Student protests
Protests against the CAA spread across the country after police's brutal assault on students at Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University | ThePrint Photo
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The remarkable presence of Muslims in anti-CAA protests throughout India is a powerful, symbolic, and strategic assertion that counters aggressive Hindutva. It also signals the birth of a new ‘inclusive nationalism’ in India.

Although this new, mass Muslim politics has not yet found any concrete formal shape, the violent and even brutal reaction of the Narendra Modi government towards Muslim protesters is itself a sign of its increasing political significance.

This assertion comes after six years of near-silence of Indian Muslims in the face of a sustained propaganda to demonise the community. They didn’t react because they couldn’t re-imagine and flesh out the exact nature of the new Muslim political identity.

Triple talaq and Babri Masjid had already lost their symbolic potentials for Muslims. But the new citizenship issue is different. It is linked to the very foundation of their political, and indeed social, existence. This has provoked them to assert themselves as Indians as well as Muslims – and thereby proposing a new inclusive definition of nationalism.

But there are four new factors that are shaping this new Muslim politics and its stake in nationalism.

Also read: Indian liberals missed the mark yet again by protesting ‘la ilaha illallah’ in CAA debate

People’s movements 

The Muslim protesters, it seems, draw inspiration from grassroots politics and people’s movements (such as those against displacement, or by Dalit/Adivasis, or farmers’ agitations) in two significant ways. First, they identify the Constitution as a legitimate political source to assert their citizenship status. The Constitution’s liberal values, especially the Preamble, are creatively interpreted to question the disruptive agenda of the government.

Second, the Muslim protesters try hard to present the anti-CAA protest as a non-party political agitation. This conscious move helps them get rid of the established BJP versus Congress framework, and allows them to accommodate leaders such as Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj Abhiyan, Chandrashekhar Azad of Bhim Army, and Kanhaiya Kumar of Communist Party of India (CPI). In this sense, there is an attempt to give the anti-CAA movement an inclusive political character.

Also read: Two reasons that can keep CAA-NRC protests from evolving into a larger anti-Modi movement

A believable idea of India 

Hindutva politics does not become the sole reference point for the Muslim protesters. They certainly reject the Hindutva-driven discourse of nationalism that has been the main intellectual source behind the CAA. But they do not want to reduce everything to Hindutva politics. Instead, they seem to question the reliability of the framework that has produced and mainstreamed the communal, anti-Muslim stereotypes in the last six years.

The findings of the CSDS-NES survey 2019 are very relevant to elaborate on this point. An overwhelming majority of respondents support the argument that India does not belong only to Hindus. In fact, nearly 75 per cent Hindus reject the Hindutva propaganda that India is a natural Hindu homeland. On the other hand, only 6 per cent Muslims appear to have lost faith in the secular promise made by India’s Constitution. It shows that the media-driven Hindutva discourse cannot influence the fundamental political beliefs of common Indian citizens.

Also read: Not Savarkar-Golwalkar, roots of CAA lie in RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s brand new Hindutva

Popular symbolism 

The national symbols — the national anthem, the national flag, and even the Constitution — are not merely seen as intellectual resources by these Muslim protesters. They also use them as symbols of protest.

This creative reinterpretation of national symbols is a relatively new phenomenon in Indian politics. The anti-corruption movement of 2011 was the first major political event when the official national symbols were recognised as legitimate sources of political agitation.

The Muslim protesters, however, have expanded the scope of this symbolism, and by doing so, they have also staked their claim in inclusive nationalism. The photographs of B.R. Ambedkar and M.K. Gandhi are placed side by side along with the copy of the Constitution; religious texts — Bhagavad Gita, Quran, Bible, and Guru Granth Sahib — are recited; havan is organised for communal harmony; and the national anthem is sung on the stairs of the historic Jama Masjid in Delhi.

This creative re-articulating of symbolic nationalism takes us beyond the given imaginations of Muslim political identity. The Muslim community, which is often treated as religiously inward-looking and politically untrustworthy (or siyasi), is reasserting its Muslim-ness as an inseparable part of the Indian identity. And precisely for this reason, creating a binary between Islamic belief and patriotism of Muslims is a communal, anti-national agenda.

Also read: Tricolour, anthem — India’s Muslims on why they’re using national symbols in protests


The refined idea of political representation is the fourth important source of this new Muslim assertiveness. The protesters are not led by any particular Muslim organisation or individual. It is true that the All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) has been organising a number of protests against the CAA, and Muslim religious bodies such as Jamiat-Ulama-e-Hind are also very critical of this law. But these established Muslim organisations have not been given any formal recognition by the protesters so far for two obvious reasons.

First, Muslim protesters do not want to make the CAA a ‘Muslim issue’. They describe the anti-Muslim character of the CAA/NRC as an ‘attack on the spirit of the Constitution’ to expand the scope of this agitation. Second, they are also keen on redefining the idea of representation — “who represents Muslims?”

The presence of Chandrashekhar Azad holding a copy of the Constitution with B.R. Ambedkar’s photo on it at Jama Masjid (a mosque otherwise known for its Shahi Imam’s fatwa politics) and Kanhaiya Kumar’s Azadi song at Shaheen Bagh underlines this new definition of Muslim political representation. Muslim protesters have made it clear that their political anxieties need not be represented exclusively by Muslim politicians.

No one knows the fate of the anti-CAA movement. But it is certain that this new Muslim assertiveness will continue to redefine the meanings of inclusive nationalism in the future.

The author is a Fellow at the Nantes Institute of Advanced Studies, France (2019-2020) and Associate Professor, CSDS, New Delhi. Views are personal.

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63 Comments Share Your Views


  1. A very thought provoking post.

    Shared from Gen Prakash Katoch’s wall…

    *My problem with what’s happening in the country* :- is not about BJP
    or Jats
    Hindu Extremism and
    Muslim Extremism, Or
    Beef Ban
    Porn Ban,
    that ‘India wants to know’ guy*….
    *My problem is our mind space being occupied* with futile,
    regressive thinking…..

    *In an age when this country should be thinking of INVENTIONS and IDEAS* ,

    we are discussing subjects mentioned above….

    *Why isn’t the government
    and media talking about it?*

    *Why the subject of debate is not DEVELOPMENT?*

    *Why isn’t
    talking about it?*

    *Why isn’t every Hindu talking about it.*

    *Why aren’t the Muslims talking about it?*

    *Why the news channels aren’t focusing on it?*

    *Why Indians on face book not discussing it?*

    *Or spreading that idea to the world?*

    *Saffron or Green,
    Beef or Chicken,
    Porn or Sanskari channels,
    Temples or Mosques,
    Jats or Kashmiris

    aren’t tools of development*…

    *These subjects of conversations are ANTI DEVELOPMENT*

    *And anything that’s anti-development is anti-national

    at least for me…..*

    *I want to see my India look better than Switzerland…..*

    *I want my India to do better than the US in the Olympics…..*

    *I want to see my India more civilized than the most civilized country in this world…..*

    *I want my India to be more innovative than Japan…..*

    *I want my India to be more safe for woman than Copenhagen, Denmark…..*

    *I want my India to be more open minded than Canada….*

    *I want my India to be better than what it is today….*

    *And not worse…*
    *And that can only happen when we start thinking productive….*

    *Else we will all be wasting time doing something that is useless,
    and infertile. . . . . . . ……………………………………………… *Please circulate this post.* *I could have used the half an hour I took to write this, as a reaction to what’s happening around, for a better purpose”. ….. If you are looking to better national interests forward this message to your all contacts*

  2. Stupid conclusion.Was used by Left parties in 1990s. In that case Indira Gandhi,Rajiv Gandhi also didn’t get support of the majority of indians as their vote share was 38 to 40% of the votes polled. In parliamentary politics, first past the post and no. Of Seats won matters . Not percentage of votes. Learn the basics. And also don’t jump to conclusions about my political affiliations.

  3. Protest against caa and nrc is just a bullshit. Actually sare bewakufo kaa group ek jagah hoo gaya hai.i just gone through whole caa and nrc aur mujhe kahi aisa nahi laga ki wo anti muslim hai. Pata nahi gadho ne kaun sa bill padh k protest kiya hai. Aur ye blog likhne wala patrakar kam aur dalal jyada lag raha hai. Jo aag jal rahi hai usse bujhane ki wajah aur patrakarita k naam pe hawa de raha hai

    • exactly! mother,sister,wives, yourselves will all have to stand in interminable lines and show stacks of papers. even then if you dont bribe, you will have be dubbed doutful!

      • Exactly! We must all worry about our mothers, sisters, wives because if we don’t follow the secular path, the civil war that will follow will destroy us all.
        All communities, religions must come together as equal Indians and reject the poison of the RSS that seeks to divide us.

  4. We must look to the future. India has a population of 1.3 billion people, Hindus are 1 billion and Muslims are 200 million. Our population is hindering our prosperity. Economic sense, limited resources to share with so many people. We can’t carry on like this. Hindus are doing their part to reduce the population. The average hindu family size is 3.5, and the child is mostly like to be a boy. Whereas, the average Muslim family size is 5, with a boy and two girls. With the Hindu population declining, and the Muslim population growing, what will the scenario look like in 40 years? Two third hindu and one third Muslim. This proportion of Muslims will give them a strong enough voice to push for sharia law and birth of a new homeland within India, or a castrophic civil war. This will fracture the Hindu civilisation over India as we now have. This is the time to act before it is too late. The CAA will act as an instrument of discipline to expel Muslims in the future who have too many children. The purpose of CAA is to only instill a sense of fear into Muslims that they must control the number of children they have, as a hidden rule. If they have too many children, they will expelled from India on the grounds of not being citizens, yet they will all know, at the back of their minds, that the real reason was because they had to many children.

    • You comment ABOVE “ The average hindu family size is 3.5, and the child is mostly like to be a boy. ”
      What are you Hindus doing? Killing of girls in the womb or not feeding them as infants so they die?
      This is a barbaric act, there are millions of fewer (missing) girls in Hindu society because of this.

  5. Satya nadela,Jamia students,du students,jnu students,st.stephen college’s students (of best universities),Amartya sen (noble laureate) etc. are illiterate.Only bjp and rss persons are literate.😂😂

  6. he is jihadi bigot .. most educated muslims are likewise bigots who are supporting anti CAA these are anti hindu anti india … n pan islamo faccists

    • Indian secularists, muslim or otherwise, are protesting CAA because they do not agree that religion can be a criterion for citizenship.

  7. Except BJP . all parties represent Muslims. Muslims were never so much in demand as they are today. No party says Muslims should avoid Madrassa and get secular education which is the only way to get good jobs. No party is asking Muslims to have smaller families as that is the main cause of their poverty. Muslim vote bank is all they are fighting for. And in that race there is a competition to prove who is more secular than others.

  8. One question that needs to addressed head on: Why did the Muslims of India (in parts such as UP and other areas of India) overwhelmingly support the partition of India based on religion?

    Today’s Muslims are not responsible for those who voted for the partition 70 years, but they must confront this core issue. They still have extensive relationship with Muslims of Pakistan. Many of them have supported yet another partition of India through the separation of Kashmir. I am personally aware of many Indian Muslims who supported Pakistan during various conflicts. However, I hesitate to generalize based on personal interactions.

    Why not a survey that looks into how Muslims feel about Pakistan? This is a crucial data point that can help Muslims look inwards or force Hindus change their perceptions. Why do we avoid confronting key issues head-on if we are truly interested in peace and resolution?

    • what a strange question! Indian Muslims did not support partition – Muslims who supported partition did not stay back in India of course!

      • You are uninformed and, yet, you have strong opinions. Ninety percent of the Muslims in UP voted to support Muslim League’s demands for Pakistan. The vast majority of them stayed back. The same was true all across India. What you do not realize is that implicit in Muslim League demands was the strong belief of Muslim superiority. Even Mahatma Gandhi wrote that Muslim was a bully, but then blamed the Hindus for being cowards. So Muslims were perfectly capable of evicting Hindus from Pakistan (direct action day was a call for violence that started in Rawalpindi) but they never imagined that they could be removed from the rest of India. Once again, this is not an argument to suggest that Muslims should not be allowed to live in India today. We need a survey (actually many surveys and lots of social science research) that actually looks at what Muslims feel about Pakistan and what they think about how their relatives and families acted during those tumultuous times.This is the kind of truth we need to face and then reconciliation becomes possible.

        • Do u even know how many muslims voted for pakistan.In british india who had the rights to even vote.90 percent in UP voted for pak from where do u get such knowledge, just talking nonsense .Don’t get knowledge from whatsapp university.

  9. A welcome approach.Most of the issues faced by Muslims are lifestyle issues and same issues are faced by Majority of Hindus also. It is therefore realistic and also imaginative to present these issues as not that of identity politics.They can give up their obsession about BJP and instead define themselves in terms of issues.

  10. Seriously ! From where do u imagine such things ? CAA is very very important for India else muslims turn it into next Indonesia. If muslims will keep protesting , time will come hindus will forget Gandhi and take matter into own hands. CAA is must necessary for a balance. Look around you. U turned almost all nations into a middle east. First u pretend to be innocent , then u show true colors when get majority. We have vast christian population but never have trouble but small muslim population is out of control.

  11. Hungary and Poland has closed their doors to any Arab immigrants. They said NO against other EU countries and they still stand by their decision.

    • First, this is fake news.
      Second, what’s your point? There are no Arab Muslims in India.
      They are all Indian, been here through generations. The move is in the opposite direction to create a Hindu pakistan – maybe a better idea to go to the country that was created for religion and try this there. Leave India alone. India is happily secular as the research shows.

    • Poland is facing insurrection from its concerned citizens over the drift towards fascism (just like in India) and Hungary is so far down the road to fascism that EU has considered sanctions against its own memeber. MEPs called on EU countries on 15 January to set concrete demands and deadlines for Hungary and Poland, which have been under prolonged EU scrutiny over the rule of law and judicial independence (from:

      • lol anamika hingary has ckiked out muslims who are trouble makers there … EU cant do anything as is national call for hungary romania as well as poland … islamo fascism is on rise and it will countered violently too

  12. Muslims are not happy with Pakistan and Bangladesh. They want to create another Pakistan inside India.
    Till that happens, they will not rest.

  13. We certainly know who represents India’s Muslims. All the Political Parties which have been rejected by the Indians represents India’s Muslims. Needless to say that all Parties have not been able to defeat the BJP and Modi in the elections and so they are piggybacking on the Muslims, Urban naxals and OBC’s to get to power

  14. Jitna Politically gain karna tha CAA se woh politicall party gain kar liya.

    Ab Khali paid writers ( journalist ) ke dimaag mein yeh issue bacha hai.

    CAA issue is closed.

    Next discussion Budget.

    • This newspaper has nothing positive news about the country. Shekhar Gupta has forgotten the election is in 2024. Like 2019 when he tried very hard to find faults of Modi in the villages, he will have a bigger shock this time. he is turning all liberal readers into BJP camps.

    • Is it too cold in your BJP IT cell? Has it affected your ability to read? 74 percent of Hindus don’t think India belongs only to them. Most Indians believe in a plural identity guaranteed by the constitution.
      Welcome to India, you Hindu Jihadi moron.

      • No Hindu wants exclusive Hindu India unlike most Muslim countries. But India does not want illegal Muslims from Bangladesh and Myanmar. Is it asking too much?

      • These same think tanks and surveys predicted modi would lose ,Trump will lose etc ,this survey u r quoting as gospel truth ,what is the strength of the study,what is the sample size,simply manipulated figures are not going to cut ice,your jihadi leftist combine is not going to stop the rise of the new Sanathan Bharat u jihadi islamo leftist moron

  15. What is unconstitutional ?

    Opposing CAA !
    Because it’s discreminate on basis of religion and that’s unconstitutional. Ok
    Why not reservation !
    What is reservation or what it does or why it’s here ?
    It is simple there is persecution on the basis of cast so there is this system called reservation which gives certain uphands(Kota & relaxations) to peoples while abolishing right to equality.
    So we discreminate our people’s on the basis of there casts.
    No one has to prove percussion not written in law .
    What if there is percussion on the basis of religion then this one comes as reservation ( CAA ) comes in.

    Btw I support both.

    Look stop saying it unconstitutional because their always being exceptions like reservations.

    You don’t have something you should go for opting it, not too destroy it. Because it’s more valuable too those who are in need of it. Their is persicusion you just can’t denie this law is just fastracking process for those whom it was promised by our great leaders who set this upall things like partition, constitution. But political parties, intellectuals & you people are misleading it all to Muslims because they always fearsome of this government which also cook by same peoples.

    Now coming to youth this it is nature of youth to oppose the current flow। Which is also used by sameones.

  16. The Parsis famously dropped a lump of sugar in the bowl of milk offered to them by the local Raja from whom they sought refuge and sanctuary. The numbers involved are not comparable. However, this could be the Indian Muslims’s way and moment of saying the same thing. We have our deeply held religious beliefs, our dress, diet – not always language – social and dating / mating rituals and customs are very different. Inter faith marriages are rare. Even so, we are an integral part of India, have no extra territorial loyalties, ask no more than what the Constitution guarantees us. Viewed objectively, there is a good case to grant us reservation / affirmative action, but we will not make an issue of it. 2. My heart tells me hard Hindutva resonates with no more than a tiny minority. Not with the 31 / 37% who voted for the BJP. 3. There are crazy people in all camps. If one group can do lynchings and pogroms, the other side will not sit at home with glass bangles. It is so much better if we do not start walking in that apocalyptic direction.

    • Very well put. Thank you!
      Only: 1. with about 67% turn-out (source: wikipedia), a 37% vote translates to ONLY 25% support (0.37X0.67X100). A FULL 75% of Indians REJECTED bjp – that is 3 out of 4 people. 2. can we please use another metaphor for cowardliness – Indian women achieve amazingly brave stuff every day while wearing glass bangles!

      • u r the reason why women like u become halal victims with low logic …..67 % turn out of what ? voters registered … there many who dint vote but still supported Modi so ? what makes u say they voted against him ? you can try this nonsense elswhere and create your jihadi pakistanis elsewhere … CA will be implemented and bigoted religious cut ideologies will not be tolerated … simple .. those frustrated anti mod can go to pakistan and auction themselves to highest bidder

  17. The writer survey is foolish. Hindus always say this country belongs to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains equally not only Hindus. Had the question been asked

    does the India belongs to Indic/Dharmc faith or to foreign faith/two abrahamic ones? The Answer would be very opposite.

    • India is secular – that means it does not belong to an “Indic/Dharmic faith or an Arbahamic” one. May be you didn’t study civics in your school? The constitution is available online if you would like to brush you who India belongs to.
      It belongs to Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jain, Buddists, Tribals, Jews… everyone/

      • The civic text book which you r quoting is a leftist product,if you want to know the real character of india,the first constitution of india had 22 pictures and references to Sanathan Dharma with pictures of Ram Sita Laxman and Hanuman,Buddha,and Sikh Gurus,no Abrahamic religious characters were present but the sicular Nehru had them silently removed I challenge you to go get your facts right

        • are you on hallucinogenic drugs or are you brainwashed? is there even an iota of evidence for this imaginary history? repeating lies is not going to make us forget history. Your masters should do well to remember that humans have an inherent preference for truth over falsehood.

  18. As I read this article, I started wondering what the author was talking about. Muslims protesting without political support? Nonsense.
    Then, I reached the end of the article and saw the credentials. Another NRI, now in France.
    He does not see the contradiction. If singing national anthem makes them secular, then they might as well say Bharat mata ki jai also. Why yes to national anthem and no to Bharat mata?
    Bharat mata is not Hindutva symbol nor is she a competing God nor proclaiming her makes her greater than God.
    Why doesn’t the author see how confused the community itself is and how contradictory its behaviour is? Clinically speaking, it appears schizoid. One moment, they do one thing and the other they reverse it. How are other communities to gain trust then?

    • It’s required to sing the national anthem. It’s your choice to sing bharat mata ki jai or anything else you want to sing. How does that matter?
      Indian Muslims do not have to “gain trust” of anyone. This is their homeland.
      What are you doing to gain their trust, or anyone’s?
      I would say that the ones who don’t believe in the constitution which guarantees India’s secularism need to prove their nationalistic credentials, not Muslims, or anyone else.

  19. “Without any political party’s support, India’s Muslims protesting CAA”
    Did you born yesterday

    All parties (including Muslim parties) support Muslim community before election abandon after election, same as other communities.

    Congress,TMC,BSP,SP, CPM all plays communal card to win election
    Deobandi group use communal card to create chaos.

    Stop playing victim card again and again.

    • It’s a hot topic now “whether Indian Muslims loves India more than Islam”

      A politician once said the day Muslim men/women love there children more than there religion, Terrorism will end.

        • Who appointed you expert? Why not spend time reading the Gita, and Upnishads instead of looking into other people’s homes and trying to understand who they love more.
          Look within – why is one so compelled to think about what Muslims love or care about? Why is the government so compelled to talk about Pakistan? Is there nothing else to talk about? The economy is faltering and there are no jobs, and all you can think about is how much does a Muslim man love his children…

      • Haha. Someone famously said, very recently, Why does our PM keep talking about Pakistan? Is he ambassador of Pakistan or the PM of India.
        I think that is more relevant here. How many Muslims do you know personally? The ones I know seem to be normal parents in their love for their children.
        Recent times have shown that the ones protesting have more regard and love for the Indian constitution than the government. So there is that.

      • Rohita
        Victim ! I would suggest you to read local newspaper.

        Most national newspaper played down the incident, I would recommend you to broaden your horizon.

        Go local and see all the things left wing ignores and right wing exploits

    • Yes there is huge political support for these protests, can’t deny that. Every party is baking their bread here.
      But in this case the communal card was played by the BJP and it did backfire,
      Just look at the hate speeches given by BJP leaders in the past one month alone.
      The BJP seems to be intolerant towards anything that goes against their stand and people never like to be dictated the terms by any government.

    • Yes there is huge political support for these protests, can’t deny that. Every party is baking their bread here.
      But in this case the communal card was played by the BJP and it did backfire,
      Just look at the hate speeches given by BJP leaders in the past one month alone.
      The BJP seems to be intolerant towards anything that goes against their stand and people never like to be dictated the terms by any government.

    • Everything here is done by Christians… If this is not their doing pope would have given a statement…

      The backbone CAA IS CHRISTIANITY…

      Planning to destroy Islam and acting as if they know nothing… It’s a long term slow plan and execution.. also, adding oil putting all blame on INDIA…
      The whole world Christianity wants to dominate from the shadows…

  20. Nonsense interpretation and false analysis of anti-CAA protest. Everything is politically motivated without understanding the contents of the act. Common people even don’t know what is CAA. They are simply kept in dark and wrong interpretation is being given. All these things will fizzle out and things will be normal. Those involved in instigation, arson, violence and anti national activities will be dealt with accordingly. No culprit will be spared.

    • Everyone understands it. That is why there are protests.
      Only those who are relying on forwards from Whatsapp University are not able to see what CAA is going to do.


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