We fool ourselves if we believe that CAA is a bolt from the blue. It is rather like the fruit of a tree which has been nurtured over the years. This tree of anti-minority animus has grown and flourished through collective farming. Several of those who now protest against CAA have helped pave the way for it by omissions and commissions one way or another.
A curious feature of our present national predicament is the unwillingness to see what stares us in the face. Especially in recent years, a desperate eagerness to believe otherwise than the proverbial writings on the wall has been evident. A broad stroke of anti-Muslim sentiment has marked many events on our political landscape. This had paved the way to BJP’s rise to power. We have to be willfully blind to fail to see that the BJP’s politico-cultural mission banks as much on Muslim-hate as it does on Congress-spite.
It is no secret that the RSS-ordained mandate for the BJP is the establishment of the Hindu rashtra. The BJP is neither secretive nor apologetic about it. (If any vestige of doubt lingers in this regard, just examine BJP’s ticket distribution at elections.) If this is not discussed and its implications examined in light of the identity of India as a ‘socialist, secular, democratic republic’, it is not because the on-going crafting of the Hindu rashtra is undertaken surreptitiously or ambiguously. It is only that it has become our common trait to be ‘willfully unable’ to see what babes and suckling can.
From the ideological angle of Hindutva, the presence of the two religious minorities whose holy lands are external to the boundaries of India are presumed to be sources of corruption for the ethno-cultural homogeneity of India. The clumping together of Jains and Sikhs as Hindu cultural sub-sets, as Savarkar does, is manifestly arbitrary. It does not have the endorsement of these religious communities.
The cultural homogeneity thus improvised becomes the frame of reference for stigmatizing the otherness of Muslims and Christians—Muslims, more than Christians. To this day, there has been no public debate on the validity of this premise. It is just taken for granted. The Holy Land today is not a religious, but a tourist destination even for Christians!
So, tourism, not religion, is the basis on which the ‘otherness’ of my religious identity is invented, though Christianity has been practised in India at least for 1700 years. But parameters of hate and exclusion are not rational categories, and for that reason, they do not lend themselves to factual, rational discussion.
But Muslims and to a lesser extent Christians, have played a role in lending legitimacy to this Hindutva prejudice by refusing to outgrow a superstition they share with all religious communities. That superstition is rooted in the tribal mindset by which gods are inseparable from the land. This quaint superstition also exists in all Indian religions.
It is this that makes Ram Janmabhoomi an emotive issue. In our tribal imagination, a god cannot be de-linked from his place of birth. The same mentality makes Muslims go to Mecca to revive their religiosity and to pelt stones at Satan! They should be thanked for believing that Satan is wholly absent from India, but they are not!
The truth is that though a Christian, I feel no connection with the Holy Land. There is logic to it. The biblical faith is universal. True, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. True, he was crucified on Calvary and was buried in the soil of that blood-soaked region. But these are accidental historical trappings like the clothes that you and I wear.
It is stupid to argue that I cannot step out of my clothes or exist without them! If that is so with a human being, it is a million times truer in the case of gods, for they are, by definition, universal. Ram, as the Lord of Righteousness, is not a local, tribal deity but a universal light. That universality is insulted by the imposition of the trappings of tribal-ity on him.
When BJP spokespersons or party big-wigs argue that the CAA has the support of a majority of the people of India, they are not off the mark, even if this argument stands on an illusion of majority, head-counted via the Parliament. The majority support the CAB received in both houses of the Parliament does not prove a numerical majority of voters nationwide in support.
The significance of the spiralling protest is that it debunks this fiction of ‘majority-endorsement’. It underlines the fact that a majority of votes in Parliament need not correspond to a majority of citizens in support. It interrogates the premises of people’s representation. How is the representative of the people of India the legislation created by our lawmakers?
But the present protest, too, will subside soon. (Believe me, the vivisection of J&K was a test dose of this medicine.) It will be crushed under an iron heel. There will be irony in this too. The USP of the Modi government is the power it exudes. Amit Shah becoming the Home Minister has increased this impression exponentially, and rightly too. What is often overlooked is that ‘power’ is a double-edged sword. It bludgeons others; it can crack your skull too. Shock and awe is the operating style of the present government. Given that, the outcome of this skin-rash of resistance is only entirely predictable.
CAA and pan-Indian NRC are here to stay. Millions will be denationalized. A veritable ocean of human suffering will come into being. Its redeeming feature will be that it will be blacked out of public view. The stateless will be faceless. We will get used to it by and by and learn to get along as we would in the wake of an epidemic or earthquake. A time will come when we may not even mention their existence in polite conversation, public or private.