Tuesday, February 7, 2023
HomeOpinionIndia's student protests have broken image of national consensus on Modi’s policies

India’s student protests have broken image of national consensus on Modi’s policies

The idea that the anti-CAA protests will politically help the BJP fails to take into account how Narendra Modi and Amit Shah like to rule India.

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How is 82-year-old Farooq Abdullah, a sitting Lok Sabha MP, such a threat to ‘public safety’ when he has been under house arrest since 5 August 2019 under the draconian Public Safety Act? He can’t address a rally in Kashmir because neither the public nor the government would allow that. He’s a threat only because he can give TV interviews criticising the Narendra Modi government’s dilution of Article 370.

There is speculation that Kashmiri politicians who are being released are signing a bond promising that they will not make any public comments on the “recent events” in the Valley for a period of one year.

That is how PM Modi likes to rule, with an artificial consensus created by curtailing people’s constitutional freedoms. The Modi government wants to be able to say, ‘look, nobody opposed us. Everybody says we did the right thing’.

The Modi government was overjoyed to see that the opposition couldn’t protest much against Kashmir’s altered status, since the Indian public opinion is ready to accept any amount of political repression in the region.

Then came the Ayodhya judgement, sold by both the Supreme Court and the Modi government as a “closure” to the Ram Mandir dispute. It was anything but that. It was the legalisation of the snatching away of a mosque to build a temple. Yet it could be branded as “closure” because nobody was willing to protest against it. Muslims themselves, bitter as they felt about it, didn’t want to labour the point. As the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992 showed them, the choice was between losing a mosque and losing their lives.

Once again, Narendra Modi and his lieutenant Amit Shah could claim there was across-the-board consensus and, therefore, all was well. Sab changa si.

Also read: Why Sardar Patel would have opposed NPR, NRC and CAA

Breaking the silence

The BJP’s taming of the Indian media and the manipulation of content on social media alone are proof enough that the Modi government isn’t exactly fond of dissent. The party prefers people to just accept the government’s actions as fait accompli. Sweet surrender is ideal. Are the anti-CAA protests helping or hurting the Modi establishment? Before answering that question, we must take a look at this regime’s preference for absence of any opposition to their policies.

To that extent, the protests by students, Muslims, rights groups and opposition parties have hurt the Modi government’s compulsive need to project a universal consensus on its rules. Modi can now no longer say “Sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas”; he can no longer claim everyone’s participation. These protests have broken a carefully constructed political silence.

The Indian electorate likes to vote for leaders it thinks are in control of things. Before handing over the reins of the state, voters want to be sure the prime ministerial candidate enjoys authority that the top job needs. Narendra Modi understands this impulse of the electorate all too well. People protesting on the streets for days and weeks on end, peacefully or violently, could, in the long run, give the impression that Modi is no longer a leader in control over his subjects. That’s where the impulse to suppress the protests comes from.

The impulse to project absolute control is the root of authoritarianism. This is also what makes authoritarian regimes so brittle. A lone person questioning them is a threat to the artificial sense of peace and “normalcy” that such regimes want to obsessively project.

If the BJP thought that the protests will help it through polarisation, it wouldn’t have been trying to suppress them. It wouldn’t be detaining and arresting protesters. It wouldn’t be carrying out its counter-propaganda. It wouldn’t be doing a tactical retreat on the NRC. It could just unleash Hindutva mobs to make them look like the standard Hindu-Muslim violence, where it would be easier to blame Muslims.

Instead, it chooses the state machinery to silence voices. The extreme violence that we have seen inflicted on Muslims by the UP Police — virtually making the police perform the job of rioters — is to make sure that the community doesn’t dare to come out and protest.

Such is the fear of state repression in Uttar Pradesh today that at Varanasi’s famed Pappu chai shop, a hub of political discussions, no one wants to talk about politics anymore. The chilling effects on freedom of speech and expression are not an accidental by-product of the state clampdown. This silencing was the Modi government’s objective. Mission accomplished.

Also read: World is no more in awe of Modi. His 2019 adventures have robbed India of all the goodwill

Global embarrassment 

Large scale protests, peaceful or violent, also hurt Modi’s global image — and all those selfies with world leaders on foreign shores tell us that he cares about his global reputation.

It is for this reason that the Modi government did not, from what foreign diplomats say, prepare in advance to brief other nations about the CAA the way it had about its decisions on Kashmir and the Ayodhya verdict. This, however, is in sharp contrast to the government’s claim that it had reached out to diplomatic missions 10 days “in advance” to inform them about the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. Whatever be the truth, this lack of preparation tells you that the Modi government did not expect the scale of these protests. The embarrassment of having to cancel the Modi-Shinzo Abe summit in Guwahati last month is another piece of evidence that the Modi-Shah duet did not anticipate the scale of the anti-CAA protests.

Also read: Foolish to think Hindus who voted Modi twice will shift due to threat to Muslim citizenship

There are other sorrows 

Will the anti-CAA protests help the BJP electorally? The answer for state assembly and Lok Sabha elections is different. And the next Lok Sabha election is four and a half years away. If all Modi’s second term is also marked by Hindutva policies and people protesting, it could hurt his pitch to voters in the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

State assembly elections are already showing us that the Hindutva agenda is not enough to make the BJP win elections. There have been three state assembly elections — in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand — since Modi’s stupendous Lok Sabha election victory in May 2019. The BJP was ruling all three of these states. It has now lost control of two of them — Maharashtra and Jharkhand. The BJP’s vote share fell drastically in these states, including Haryana, where it had to take support from an inimical regional party (Jannayak Janata Party) to form the government.

The Maharashtra and Haryana elections were contested based on the Modi government’s Kashmir decision. The anti-CAA protests flared up across the country mostly after the citizenship bill was passed in Parliament on 11 December 2019. And not even the prospect of a grand Ram Mandir could save the BJP from losing Jharkhand.

Local factors, you might say. Lok Sabha and state assembly elections are different now more than ever before. Anti-incumbency against sitting chief ministers. Economic slowdown. You can choose whatever post-facto reason that you like the most, but that will only go to show that there are factors other than Hindu-Muslim polarisation that are dear to the Indian voter.

To slightly modify an Urdu poet’s poem currently being dissected by the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, ‘aur bhi gham hai zamane meinHindutva ke siwa’ (There are sorrows other than Hindutva in our times).

If the BJP can lose Jharkhand despite advancing Hindutva, it could also lose the 2024 Lok Sabha election. The determinant won’t be Hindutva then. The determinant for 2024 would be whether Modi has an equal challenger.

Also read: Modi’s India unhappy with protesters singing Faiz’s Hum Dekhenge. Zia’s Pakistan was too

In Jharkhand, the underrated Hemant Soren beat the manoeuvres of the BJP led by Modi and Shah. The same could be repeated at an all-India level in 2024, but who will play the national Hemant Soren?

Views are personal. 

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  1. The BJP has ushered in abject immoral politics since 2008 when Yediyurappa began “operation lotus ” in Karnataka to cobble a majority and even disqualified independent MLAs to win a majority with the help of the then pliant speaker , whose decision was reversed by the SC , but by then the damage had been completed . Modi-Shah have even taken politics even lower the way they brought down the Congress governments in Arunachal, Uttarkand and Congress-JD(S) government in Karnataka and the way they occupied the government in Goa and Manipur . This duo appear to be treating legislators like chattels rather than respectable law makers and the public, save elites and cognoscenti , does not even seem to have questioned the lack of morality of cobbling majority or forming governments by inducing defections ; hundreds crores of rupees have been alleged to have changed hands in this incestuous process. It looks like Indian public no longer values political morality – when Indira Gandhi dislodged NT Rama Rao in 1984 there was a huge public outcry in the media . Today media seems to have been silenced or bought over. Modi-Shah have thrown to winds all constitutional norms and have vitiated and violated the spirit of anti-defection law and even made a mockery of it . Never ever after Indira Gandhi the Congress brought down governments by organizing defections . In this the Modi-Shah duumvirate have been ” exemplars” . The way article 370 was abrogated and the way CAA was enacted is another pointer to Modi-Shah duo’s disregard for constitutional ethics/values and parliamentary finesse . Unless the biggest opposition gets charged to oust Modi-Shah Indian politics will plunge further into a bottomless pit

  2. What balderdash do we have from the “beautiful mind” of Shivam today? I chanced across a video debate of Shivam with Tarek Fateh and others on the panel. The only thing that this “beautiful mind” could muster was repetition of the phrase “Hindu terror.” Only the deranged mind of Jyoti Malhotra could hire this “beautiful mind.”

  3. Assamese chauvinism led to a witch-hunt. It led to an embarrassing situation. When finding solution strategists saw a much bigger possibility to attract a bigger vote bank. Thus CAA is born.

  4. 2024….I am laughing so hard that its inconvenient. Thank You Modi for bringing the commies to this situation… Thank You….

    • Yes you brahmins definitely want a fanatical Hindutva to continue oppressing and dominating the so called lower caste Hindus. The we are United and throw you out once for all Thanks but no thanks.

      • Casteist Anarchist spotted.

        BTW, most of the Hindus of Pakistan and Bangladesh who will get citizenship are Dalits. Don’t you want them to enjoy the benefits of Babasaheb Ambedkar’s constitution?

      • Hmmmm this the language of the nazis… This is from the school of hatred & violence of the commies. The PM himself is an OBC you moron…. Read the tea leaves & smell the coffee

  5. CAA has been an unwarranted measure. The topmost priority for India is how to face economic challenges. If Modi fails in this regard, he will not succeed in 2024. CAA/NRC is a temporary, short-lived turbulence. You can’t predict the 2024 outcome based on it, more particularly when no reliable alternative to Modi is on the political horizon.

  6. These are not “student protests”. They are communal protests, where one community, misled by its leaders, is protesting against a law passed by the parliament of India and a law which most likely will hold it’s ground in Supreme Court. It’s a law that doesn’t even affect Indian citizens at all.

    Last time “Student protests” happened in India was in 2006, when they protested against UPA’S HRD Minister, Arjun Singh’s extension of 27% reservation and we know what effect they had eventually. Zilch.

  7. congress remains the only all india opposition party. unless an all-india AAP-like miracle emerges, we’ll have to make-do with congress and it is logical that its head lays claim to the PM-ship. as say posters in the protests “bure din wapas de do”!! let us get rid of the cancer and then we can treat the pimple.

  8. Then why the government has failed to convince Muslims, Hindus and the whole world alike that “CAA is not anti muslim policy”?

  9. We have the constitutional fundamental right to express, to protest but to protest PEACEFULLY and the things which those students did were nowhere near to be called as something called as constitutional. First of all they were students who claimed that the legislated CAA 2019 has the potential to strip Indian muslims off of their citizenship along with the speculative NRC which eventually according to them has the exact structure of Assam NRC, the criteria of whose was given the honorable SC of Indi!!!!!!!!!. WOW… I mean every student can’t be smart and intelligent, I know but all of them being this dumb!!!!!!

    • Actually the real dumb ones Rima are the people who take everything people in power say at face value. You have to put yourself in the shoes of people likely to be affected by NRC to see why they are protesting but then empathy doesn’t seem to be your strong suite either.

    • please stop learning your “facts” from godi-media and whatssap university and let your brain decide for itself instead of forcing it to believe all that Shahenshah says. why don’t we ask to amend the law to welcome all those who need it? Amit Shah’s own name after all holds a suggestion of how throughout our history we assimilated and integrated so-called foreigners. that is what makes India great.

      • Godi media? You mean NDTV type…lol

        Just stay calm, let the matter come up for hearing in the Supreme Court.

        If this bill is really “unconstitutional”, then the apex court would declare it void, why these riots and nautanki on roads?

        Maybe it’s the insecurity of the opposition(both political and ideological), who know that this act is rock solid and would further cement Modi’s legacy, though his perennial critics would still hate him.

        • unfortunately we all saw where violence and destruction leads to in terms of supreme court verdict. we cannot wait for another disappointment but must protest peacefully and resist.

  10. National consensus is difficult to define in such a large, diverse country. It is a stretch to say that “ 130 crore Indians “ support anything other than singing the national anthem and paying their GST. The first term majority came with 31% of the popular vote, the second with 37%. While that suffices to form a stable government, even without allies, it requires power to be exercised with moderation, a need to keep the edges of policy making smooth, well rounded, respecting the very different views of those who did not vote for the ruling party. The absolutism that has been on display since May causes disquiet. All the more when we seem to be failing, flailing on most fronts. One fears a long season protests ahead. Better met with a spirit of accommodation than raw force.

  11. English challenge? Sarcastic? 90 plus MP’s in RS voted in opposition and it is called consensus?. 56% of the people in India do not have Modi in their state, it is consensus and in majority? India is Not all Hindus and Hindus are not just Indians regardless of some cuckoo wanting Akand Bharat. Journalist do influence people and they need to use words carefully. This man has not met one promise from his election and where did he get his consensus?

  12. 2024 is a long way off. Almost 90% of the second term lies in balance. Good use needs to be made of it. As the tragedy of the Indian economy unfolds, someone has to set things right. Two factors provided most of the rocket fuel for these protests : The Muslims coming out of the closet with their angst and widespread economic pain and distress. 2. The proposition that Indians vote differently at the national and state levels has been flogged to death. It should not create a false sense of immunity to accountability for a growing list of failures. Freezing the mould for the next four years and chugging along like an Arctic ice breaker is not a wise course of action.

    • But people do vote differently at the national and state level, numbers speak for themselves.

      Also, there is no reason to believe that BJP will not win back Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh before the next LS polls, they might even get back Maharashtra before 2024

        • Tell me about it.

          All those ivory tower dwelling cuckoos who think that these protests with Islamic slogans and cheering by Pakistanis on social media are going to work against Modi.

          These left-wing jhollawalas, who have made a back-door entry in Congress, will keep the Gandhi-Vadras out of power forever.

  13. CAA is not anti muslim policy. It is only fast tracking citizenships to other persecuted minorities in neighbouring countries. Muslims can go to many countries if persecuted there. Others can not do so. The protest by students is not logical in taking side of Muslims.

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