Compare these, for example, with how police force had handled the Jat agitation in Haryana and the Maratha protests in Maharashtra. Uttar Pradesh, led by BJP’s Yogi Adityanath, is under a reign of terror. In many towns, the UP Police has unleashed what cannot be described as anything but a war on the Muslim community.

This moment in the country’s history fuses the challenges to all the founding principles of the idea of India: democracy, diversity, and development. The Indian economy faces a serious, perhaps structural, downturn. As the slowdown threatens to turn into a recession, the unemployment rate continues to rise, and the farm distress continues unabated, the Modi government shows no sign of understanding the crisis, let alone resolve it. Hence the repeated attempts to lead Indians into powerful and emotive distractions: Article 370, Ayodhya, CAA, and now perhaps the Uniform Civil Code or anti-conversion law. These moves have enormous long-term costs for India. But they achieve the short-term objective of shoring up the Modi regime’s popularity. The existence of democratic rights and institutional apparatus is an obstacle in the realisation of this design. Hence the undermining of democratic institutions, conventions and procedures, and the unleashing of brutal state power.

Also read: Youth protests against CAA, NRC has potential to change politics. But 2 key things missing

Unite India movement

It would be idle to predict the outcome of this battle at this stage. This movement could be the saviour for the republic that seemed to be folding up in 2019. The Modi regime, on the other hand, has not given up the hope of using these protests to further divide India along Hindu-Muslim lines. It all depends on how the contest pans out over the next few weeks. But one thing is clear: the rulers are out to divide the country. The people have to take up the responsibility to unite and reunite the country.

Hence, my proposal for a New Year resolution: “woh todenge, hum jodenge (they will divide, we shall unite)”.

The protests against CAA-NRC-NPR must turn into a ‘Bharat-jodo andolan’, an all-India movement for national unity. It is necessary to protest against these divisive designs of the BJP government. But the protests must be supplemented by positive, constructive actions aimed at fostering communal harmony. To counter the propaganda about mob-violence, the protesters must adopt a strict Gandhian code of non-violence. To avoid the possibility of political misuse of these protests, the movement must maintain its non-partisan character. Let the tricolour and the Indian Constitution be the only symbols of this movement to repair the damage done to the unity and integrity of India.

January provides many occasions to reinforce this message of national unity: 3rd of January is celebrated by women’s and Bahujan organisations as Savitribai Phule Jayanti; Vivekananda Jayanti on the 12th is the National Youth Day; 17th of January marks the anniversary of Rohith Vemula’s death; 23rd January is Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s birth anniversary; and then there is Republic Day on 26th and Gandhiji’s martyrdom day on the 30th. The movement against the CAA has already seen many creative expressions of national unity. Instead of falling into a routine of mass rallies and marches, which are unsustainable beyond a point, we need newer forms of protests.

The author is the national president of Swaraj India. Views are personal.

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  1. Real problem of Indian and world muslims lies in ISLAMIC ideology.the real problem of India is growing fanaticism in can see that everywhere in india.unless and untill muslim religion is not reformed like other religions and it does not make peace with democracy and other religions, muslims will continue to be marginalized in the world and india.communalism of minorities is more dangerous than mejority.muslims will be marginalized untill so called liberals and ordinary muslims don’t face and introspect the real problem..the nature of Islam and why it is being hated everywhere?

  2. The excesses done by UP police on the rioters who riioted against the CAA :FORCED them to turn to non-violent gandhian protest and get women on the streets now in its second month. Whom are you trying to teach moron? ME?

  3. Sh. Yogendra Yadav ji does not understand the most critical problem of India. India is a democratic country in which majority prevails. BJP is not duty bound to follow the political model of Congress and left parties. The manifesto of BJP was open before the election. The people of India voted BJP to power. Now it is up to the supreme court to decide whether an act passed by the Parliament is constitutional or unconstitutional. Who will be accountable for the loss of person and property if the supreme court decides in favour of CAA. The problem with you people is that in order to make yourself relevant you create, support and prolong chaos.

  4. The nation has spoken in 2019. Laws enacted by elected representatives in the Parliament shall rule; protests on the streets and arson do not and should not subvert the democratic process. The lawful way to challenge Parliament is in the court not arson and inflammatory speeches in Shaheen Bagh. This is hooliganism trying to browbeat de-jure democracy. No one is amused, no one cares in India. We are too long down the road of legal democracy to care about some lefties losing ground and incomes. and venting on some streets and universities. There will be no alternative methods required when the SC speaks in March. And the author will succumb to his own hubris and the fracture of his false belief in his ability to mobilize people.

  5. Till the cow is made the national animal of India there is going to be no salvation. The current national animal of India – the tiger- is a meat eating, violent animal – this needs to be replaced immediately if we are to live on Gandhian principles.

  6. Remember Raj Thackeray had addressed massive rallies in the Maharashtra during Lok Sabha elections, for campaigning against Narendra Modi and Amit Shah and appealing for a “Modi Mukt Bharat”. These were very effective in educating in getting truth and educating masses. The impact of these video presentation rallies in Lok Sabha elections was limited as these were not very widespread.
    Now save democracy movement need massive rallies based on a concept similar to video presentation rallies of Raj Thackeray’s that will used video presentations of facts & Modi-Shah’s speeches & actions on CAA-NPR-NCR to educate and get truth and across the country.

    Education of youth particularly is the key as they will be the one facing disastrous consequences of the CAA-NPR-NRC exercises legal or otherwise. Every Indian needs to be on guard as CAA-NRC will turn Indian against his brother till India doesn’t exists anymore. Mass education, truth & facts dissemination using all available media is necessary in the democracy as there is no other alternative.

  7. The protest against CAA are instigated by Congress party and its leftist adherents who have forgotten that not long ago, they were financing and subsidizing Haj yatra to Minorities belonging to a particular religion with out affording similar facilities to followers of others religions. It was o k and secularism.
    The protest against CAA are limited to 80-90 districts of India having Muslim population in excess of 30-40 % . India has 800-900 districts and people there dont feel threatened by CAA.

    The protest are limited to universities like of JNU. AMU, Jadhav pur Jamiya milia islamiya etc. The student and factuality members of these institutions are not able to comprehend fine prints of the CAA- which is one of the most compassionate piece of legislation ever passed by the Parliament of India to provide humanitarian relief to unfortunate victims of religious prosecution of minorities of designated self proclaimed Muslim countries.
    This raises one other question – What is output of these universities. Are they producing youth with taliban s mindset. Why government is running and financing these sub grade institutions ?

    The protest against CAA will peter out sooner than expected without harming Modi or BJP . It is post election “Chokidaar chor hai “ type propaganda by anti Modi –Anti BJP forces.
    New year has started now find out some new subject/topic to mislead people of India

    • “The protest against CAA are instigated by Congress party ” – wish congress was still strong enough to do that!

  8. Supporters on both sides claim their actions are in favour of a better nation. Then why not, the entire so-called patriots propose a national dialogue based on facts & figures instead of emotions as a solution to this deadlock? ~ Riyaz. [International Affairs Journalist]

  9. Any action or movement that unites the people of this country against divisive forces is laudable but one suspects, it still misses the impulse of anger that is venting itself as nationwide protests, especially among the youth and those who eke out a bare existence.

    This is a government which came into power not once but twice on the promise of development but what people got instead is hyperventilating nationalism, a whole bunch of invented acronyms, and callous economic policies in the garb of vikas. The faith placed by the people has been belied. Baiting a community, ranting about our recalcitrant and inimical neighbours or side-tracking the core issues by raking up past mistakes is not the panacea to douse a simmering anger.

    What people want is progress but what they see looming ahead is a bleak future! Any reasonable person wants progress that will improve his or her life, be it economic or social. Progress is axiomatic to human development everywhere.

    People are none too concerned about the colour of ideology as long as it delivers progress. A cracked pitcher holds no water. Yes, a united people living in peace and harmony is a necessary condition for progress to occur. The overarching issue still remains progress – the water that quenches thirst.

    By all means stir a Bharat Jodo Andolan but you will still need a grand narrative that paints a picture of hope to move hearts and minds.

  10. I will support a new law which allows citizens register support or dissent with the government. It can be about anything. This will improve the democracy and unite the country. System should allow a person to change position based on information within particular timeframe. Can be Aadhar based and kept in panchayats. Person wanting to oppose or support something can visit Panchayat and register support or dissent. Should be allowed to change position before due date. Issues for voting can be put in if X number of MPs or MLAs support it.
    With this there is no need to protest which is waste of national resource.

  11. Arsonists, Criminals and Rioters masquerading as Social Activists as more poisonous than the criminals themselves. The “Social Activists” like Yogendra Yadav, and Arundathi Roy, Congress and Left wing politicians are spreading venom in the society by their writings and acts. The issues raised by the CAA have been pending for resolution for decades and the poisonous vultures like the blogger have not either denied persecution of minorities in Pakisthan, Afganisthan and Bangladesh nor come out any meaningful solution. Let the white collar goons like the blogger tell which European or North American Country does not have a register of its

    • Spot on. These so called activists have thrived on dividing the society on caste and religion. Now they have the gall to accuse others of dividing the country.

    • actually most do not. they have i-cards, and passports, but beyond that, most to no go around making lists. the problem in india is that we already have aadhar and PAN and passport and voter card and ration card and so on and so on. why is that not enough? if one listens to shah, it becomes clear why not.

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