The recent events surrounding the CAA-NRC issue have unmasked India’s leaders, laid bare its citizens’ ugliest prejudices and showed the country and the world very clearly what India values, what we stand for and how far a government will go to hold on to power.
The last month brought out the best and worst in us.
1. Democracy Is Alive, And People Are Defending It With A Vengeance
From the women of Shaheen Bagh to the Hindu and Sikh protestors forming a human chain around Muslim protestors during Namaz; from 1,00,000 Hyderabadis defying police orders at the “Million March” to candlelight vigils across the country in solidarity with the attacked JNU students, it is clear that the CAA protests have brought people together like never before—exactly the opposite of what the BJP hoped it would do.
People have reasserted their faith in the constitution, making it clear that they can’t be hoodwinked with “Mandir ya Masjid” debates, statues, ‘Pakistan’ and empty promises anymore. From the way the PM hastily responded with a series of lies to cover up earlier statements, it is clear that they did not expect such an uprising. The people of India are still powerful and value democracy.
2. The Government Is Terrified Of Students
The student community often criticised for being unaware, has risen as a force to be reckoned with. From the moment the Jamia protests erupted, students from universities across India rallied to organise marches and make their voices heard.
The violent manner in which the police reacted to student protests is clear evidence that the government has realised that the youth is not a lazy, entitled, Uber-riding bunch, but individuals with strong opinions and resolve, with a capability to shape public opinion.
3. “Us vs. Them” Doesn’t Work Anymore
In a fight, a wounded boxer falls back on what he/she knows best, be it a jab, hook or crafty footwork.
The BJP, too, went back to what they do best—Hindu vs. Muslim whataboutery. The PM himself said that protestors could be “identified by their clothes”, a clear hint at religion, intended to polarise the public. Pro-BJP journalists began speculating how many “Bangladeshis” had entered Assam.
In Muzzafarnagar, police vandalised property belonging to Muslims and abused Muslims with “Go back to Pakistan” slurs, made popular by several BJP MPs over the years. But the people have made it clear that they are tired of this divisive narrative. The government realised it too and resorted to force instead.
4. Rhetoric (Not Debate) Is Still The PM’s Popular Choice
PM Modi knows when to pause for applause. Here are a few: “Arey Rahul baba (Pause for laughter), if I’m wrong about demonetization (pause) burn me alive”, “Hate Modi if you want… but (pause) don’t hate India”
He tried one this time as well: “The congress and their friends are protesting against CAA, but (pause) do not speak against Pakistan.”
Instead of addressing the points of concerns raised by students, eminent citizens, international media and the common citizen, the PM is more concerned with rabble-rousing speeches (that make no logical sense) for the next election.
This time the response to his “Bhaiyo aur Behno” speech was (pause) underwhelming.
5. The Police Is For Sale
Some groups have completely failed in the eyes of the public and betrayed the trust they swore to defend. The police definitely have a lot of explaining to do.
The police have shamelessly taken the government’s side and indiscriminately used force, torture, religious hatred and even provided protection to goons on their way out of the JNU campus, after a coordinated attack on students and campus property. If the police were half as efficient in their everyday tasks, as they were when doing their masters’ bidding, Delhi would be a safer place for women.
In my opinion, it is definitely an embarrassing time to represent an armed force. Serious introspection and reform are needed.
6. When Propaganda Fails, Take A Cheap Shot With Sex And Netflix
Now, let us understand the “chronology”:
Like an unimaginative copywriter, the BJP has used sex and freebies is the last-ditch effort to sell. As I write this, lakhs of BJP supporters claim to have boycotted the film ‘Chhapaak’ because actress Deepika Padukone visited the volatile JNU campus. Desperate times? Definitely.
History has shown that how a country reacts, both during and after such incidents determines its place in the world for generations to come. Indians from different walks of life have resisted state-backed violence, crackdowns, evictions, smear campaigns and are still facing off against an increasingly shaken government.
There is a lot of hate, too, but we can only hope the fight continues, if we want an India that the framers of the constitution envisaged: Sovereign, Socialist, Secular & Democratic.