The Indian Government, smug in its belief that its stony inaction on a slew of anti-Muslim measures like ‘lynchings’, attacks on so called ‘Love Jehadis’, electronic media campaign to vilify and divide, rewriting history books excluding the medieval period, renaming place names that bore a Muslim identity and down grading the status of J&K, hollowing out Article 370, and the sullen acceptance, by Muslims, of the Babri Masjid verdict, would again pass muster by the nation when it rammed through the CAA and declared its intention of nationwide implementation of NRC, which was mandated only for Assam by the courts. It will fast track applications for citizenship for six religious’ denominations, but exclude Muslims, who arrived in India before 2014. It is an attempt to tear the social fabric of India’s secular identity.
Any person making a constructive critique is declared disloyal and taunted ‘Go to Pakistan’. A sizeable number of gullible Indians have been swayed and accept the propaganda that Indian Muslims were pro Pakistani. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Fortunately, the propaganda to justify the present regressive measures have had the opposite effect and have drawn the ire of the country, especially the youth.
The international press and world bodies like the UN, which always admired India’s tolerance have put the country under unprecedented critical global scrutiny that has badly tarnished Its image abroad. Western Governments, increasingly toeing a rightist agenda have taken a safe and ambiguous stand as they view India as a potential democratic counter point to the looming Chinese communist and financial onslaught. These countries and Muslim nations of West Asia cannot afford to lose a potential market of 1.3 billion customers. There is however a limit to this tolerance and India must not be perceived as a regressive nation, prone to civil disorder. Such an impression, by the comity of nations, would slow down foreign investments, so vital for economic growth.
India had earlier always managed an astonishing degree of cultural diversity. Its inclusive democracy gave its 180 million Muslims, the second largest concentration in any country, an equal stake in the country’s well-being. The latter never regretted the choice their forefathers made in choosing secular India over theocratic Pakistan, till the slew of measures which the Muslims correctly surmised had nothing to do with facilitating non-Muslim migrants to India but marginalization of Indian Muslims.
The exclusive measures of linking religion with citizenship clearly indicated a clear approximation to Pakistan and a retreat from India’s cherished stand of being a secular, inclusive, democratic nation. To add insult to injury there were hectic preparations, country wide, to construct ‘Detention Centers’ where it was planned to intern countless ‘Infiltrators’ who cannot prove their Indian lineage, despite having lived in India for centuries. Where would these stateless persons be expelled? or would they spend a life disenfranchised, deprived of citizens rights and prevented from getting Government employment. The disenfranchised would no longer have a stake in the country and having been pushed to the wall could contemplate joining organizations inimical to the country. It is vital that they remain partners in the development and security of the land of their birth.
When there was a movement by AMU and Jamia Milia Islamia students against repressive measures, contemplated, the Police seems to have been directed to crush the dissidence with an iron hand. The latter always viewed these institutions with a jaundiced eye and having been given the green signal went berserk in subjecting the students to unprovoked violence. There was liberal use of tear gas in closed buildings and hostels and firing. Several students sustained grievous injuries, arrests were made and detainees were paraded out with their hands above their heads, like Prisoners of War.
There was damage to property and vehicles but it is alleged that it was the handiwork of lumpen criminals and agents provocateurs planted by the administration. There were several videos circulated to prove this point and the administration needs to investigate these allegations. The ham-handed police action was the last straw and unleashed a flurry of protests in other educational and prestigious institutions like Central Universities, IIMsand IITs. There is an immediate requirement to amend archaic laws which trample on individual liberty and right to dissent. Dissidence is not disloyalty. Regressive measures cannot succeed in India.
Attempts to polarize society and whip up communal hysteria have failed. The rallying point for both Hindus and Muslims, alike, were support for freedom and secularism. The CAA and NRC, are two sides of the same coin which were incorrectly projected as correcting the wrongs of partition and had become the decisive agenda.
A different and delayed entrant is the intention to conduct the NPR (National Population Register). This seemingly harmless exercise will not ask for any forms to be submitted and will not question about religion. What may not be available with most people is the date and place of birth of their parents. This will complicate matters for them and make them ‘suspect’ citizens. The NPR is the first step of NRC and I think will meet with resistance.
The students and large sections of India population questioned segregation on grounds of religion which they passionately questioned. The electorate is far too mature and had earlier thrown off the regressive yoke of an authoritative regime. The unstoppable tide of polarization has been arrested. India is rediscovering its undivided soul and it is the youth who are the points-persons and leading from the front.
PN: The article first appeared as ‘Listen To The Youth: Barometer of The Nations Soul’ on 2019/12/30.