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CAA: Why Has A Democratically Elected Government Defied The Constitution?

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The country is blazing in yet another outburst of communal inferno, literally and figuratively. Politically conscious, soon to be branded anti-national citizens have taken to the streets demanding the draconian law be removed. The violence meted out to the protesters may be a mild indicator of the violence awaiting the future non-citizens of this secular democratic country.

Every section of the citizenry is savouring their last few years perhaps, even months of freedom of speech, only to be repressed by unwarranted state power. Since the introduction of the CAB in the Lok Sabha, the IT cell of the country’s ruling party had released its army of trolls upon every dissident. The amount of vitriol has only increased with the passing of the bill as protests gained momentum.

Social justice warriors, more often than not inadequately informed of the real motive behind these recent legislations (CAA and NRC) were seen misdirecting their criticism. This coupled with the ruling party’s propaganda manufacturing machine has succeeded in keeping the apolitical citizens in the dark. An accurate reading of history of the ruling party’s ideological parent organisation alone suffices to understand where our country is headed.

Their patrons have explicitly stated that the ultimate aim is in fact Hindu Rashtra, “the nation belongs to the Hindus and the rest must conform.” Since the landslide win in this year’s general election, the party has been treading with ease and pushing forward its communal agenda. In its maniacal pursuit of establishing a Hindu Rashtra, the government is extolling hatred and spewing venom. Their prey? Peaceful protesters.

The Delhi Police throws tear gas at the Jamia Millia Islamia campus in New Delhi, where a peaceful protest against the CAA was marred by police brutality.

Are The Protests Preventing The Minorities From Claiming Promised Asylum?

The CAB (now CAA) was never really a benevolent gesture, the government doesn’t give a damn about the persecuted minorities in reality. The dangerous combination of CAA and nation-wide NRC furthers the RSS’s agenda of establishing a Hindu Rashtra.

The exclusion of Muslims in the CAB was not a typographical error or a chance mistake. The very fact that a democratically elected government had the audacity to release a bill that is unconstitutional points to a terrorising truth – a genocide is in the offing. The process has begun. One needs to look no further than Nazi Germany to sense the signs.

The Nuremberg Laws systemically excluded, ghettoised and annihilated non-Aryans. A charismatic leader, powerful propaganda minister, shunning of democratic values and an unjustified mania for oneness characterised Nazi Germany. The similarities are hard not to notice.

How Do CAA And Other Recent Legislations Further The RSS Agenda?

Every piece of legislation that has been stealthily passed in the midnight hours were carefully crafted steps to shun the Muslims to second class status. The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act that targeted individuals rather than organisations, the Triple Talaq Act, that selectively punished Muslim men more for abandoning their marriages, the abrogation of Article 370, apparently to avenge the Kashmiri Pandits exodus, the list goes on.

The CAA is no different. The lettering of the legislation itself is anti-Muslim. The government’s logic is that the religious minorities in neighbouring theocratic nations alone suffer under persecution. The persecution of the Ahmadiyyas in Pakistan, the Hazaras in Afghanistan, the Rohingyas in Myanmar, the Uighurs in China are all well documented.

Yet the government’s decision to provide a religion based selective amnesty itself proves its anti-secular character. What needs our attention is not the fact that Christians, Jains and Sikhs have been included in the CAA, but that the Muslims have been excluded.

The government through these legislations, seeks to remove the concept of secularism from the Constitution altogether. Here, it is essential to consider the Nazi example once again. Under Hitler, nothing the Nazis did were unconstitutional, the Nazi regime saw to that by changing the constitution fundamentally. Every act of notoriety had legal sanction.

Why Has A Democratically Elected Government Acted In Defiance Of The Indian Constitution?

The RSS had since its inception rejected the Indian Constitution, calling it anti-Hindu. In a paper titled ‘Vartaman Indian Samvidhan,’ (translates to ‘the Indian Constitution, presently’) the Indian Constitution is accused of being contrary to the country’s culture, character, circumstances, etc. and ‘foreign oriented.’

The writer goes on to say “…it has to be discarded completely as a matter of priority…. the damage done by 100 long years of British rule is negligible compared to the harm done by our Constitution.” A democratically elected Prime Minister who was a former pracharak (promoter) of the RSS that brought him up will definitely not think twice before introducing an unconstitutional bill in the parliament, surely?

A man at a protest organised by the Northeastern community in Mumbai against the Citizenship Amendment Bill in January this year. (Photo: Himanshu Saikia/Facebook)

Will Including Muslims In The Bill Solve The Problem?

Murli Manohar Joshi, a former BJP MP of Kanpur had said in 1991, “I say that all Indian Muslims are Mohammadiya Hindus, all Indian Christians are Christi Hindus. They are Hindus who have adopted Christianity and Islam as their religion. Thus neither are acceptable with distinct identities of their own. They must be Hinduised.”

BJP representatives participating in news channel debates have repeatedly hinted at the chance of establishing a Uniform Civil Code, based on the RSS ideology of “Ek Vidhaan, Ek Nishan” (one structure, one symbol) in the country. The fate awaiting the non-Hindus of the nation that the CAA has avowed to protect is hence, clear. The Sanatan Dharma will soon be guiding ideology and the Bhagwa Dhwaj (saffron flag) the national flag.

Are The Assamese Xenophobic For Protesting Against Granting Citizenship To Bengali Hindus?

Even when the act was still a bill, the northeast had come out in strong opposition against the bill, as the CAA combined with NRC is completely opposed to the ethos of the Assam Accord of 1985.

In 1985, the Assam Accord was signed by the All Assam Students’ Union, the Asom Gana Parishad, the central and state government. This was done to bring an end to the 6-year-long anti-foreign agitations that rocked the state and came to be known as the Assam Fury after the 1971 partition.

Now, the anti-foreign sentiments of the indigenous Assamese can only be understood in the context of colonialism. The middle class Bengali immigrants in the colonial times were largely seen as usurpers that domineered over the tribal population and even tried to impose their language upon them. Bengali was even made their official language and the medium of instruction in schools in 1837. This came at a time when the Assamese had already been ousted from state power by usurping Sylheti Bengalis (Sylhet is a district of present day Bangladesh).

There was always a visible class divide between western educated Sylheti Bengalis and the local Assamese. “They never treated themselves as immigrants and assumed an air of superiority..” (The Northeast Question Conflict and Frontiers). Moreover, given Assam’s precarious geographic position and the frequent incidence of floods, the state had limited resources or economic opportunities. Scope for industrialisation has always been minimal in Assam due to these reasons.

The ethnic nationalism in Assam needs to be seen with these facts in mind.

Will All Hindus Prosper Under The Hindu Rashtra?

Despite the reassurances, no underprivileged citizen needs to accept compassion under a communal regime. Taking the very basic example of the CAA-NRC combination, any erstwhile citizen of the nation may be named a non-citizen and stripped of their rights if they do not possess documents to prove their citizenship. The underprivileged, homeless, lower class citizens will hence bear the brunt of this legislation irrespective of religion.

Though the CAA can theoretically help one apply for brand new citizenship, the process is cumbersome. They will first have to prove that they are actually, say for example, a Bengali Hindu immigrant who lied about their citizenship earlier and then reapply to be considered as a victim of religious persecution in Bangladesh and expect mercy.

Those that don’t qualify may be stripped of all their rights and deported to detention centres, which by the way, are strikingly similar to the Nazi regime’s concentration camps.

To conclude, the legislation is not just anti-Muslim, anti-secular, anti-Assamese but also obviously, anti-poor. Hindutva does not believe in equality before law and borrows profusely from the Manusmriti, which established the chatur varna (four varnas, in other words, caste) system. Hence, the nature of this soon to be established Hindu Rashtra should come as no surprise.

News of state-sanctioned violence is dominating every form of media and yet, if your privilege prevents you from having an opinion and being political, know that you brought impending disaster upon yourself. Remember Niemoeller’s immortal words:

“First they came for the Communists,

I said nothing for I was not a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,

I said nothing for I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,

I said nothing for I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me

And there was nobody left to stand up for me.”

Savarkar’s vision of establishing a Hindu Rashtra in 100 years is nearing completion and remember: you helped by remaining silent.

Featured image source: Rajesh Malayil/Facebook.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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