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Modi said CAA protests anti-national, just like Indira Gandhi did before declaring Emergency

Modi’s Parliament address on CAA should force protesters to go back to the drawing board. Here are six things they should do to counter the regime.

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With Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech in Parliament, we know how the regime is going to handle the anti-CAA protests: it is going to be a mix of official equivocation, state repression and politics of polarisation. But the real question is: how are the protesters going to respond?

Let no one be fooled by the polite officialese on this issue. This is deliberate doublespeak. President Ram Nath Kovind’s address mentions the plans to extend the National Register of Citizens (NRC) beyond Assam, but the PM denies there has been any discussion on this. Home Minister Amit Shah explains the chronology of how the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or the CAA, will be followed by an NRC and be completed by 2024, but his junior, Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai, tells Parliament that “as yet” there are no plans to roll out NRC.

Meanwhile, the National Population Register (NPR), officially the first step towards NRC, has been rolled out. Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar informs us that the newly-inserted questions on ancestry are optional, while PM Modi insists that these questions are necessary for the implementation of welfare schemes. None of these clarifications are, of course, put down in any official notification.

Also read: In 2020, don’t rely on routine rallies and marches. Modi’s India needs new ways to protest

Regime likely to respond with repression

While hundreds of interpretations bloom on the NRC, the NPR, and the CAA, the Modi regime is out to exploit this opportunity for naked communal mobilisation. What we witnessed in the Delhi election campaign is only a glimpse of things to come. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) knows that its only hope of winning West Bengal next year and Uttar Pradesh in 2022 rests on creating an open Hindu-Muslim rift. In some parts of Hindi heartland, it could also be used to wean a section of Dalits and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) away from the opposition parties. The BJP is determined to pursue this path.

As for the anti-CAA agitation, one of the biggest peoples’ movements since Independence, PM Modi’s statement makes it clear that his government does not view it as a legitimate protest – coming from a section of citizens that needs to be spoken to.

Notwithstanding the protesters’ adherence to the national flag and the Constitution, PM Modi follows his colleagues in dubbing the protest anti-national and an anarchist movement, inspired by the opposition. Incidentally, this is exactly how Indira Gandhi had described the JP movement in 1974, just before declaring the Emergency.

PM Modi’s language hints at a round of state repression, soon after the Delhi election. We could see a crackdown on all Shaheen Baghs and rounding-up of various leaders of the ongoing movement. The repression would be muted, but not absent, in the opposition-ruled states. So far, most opposition governments have been rather indifferent, if not hostile, to the anti-CAA protests. The movement has to devise its own means, without depending much on the major political parties.

Also read: Shaheen Bagh, Jamia, JNU protests show Indian women are far better leaders than we admit

Anti-CAA protest needs a new strategy

This situation calls for a new strategy on part of the protesters. As I argued earlier, the anti-CAA protests have now entered the second phase of a nation-wide movement for equal citizenship. On 4 February, Hum Bharat Ke Log, an umbrella of more than 100 organisations involved in the anti-CAA-NRC-NPR movement, has called for boycotting the NPR. They have also planned a month-long programme of action from 22 February, the death anniversary of Maulana Azad till 23 March, Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom day.

This is what the protesters should do. First of all, the obfuscation by the Modi government must be responded with clear communication on the part of the protesters. A clear call to boycott the NPR is the first step. More than street protests, communication and dialogue must be the priority for the next two months. While divisive and discriminatory nature of the CAA needs to be highlighted, the focus of attention and critique should now be the NPR and the NRC that are easier for an ordinary citizen to understand and relate to. The focus of communication should shift from those who are affected and those who already know, understand and agree with the dangers of CAA-NRC-NPR to those who are still dimly aware of how it might affect them. These include poor from all communities, Adivasis, and nomads who often lead an undocumented existence.

Second, attempts at polarisation must be challenged by taking on the perception of this being merely a ‘Muslim’ protest. This can be done in two ways. One would be to have greater connect with the protests in Assam, and with the northeast in general, where most of the protesters are non-Muslims. The other way would be to enter into a dialogue with those who do not quite agree with the protesters, those who may not feel directly threatened by the new citizenship regime. After all, a struggle to save the Constitution cannot be limited to a few communities.

Third, the movement must find its own positive agenda, beyond opposing the NPR-NRC and CAA. Recent surveys have shown that even those who may agree with the CAA feel that it is being brought in to distract people’s attention from issues like unemployment and the widely felt economic distress. I have suggested that a way to connect the two would be to demand a National Register of the Unemployed.

Fourth, the location and form of protest also need to shift. The focus of action should now shift from cities and large towns to smaller towns and villages, from city-wide rallies to mohalla meetings. Door-to-door campaigns and face-to-face dialogue must now be the priority. In choosing the form of protest, a large show of strength is not needed in most parts of India, except in Uttar Pradesh. Now, a premium should be placed on Shaheen Bagh-type protests that evoke empathy among the rest of the population and encourage a conversation. Community feasts and inter-faith family dialogues should also be promoted to underline the spirit of national unity.

Fifth, the movement could do with more coordination. While the spontaneous nature of the movement must be maintained, there is a need to focus more on the overlap in demands, cohesion in action, and coordination among various organisations. The movement needs some mechanism to take on the massive propaganda machine unleashed by the Modi regime.

Finally, the state repression has to be met with disciplined non-violence. So far, the protesters have shown exceptional maturity and restraint. But it may not suffice in the face of the next round of repression. This would require better training and discipline of the volunteers, many of whom are joining a public protest for the first time.

The two-month-old movement for equal citizenship is an unusual moment in the history of the Indian republic. The movement can realise its potential by turning into a movement for a renewal of the idea of India, a true Bharat Jodo Andolan.

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

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  1. Those who are protesting or opposing CAA-NPR-NRC have a valid reason: deprivation of their right as citizen and citizenship. If it is not the intent or impact of this law and registers, why none of the reresponsible person in the government is giving an explanation and assurance. Why the common people, who are immune to this law, are objecting such protests by those who are threatened of snatching their citizenship ? What right do such people have to say others “don’t fight for your rights”.

  2. CAA violates Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. Judicial System can rule accordingly but the judicial system is compromised by the lack of action on 3 unexplained related deaths – those of Justice Loya, and 2 Advocates who were Justice Loya’s confidants. One Advocate died , falling from a top floor of a building, soon after Loya’sown demise, and the other fell to his death from an upper berth in a train compartment. All very murky , & mainly to the benefit of Amit Shah, who as discharged from ongoing trial very suspiciously and in a split-second by the Judge who succeeded Loya.
    NRC an NPR are not mere proposals . Wehave actually seen NRC in operation in Assam and accounts for dozens of suicides and so on. And Govt’s own pilot project on registering citizens in one area in 2003-2009 , failed because most poor people, it was found , lacked documntation. It is scandalous to ignore actual recorded experience like this and go ahead with countr-wide NPR and NRC. The failure of the pilot project and experience in Assam mean that even NPR must be dropped. And there is plenty of evidence that there is exaggeration in estimating number of “Bangladeshi infiltrators” . Here again, experience is salutary. IN 1950, Assam Govt actually pushed back 1.5 lac infiltrators. If you are alert at the time of entry, it can be done. There is no justification for harrassing ordinary citizens everywhere, when Border polce in Assam have failed to do their job.

  3. Hello Yadav Ji!

    I agree that there are some concerns with the CAA, NRP & NRC, but I we need to have such acts in place to address many issues.
    Unfortunately till now I have not seen from any intellectual an alternative or a better approach to implement these.  
    Most of the People who are opposing it don’t even know all the facts(except not including the muslims in CAA). I think instead of just opposing we need to come up with a best alternative/suggestions to implement all these 3 acts.

    I think the crux of the problem is vote bank politics

    I have a question for you
        What is your stand on Illegal immigrants? Is it good for the nation?

  4. First, we need to appreciate that a new hegemonic idea of Hindu Rashtra is under rapid imposition across the country to replace the original idea of India built on democracy, diversity and development. Second, this new hegemonic idea has enormous emotional potency in terms of perpetuating a Hindu identity – a sense of belonging that is visceral and which cannot be countered by rational arguments. Third, this hegemonic idea is necessarily constructed on polarization – ruler versus ruled, wherein the latter will be relegated to be subjects of discrimination and oppression. Fourth, the CAA + NPR + NRC are mere tools for polarization and subjugation. There’s nothing new here; all these have been practiced in history by different ruling class under the guise of religion, ideology, racism, colonialism etc.

    The BJP-RSS hegemony is essentially a socio-political construct under the umbrella of Hindutva, and they have assiduously built over the years a very powerful network of organisations to proselytize their doctrine far and wide under the guise of missionary social work. The votaries of this idea of Hindu supremacy are of course those who have always deemed the ‘others’ as lesser children of God.

    The moot point is does such a socio-political hegemonic idea have a clear economic vision? It is a fact that communities or nations prosper because of economic development; it has always been so in history. Powerful empires were built on economic prowess; once economy waned empires crumbled under the hubris of arrogance.

    One would suspect that the Achilles’ heel of the present dispensation is their lack of economic nous; their arrogance makes them deny this fact. As wisely said, those who are stupid are so full of certainty, those who are wise are unsure. Emotional narrative can attract people for a while but it cannot forever replace the more innate aspiration for a better life and economic prosperity.

    So, while blunting the divisive tools like CAA, NPR & NRC may be’hot’ tactical stratagem in the present context, where the present dispensation needs to be hauled over burning coal is where it hurts most: widespread economic distress that is seriously affecting the underprivileged in mohallas, small towns and villages. One can’t have patriotism on an empty stomach!

  5. We must stand for Equality and Brotherhood of whole mankind and that is of all Indians. Our Constitution upholds this ideal so it’s our duty to save our Constitution. Our Constitution is under threat from fascists who are serving interests of wealthy class and harming common man. They are selling public institutions built by Nehru and Indira Gandhi. They are helping wealthy class by erasing their loans and dues while poor farmers are committing suicides. The land of Adivasis and peasants is being given to MNCs. NRC will be used to put such population in detention and their houses will be razed as happened in Bangaluru. All such things are being done under fascists all over the World

    • Most of the the big Industrial houses that India has today were promoted by Nehru and subsequent Congress governments. So as per you, the biggest fascist should be Nehru and Congress. There are very few Muslims in the world who can tolerate criticism of Quran and Allah. So Muslims are the biggest fascist in the world. Muslims not only kill others but they kill more Muslims. It looks Muslims need just any silly reason to fight and kill.

  6. I think a National Register of Unemployed is a good idea. Entry No.1 will be Yogendra Yadav.
    There are three elements in this episode–NRC, NPR and CAA.
    NRC is far away. The govt has repeatedly said that if it is brought in, it would be only after a lot of consultations. The matter rests there.
    NPR–is very much needed, the UPA did it earlier, Chidambaram was all for it. To oppose it now is, Mr Yadav, cheap and dirty politics. Not becoming of you.
    CAA–protesting against is plain stupid. For the life of me, I can’t see how Muslims in India are going to be affected.
    People like you are a big pain–you don’t let the country blossom. You are fixated on some anti-diluvian notions such as minorities being repressed.
    I suggest you pick up a lace, mount a horse and start tilting at windmills.

  7. Here is one thing they can do. Be intellectually honest with themselves…

    Take a stand for what they want.

    Do they want the waiting period for Muslims illegally residing in India from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan to be reduced to 5 years?

    No one has yet explained how the CAA actually ‘filters’ any Indian without paperwork, so are they asking for the ability to vote without being citizens?

    Are they asking for Bangladeshi economic migrants to be given some sort of amnesty and be awarded residency / citizenship?

    Do they want someone to become PM? Who?

    Is there any positive intent? Because being anti-Modi isn’t going to work. And being anti-CAA isn’t working either.

  8. If anybody is fooled, it’s the protesters of Shaheen bag who have been fed lies by anti-nationals like this Yogendra Yadav. This guy can’t win even a single seat for his party but talks like as if he is the most intelligent person in India but he is no better than RaGa. His rationalising of lies is amazing. Only crooks of highest order thinks like him.

  9. All so called developed World countries have CAA, NRP & NRC for simple reason to ascertain numbers of people the governments has to care for Infrastructure building, roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, libraries and so on. But the Media and Congress party doe not won’t to explain CAA, NRC & NPR because they have different motive. The Law that are pae in Parliament should be implemented bu corrupt Congress Party prefer o do oher wie.

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