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What Do The Anti-CAA-NRC And Farmers Protests Highlight About The Indian Republic?

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The year 2019 ended with massive protests against the CAA-NRC and the subsequent crackdown on these protests. The demonstrations carried well into 2020, culminating in violent communal riots in Delhi and attacks against individuals and groups critical of the government.

The most prominent peaceful gatherings that were disrupted often were the Jamia, JNU and Shaheen Bagh protests. Jamia Millia Islamia saw massive crackdowns against its students. The women sitting in Shaheen Bagh were constantly vilified on mainstream and social media. And it came as no surprise when two separate incidents of a lone gunman firing shots at these protest sites came to light.

The protests were eventually cut short after the Covid-19 lockdown was enforced.

During the lockdown period, various other incidents highlighted the hatred ingrained within our society; overblowing the Tablighi Jamaat incident, calls to boycott Muslims, attacks on Muslims in Telinapar and the recent Begum Bagh incident. In between, Dalits, Adivasis and migrant labourers faced several challenges during the lockdown.

And just like 2019, the end of 2020 saw similar chaos. Farmers started their agitation in August when the three farm bills were first introduced. The parliament passed the bills and the protests have grown ever since. Initially, a majority of the protests were centred in Punjab, but with farmer unions coming together and organising, the Delhi Chalo movement gained momentum.

The end of November saw clashes between the farmers marching towards Delhi’s borders and police (ordered by the Centre). Water cannons and tear gas were used against the farmers, and protesters were lathi charged. This led to a massive uproar online. A nationwide general strike followed that involved approximately 250 million people.

More farmers and protestors converged to Delhi’s borders. The transport union came out in support of the farmers as well. Thousands of farmers and protesters from around the country have now joined the farmers at different Delhi borders.

police brutality
The police have been deployed to violently suppress dissent.

The anti-CAA-NRC and farmers protests have a lot in common, including the Centre’s rhetoric. The protesters have been called anti-nationals, terrorists, Maoists, Pakistanis, Khalistanis, etc. In both instances, the Centre also claimed that the protests were “politically motivated” and were infiltrated by “outside forces”. The ruling class and their supporters have tried their damnedest to delegitimise these movements.

The difference lies in the apparent success with which the farmers have sustained their agitation. They have been successful because they planned and organised beforehand. They have a definitive action plan for every obstacle that is thrown at them. They have shown unity and have stayed together in large numbers to counter any opposition.

Another reason they’ve been successful is because of the massive public support they’ve been getting. The government did use force against the farmers, but the massive outpouring of support might have disrupted the Centre’s actions and forced them to reevaluate their next steps. The farmers have continued to protest at the borders peacefully and have vowed to do so until the farm bills are revoked.

The anti-CAA-NRC protests were widespread, but right-wing narratives were weaponised and were successful in hindering public support. While people like Kapil Mishra were mad at protesters blocking roads, threatening retaliation (culminating in the Delhi Riots), such rhetoric cannot hinder the farmer’s protests.

Public support is important for any agitation to be successful. The inherent indifference of the public may have led to much more severity against the anti-CAA-NRC protesters.

Although these protests signify the importance of freedom of speech and expression, the difference in public perception gauge that freedom. While Kapil Mishra was free to incite a violent mob, activists like Sharjeel Imam, Umar Khalid, Dr Kafeel Khan, members of Pinjra Tod, Safoora Zargar, etc. have been arrested. The Centre and the police have been actively trying to blame anti-CAA protesters of orchestrating the Delhi riots.

Sharjeel Imam, in particular, was arrested for suggesting a blockade of Assam’s borders (what we currently see in Delhi) to protest the implementation of the CAA and use of detention centres. He is accused of “misleading” Muslims against the CAA and NRC.

The pillars of Indian democracy — legislative, executive, judiciary and media — have indiscriminately been used to suppress dissent against the status quo. With the BJPs rise to power, most of the Constitutions principles have been diluted. Their leaders openly call for socialism and secularism to be scrapped from the Constitution.

Whether the Congress or BJP, the government at the Centre works against the interests of 90% of the population. These protests are a testament to the growing frustration within the country. Thus, class consciousness is important for further such movements to be successful.

26 January marks the Constitution’s inception, but the ideals of justice, equality and liberty that the ruling class is about to celebrate do not exist in India’s reality.

You must be to comment.
  1. Pavan Vedula

    That we are still democracy, and people can protest no matter who says what..😕

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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.

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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 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.

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