Wednesday, 28 September, 2022
HomeTalk PointDid Modi govt underestimate protests against CAA, NRC or have critics walked...

Did Modi govt underestimate protests against CAA, NRC or have critics walked into its trap?

Protests against the proposed nationwide NRC and Citizenship Amendment Act escalated Thursday in Delhi, Bengaluru, parts of Uttar Pradesh and other cities despite CrPC Section 144 imposed in certain parts of the country.

Text Size:

Protests against the proposed nationwide NRC and Citizenship Amendment Act escalated Thursday in Delhi, Bengaluru, parts of Uttar Pradesh and other cities despite CrPC Section 144 imposed in certain parts of the country. Historian Ramachandra Guha, activists Yogendra Yadav and Harsh Mander along with numerous students have been detained in the national capital. Internet and calling services were also snapped in parts of Delhi.

ThePrint asks: Did Modi govt underestimate protests against CAA, NRC or have critics walked into its trap?

Modi govt expected opposition from political parties against CAA, NRC, but not from civil society

Hilal Ahmed 
Associate Professor, CSDS 

The BJP had made a commitment in its manifestos to both the CAA and the NRC. The purpose was obvious: it wanted to nurture its Hindu vote bank. In a post-election situation, such divisive measures are employed to consolidate the Hindu-Muslim binary in India.

The government introduced the CAA as if it wasn’t going to adversely affect the Muslim community. At the same time, the BJP kept emphasising that this should be linked to the NRC.

The opposition to CAA and the NRC has two clear aspects. First, there are opposition parties, which are playing their own games. The entire political class, it appears, is interested in utilising the Hindu-Muslim binary created by the government on CAA and NRC.

But protests are also being organised by other groups. Civil society organisations, students, intellectuals and people from all walks of life are opposing CAA and NRC by questioning the established Hindu-Muslim binary. In a way, they are actually underlining the anti-people and the anti-constitution attitude of the Modi government.

We must remember that CAA has been intentionally introduced to distract people from the real issues India is facing. The political class has already embraced the framework given by the government. The Modi government, it seems, would have expected some kind of restricted resistance from opposition parties.

However, the state didn’t expect opposition from civil society, which is posing fundamental questions about India’s political existence as a constitutional democracy. This assertion of civil society is going to determine the political fate of India in the near future.

Modi and Shah believe every protester is only helping their image as saviours of the proposed Hindu Rashtra

Kaveree Bamzai
Senior journalist 

The protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), in spirit if not in scale, are exactly what Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah wanted. This is the real Gujarat model: divide, polarise, excise.

Just as according to the Gujarat narrative, Godhra sparked the 2002 Gujarat riots, Modi-Shah believe protests against the CAA and the NRC will see a long-term impact of reducing Muslims to second-class citizens in India, as they are in Gujarat.

Modi-Shah are only following the RSS agenda: stripping Jammu and Kashmir of its special status with the dilution of Article 370, criminalisation of triple talaq, Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, moving towards a Uniform Civil Code, the new citizenship law in conjunction with the promise to extend Assam’s NRC to the rest of India. Modi and Shah believe that every protester helps them further their image as the twin saviours of the proposed Hindu Rashtra.

The more the “tukde tukde gang”, “Urban Naxals”, “jihadis”, and “psecs” (pseudo secularists) rise in revolt, the more they solidify their image as “the other”, which is precisely what the Hindutva heroes want. This is the remaking of India in their image, where Muslim vote-bank politics will be considered political hara-kiri.

Gujarat was the laboratory for the harvest of hatred, and India will be the factory where the hatred for Muslims and other marginalised communities will be manufactured on a mass scale.

Opposing groups would have walked into Modi govt’s trap if they had viewed it as a Hindu-Muslim issue

Rahul Verma 
Fellow, Centre for Policy Research 

The Modi government has definitely underestimated the opposition’s response to CAA. There are three kinds of oppositions at play here.

First, the opposition parties, which haven’t done a good enough job of mobilising people. Second, civil society and citizens, who are now on the streets. The third opposition is coming up on different axes of mobilisation on CAA and NRC. Northeast India’s protests against CAA and NRC are very different from the ones in north India or south India.

The BJP may have anticipated some of this, but it did not certainly expect the current magnitude of protests and various quarters from where anger is pouring in. Fortunately, this has not become a Hindu-Muslim issue because this may have benefitted the BJP in the short run. In the background, there is also another factor at play, namely the economic slowdown.

Lately, the BJP hasn’t met its own electoral expectations in both Haryana and Maharashtra. Moreover, it seems that the party is having a difficult time in Jharkhand and forthcoming Delhi assembly elections. With the economic slowdown and the social unrest building up, the BJP and the Modi government may lose the upper hand in the narrative very soon.

This is a boiling pot of issues and may get out of hand, which will not be good for India’s democratic health as well as the country’s image in the international community. It will also hurt the business and investment climate that will further deepen the economic crisis. India is heading for very uncertain times.

A small section of Indians feel for migrants and oppose CAA

Abhijit Iyer-Mitra
Senior fellow, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies

I don’t think the Modi government has underestimated these protests. In fact, Modi and Amit Shah were counting on it. The more people outrage over the CAA and the proposed pan-India NRC, the more it would work in the Modi government’s favour.

It will also help the government project the protesters as those in support of illegal immigration.

One must also understand that there is a difference between the narratives of the English and the vernacular media. The vernacular press caters to an audience that is expected to be more nationalistic in spirit.

For the audience of English media, the concept of a nation is an imagined identity. But for the vernacular audience, it is connected to the idea of India and Bharat Mata. It doesn’t affect them individually, which is why they will remain unconcerned with the opposition to the CAA.

There have been public protests in India on key issues in the past. But those who feel for the migrants and are opposing the CAA – there are not more than 15 per cent of them – hold a very esoteric point of view.

The rest of the population will want what they did in Kashmir’s case – to throw them out.

Mishandling of protests, Section 144 show nervousness of Modi government

Purushottam Agarwal
Professor and author 

The Narendra Modi government underestimated public resentment against CAA and NRC. And it isn’t merely about these two issues, but also about the accumulated anger of the youth that is bursting out.

The Modi government has tried very hard to divert attention from its failures, mostly on economy and governance. But people are now beginning to see through it.

The citizenship law violates the spirit of the Constitution. These protests are taking place because of these violations. Professional institutions have tried to keep away from it and not fall into this trap. The Modi government did lay the trap, but people don’t seem to be falling for it.

Even in the case of Jamia Millia Islamia protests, evidence suggests students did not resort to violence. I don’t understand the Modi government’s need to impose Section 144 in some parts of the country. This kind of mishandling just shows the nervousness of the government.

Moreover, there was absolutely no need for the police to detain people like Ramachandra Guha in Bengaluru, who was just standing with a placard. Can’t people protest anymore in India?

To my mind, it is not just about this particular issue. It is about the larger bungling practicality of the government on every front. The brewing discontent among the people of India has begun to manifest now.

Also read: Liberal, secular opposition to CAA must not allow room for Islamic and Left radicals

By Kairvy Grewal, journalist at ThePrint 

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Support Our Journalism

India needs fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism, packed with on-ground reporting. ThePrint – with exceptional reporters, columnists and editors – is doing just that.

Sustaining this needs support from wonderful readers like you.

Whether you live in India or overseas, you can take a paid subscription by clicking here.

Support Our Journalism


  1. Just one question to one of the gentlemen here who has stated that seculars want to give citizenship rights to everyone from all over the globe. Tell me how is Sri Lanka, or China, or Myanmar any different from the three countries that were picked. If there were any issues regarding “problems in the neighbourhood” does it not apply equally to all the nations and religions? Is that not what the constitution of India represents. Or meant to symbolize? Afghanistan doesnt even share a border with India. Or just 100odd kilometers if pakistan occupied kashmir is considered. While a 1000+ km long border is shared with Myanmar. If they are trying to play big brother, they should consider the condition of our own people and our nation, before trying to set off on such misadventures

  2. CAA and NRC, in concept are not new. What this government is doing is taking up certain difficult decisions, which were continuously swept under the carpet. Of course, opposition was expected. Of course, the bills may not be 100% correct. There will always be exceptions, and cases can be taken on a one to one basis.
    Most protests these days are staged by professional protestors. I am against any arson and violence. I am prepared to face tough situations if I think it will ease the way for future generations.
    Regarding economy, it is in shambles all over the world. I do not expect ant political party to erase all our problems without our participation. We are all responsible for corruption, dirty surroundings, discrimination, pollution and laziness/fear to be self employed.
    I also see no viable alternative to current government.

    None of you have addressed the consequences of the actions by the evil RSS
    Muslims of India are wakening, a NCR will lead to a massive insurgency.
    Imagine, 200 million Muslim Stone pelters.
    A crackdown with brutal force, we have never seen Before in India
    Polarisation between Hindu Muslim , riots, pogroms
    A slowly emerging armed Islamic militant movement, bombs going off in public places
    Large Muslim areas under perpetual lockdown, vast swathes of India under internet blackout
    Chaos and economic activity at a complete halt for years, as climate catastrophe overtakes our troubles and causes widespread hunger.
    This is stuff that nightmares are made from.

  4. What’s App – I do not see any response to what’s app campaign from the protestor -are the protestors able to reach every household with their view in local language – the last mile, the campaign will be lost. The protestors are max say half a million across the country – the impact of television etc is 100-200 million. – the rest will have to be sms and watts app campaign – The for NRC view is already on what’s app – The alternative not yet.

    The intellectuals of the world need to keep this in mind. – most of us do not like to read but we vote , we do not even have the ability to understand the issues but can be swayed by emotion – the impact eludes us and we are far too much involved in ourselves to bother about what may happen – this is in abstract but We all read our messages.

    Further you need the pictures , pictures & words and not only words – reading is boring .

  5. All except Iyer-Mitra’s views are biased leftist views.

    The sign of an ignorant person is to complicate simple things, and the sign of a true intellectual is to simplify the complicated.

    Non of these laws (CAA or NRC, which has yet to be passed) are born from BJP, but ideas born from Congress. The issues is simple, minorities in Pak, Bang, and Afg. are persecuted on grounds of religion, hence they ran away to India and have been living in refugee camps all their lives. The government has decided to expedite their citizenship grant. That’s it. No muslim has run away from Pak, Bang, or Afg, b/c they we being persecuted for being muslim, as all these states are Muslim dominant. Simple.

    NRC is just a citizenship register, every 1st world country has one so they can keep control over who’s coming and going from the country and who’s staying. Is that a crime? No, that’s what developed nations do, it’s about setting up systems.

    The fact that most illegal migrants in India are muslim, and from muslim countries, doesn’t mean NRC is an anti-muslim system. It just so happens India was divided based on muslims getting their own lawn in Pak, so naturally most people easily able to cross the indian border are going to be from muslim majority countries.

    • The question is what you would do after identification of people who could not be registered as citizens? Would you deport them or put them in refugee camps? NRC is a costly, unwieldy, divisive and futile exercise. Right to reside and right to citizenship are two different matters. We have granted asylum and right to reside to many illegal immigrants on humanitarian grounds. Obviously, there is limit to how many more we can accommodate. The moot point is whether we should go even further and grant them citizenship rights also. For what purpose. Does it resolve the main issue – the demographic crisis in Assam caused by influx of illegal immigrants? It doesn’t. Instead it has created caused unrest, turmoil and anger leading to mass protests. And all this for granting citizenship rights to a few lakh Bengali Hindus residing illegally in Assam and now after carrying out NRC, they cannot be registered as citizens? What has the BJP gained? They may win a few seats in W.B.; but they have lost the entire NE forever.

  6. The forced binaries of H and M may not work anymore. Other divisions in society are bound to raise their head sooner or later. Process may have started.

  7. Different sections are opposing CAA with contrasting objectives. Assam is opposing it, as the legislation seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from Bangla Desh. The opposition parties are protesting non-inclusion of Muslims for granting citizenship rights. The liberals are opposing CAA as they want India to grant asylum to the victims facing persecution from all over the globe. The Left is opposing CAA because it wants to regain power in West Bengal and TMC is opposing because it wants to retain power in West Bengal. At the same time one must accept the fact that the CAA is an unwarranted step, its timing and focus is wrong, when the country is passing through severe economic slowdown. The government must pause and reconsider.

    • I am a liberal and I don’t want India to grant refuge / sanctuary to a single family from anywhere in the world. Analogous to the one million Syrians the Germans have so generously taken in. The Tibetans who came to India with His Holiness are still required to get their residency permits renewed; they do not qualify for citizenship. One lac Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka are still fluttering in the breeze. They should have been the first to qualify for citizenship under CAA. This is nothing more than realpolitik. So my opposition to CAA is more principled, resting on the Constitution that governs our public life.

  8. After a mid sized mess up, there is a refrain, This was a failure of intelligence. This is colossal. A tweeter Samrat X, who writes on the north east, says he has been warning of this for the last two years. Makes one wonder how the Chanakya from the region, Himanta Biswa Sarma failed to see this. 2. The other component to these protests are the Muslims. Their restraint and unwillingness to precipitate matters in recent years has allowed an impression to form that they can simply be walked all over. Not true, they are saying. 3. There is widespread disillusionment and anger, including over the dire economic situation. Where are the jobs which these bright young students will apply for when they complete their education. 4. 5. So much of this consternation would have been avoided if the apex court had granted a stay, fully merited on points of law. 6. The State of the Union is fraught. It would be good to make course corrections on the scale that is required.

Comments are closed.

Most Popular