December 18 and 19 have proven to be instrumental dates for the world’s oldest democracy and the largest democracy (NOT youngest, that’s Tunisia)- Donald Trump impeached by the House of Representatives in the United States, and a huge crackdown on protesters in the Indian national capital, New Delhi.
In the former, we see democracy being implemented, and the latter case shows the misuse of the Draconian tools at the disposal of the “democratically elected leadership”. Yes, Trump will not lose his seat, but it is indeed a huge hit on his massive ego, and could potentially be a deciding factor going into 2020, the presidential election year.
Many who celebrated Trump’s impeachment here in India, saying “Aah, he had it coming, the way he was making bizarre statements, his ugly capitalist bent and his policy towards immigrants” while also supporting the present BJP government, I urge you to introspect, at least once, (that’s the least you could do if you don’t want to read up and get informed).
If Trump is bad for you because you cannot get a green card and are all in for the new citizenship norms that the Indian government is trying to set into force, I’m sorry but you’re no better. At least the USA has the First Amendment and people can freely assemble and protest.
In December, we saw a massive crackdown on the protesters against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the police brutality on students. More than 16 metro stations across the city were shut, the network providers were ordered to shut their services in “sensitive areas”, and hundreds of protesters were detained (even before the protest march could actually commence in many areas), citing “security issues”.
Protesting peacefully is a constitutional right that the citizens of India enjoy and exercise to voice their dissent against the government. Dissent is what keeps democracy from turning into an authoritarian rule, and such a crackdown on dissent only shows how we’re nearly there.
Student protests have proven to be a potent force in bringing about a change by developing, as Douglas Kirby points out, a counterculture to the existing political culture of the country.
Students all across the world have risen against the unjust rule, which has been seen in India in the past as well. Take the case of the student revolution brought by the AASU in Assam, or the more recent Hok Kolorob movement in Jadavpur University.
You know you reek of hypocrisy, when on the one hand, you say that the youth is our future, we should listen to their voices, and on the other hand, you question the same students by saying “You are students, your job is to study, why are you protesting?”.
Maybe the students wouldn’t have to protest if you did your job of keeping the sanctity of the Constitution intact, and not attacking its very essence. Before undermining student protests, ask yourself why Universities all around the world are standing in solidarity with Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University, against the unconstitutional CAA, and against the police brutality by the state.
Also ask yourself, that if these protests do not offer any “real challenge”, then why did the State resort to using tear gas and beating up students in Jamia and AMU, even against the students who weren’t protesting, and were sitting in the library. But maybe this would also have other facets involved.
At the centre of all this is the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 and the proposed pan-India National Register of Citizens (NRC). Looking at the Act disjoint of the NRC would be ignorant. While the Home Minister tries to convince the public that CAA shouldn’t be seen with the NRC, he has himself gone ahead and made certain statements which contradict this notion of seeing CAA and NRC as separate.
Time and again, Amit Shah has said that non-Muslims need not fear, the government will ensure their citizenship. Shah, in a speech in West Bengal, made clear his intention- First, the Citizenship Amendment Bill will be passed to give Citizenship to Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Sikh and Jain refugees, and then implement the NRC to remove all the “infiltrators”, who were akin to “termites” in the country.
No points for guessing which community is clearly being targeted here. The CAA 2019 not only goes against the democratic values and the Constitution of the country but is as big a problem in Assam. The Assam Accords were promises made to the Assamese in order to protect their ethnic identity. The CAA goes against the Accords, and with the NRC already implemented in Assam, the Assamese could become an ethnic minority within their own state. Assam remembers the 1970s and 80s, and they are not a force that can be stopped just by undemocratic measures like shutting the internet, unlawful arrests and massive brutality against citizens.
For the uninitiated and to those who still support Narendra Modi’s government at the centre, and thus come out against the student protests, it is important to note that leaders of the BJP themselves were voracious student leaders. The ABVP itself led protests, led by student leaders such as Arun Jaitley, during Indira Gandhi’s government in 1974.
BJP, emerging as the “chosen one” in 2014, has become the very thing it swore to destroy (no, this is NOT just a Star Wars reference). Even the Prime Minister’s website states his involvement in student protests (Ask Vivek Oberoi, he’ll confirm this). So, why such a crackdown on the student protests?
Student protests have indeed led to a growing counterculture, which is seen as a challenge to power by an insecure leadership. The crackdown on student protests will only lead to more students rising up, as we’ve seen, and will not be just limited to students. People around the whole country have taken to streets to save democracy. The political leadership now needs to understand that acting undemocratically against a united group of people will not help. They need to now realise the duty that the people of India have entrusted them with – to keep the democracy and Constitution safe and intact.