The courage shown by citizens in protests against CAA and the proceedings of NPR-NRC is really humbling. On a larger scale, this looks like the moment of truth and sort of a ‘final filter’ for differentiating bigots and the humanists. From a lot of opinions, posts, news reports, we can see that many people do believe that this is the final struggle. Many are comparing it with the struggle during Emergency or the British era. We’re awed at the women from Shaheen Bagh fiercely withstanding the cold in protest, we saw the courage of Ladeeda Sakhaloon and Aysha Renna from Jamia. So many women and members of LGBTQ community are taking the fronts in the fight for constitution, that almost all the news outlets have taken significant note of it.
There are several interpretations of the current happenings. One, given by government and supporters themselves; sometimes they’re assuring us, sometimes they’re shutting down internet and sometimes they are unleashing uncontrolled beastly power on the very citizens (they don’t look very sure about themselves). Two, that it’s a distraction tactic, so we should focus on the real issues like economic failure, environmental crisis etc. Three, even if it’s providing a distraction, deeming it as just a distraction is highly patronizing and elitist even, when those who’re actually targeted by CAA (Muslims, Dalits, Tribals, women, Trans people, poor-basically all those who’re deemed as second class humans) hear it, because it attacks their very existence.
What About The North East?
Looking at nationwide protests against CAA, we seem to have sidelined the North-Eastern India yet again. The people from North-east are the ones facing the cruelest betrayal in the whole process, poor and indigenous people from North-East have been affected the most by NRC and the whole North-East will suffer again once CAA gets implemented. They saw the first casualties, internet shutdowns, assaults on protesters and arrest (of mainly Akhil Gogoi, who has been fighting since long before the bill was even passed in the parliament). Yet their voices seem to be shifted from the mainstreams of the protests. So when a student from Assam asked in a group “Is your outrage not selective? Because I don’t see any tweet trends/placards about North East protests; if you stand for the right cause, shouldn’t you stand for every right cause? Or does it depends on geography and interests?” I don’t know the answer to that. Also, Kashmir says hi.
The people from North-east are the ones facing the cruelest betrayal in the whole process, poor and indigenous people from North-East have been affected the most by NRC and the whole North-East will suffer again once CAA gets implemented. They saw the first casualties, internet shutdowns, assaults on protesters and arrest. Yet their voices seem to be shifted from the mainstreams of the protests.
Then there are ‘allies’ who want to appropriate the protests against CAA by shunning Muslim protesters from chanting religious slogans like ‘La illah ila allah‘ or carrying their religious symbols, to ‘protect’ the secular nature of the protests. So according to them, in a protest meant to protect the secularism ensured by constitution, carrying one’s religious identity is not allowed (!) These are probably the same people who make everyone hear garba songs out in public spaces for 10 days, or start every public program by Ganesh Vandana and lighting the lamp (deep prajwalan) or who want every Muslim person to become like Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, but don’t dare to say a word against the presence of criminals in parliament.
The Dalit-Mulsim Solidarity
I heard a few accounts from some initial ‘mainstream’ protests against CAA, some people were called out for chanting ‘Jai Bhim’, which is a greeting and commemoration of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. They were given arguments like, “Let’s focus on the main issue now rather than your caste representation.” I wonder what issues are going to be solved by rejecting acknowledgement of the very architect of Indian constitution in a protest meant for protecting the constitutional values. Then we saw hope, when various Dalit and Tribal fronts took the streets, with constitution and Ambedkar’s photos, emphasizing the fact that the act has grave impact on lower castes, poor people, Tribals irrespective of religion and we are all together in this.
We saw several Dalit-Bahujan lead protests against CAA, Maharashtra saw Vanchit Bahujan Alliance’s protest lead by Prakash Ambedkar in Mumbai (he specifically pointed out that ~40% Hindus too will be affected by it and the mainstream media didn’t take it well.) Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad mobilized the huge mass of Muslims-Dalits-Bahujans who carried constitution and Ambedkar’s posters, while chanting ‘Bahujan-Muslim Ekta Zindabad‘.
But many of the elite liberals/left overlooked the original purpose of the march-Dalit Muslim solidarity against CAA for saving the constitution, and instead focused on Chandrashekhar’s style and swag. I heard the term ‘oppression/rebellion fetish’, being another form of oppression within the same socio-political side-from Divya Kandukuri; though it sounds absurd, it is a real thing and we saw it happening right there. His photo posing on the roof of a van right in front of Delhi Police Headquarters got viral and then everyone took note of him on a massive scale, as if he was newly emerged; being completely ignorant of his prior work for uplifting the community.
Even after knowing that he was wrongfully detained and is struggling due to medical condition, most of them focused on Kanhaiya Kumar’s detention and while not saying much about the dubiously held hearing of Azad behind closed doors of courts where no one else was allowed. Right from the beginning of his activism, people from both sides have only focused on his (wrongful) detentions and arrests and even called him ‘wanted’, just to degrade the reliability of his movement and ignore the sensitivity of the dire discrimination Dalits are facing. Dalits today are emerging and taking fronts on their own, but isn’t it hypocritical that though people from every social footing are seemingly joining hands in the collective fight, fight of Dalits and Tribals is truly only their own?
The same allies, applauded the placards saying “Hindu hun, Ch***** Nahin” or “Neem ka Patta Kadva hai, Modi Shah ****** hai”, not even realising once how offensive they are to women.
The Misogynistic And Homophobic Slogans In CAA Protests
The same allies, applauded the placards saying “Hindu hun, Ch***** Nahin” or “Neem ka Patta Kadva hai, Modi Shah ****** hai”, not even realising once how offensive they are to women. A few months ago, Samajwadi Party’s Azam Khan had publicly given offensive comment on Jaya Prada who had joined BJP. One can find countless such instances. While blaming BJP’s IT cells who issue rape threats to women with opposing views, don’t we see that there’s not much difference between both the sides when it comes to women?
Congress, that should’ve taken a firm stand against the so called right wing’s divisive policies like CAA (not that we can’t function without them, our young students have proved that !), is busy circulating booklets describing the homosexual relationship of Savarkar and Godse. The title is ‘Veer Savarkar, Kitne Veer? (how brave is Savarkar, really?)’, and they’ve given the reference of the book ‘Freedom at Midnight’ by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre. At some point during the previous year we all must have seen the particular page from the book describing their relationship going viral on social media.
Firstly, both Savarkar and Godse are dead (now let’s not go into whataboutary by pointing out how right wing insulted Congress leaders). Secondly, if they really want to dig the truth, why don’t they publicize a fact-check/create awareness on ground level regarding wrong statements propagated by government in the name of Dr. Ambedkar who repeatedly gets appropriated by the right wing to suit their narrative? (may it be Kashmir issue, or every time when they use his name for vote bank) Or even their own Sardar Patel who’s now a prominent tool of the right wing! Or why don’t they dismantle the myths spread by right wing and mainstream media to smear JNU’s reputation? Comedians and YouTubers are doing a better job. Thirdly, by questioning Savarkar’s Veerta-Bravery-by directly quoting his alleged homosexuality, aren’t they associating cis-masculinity with bravery? Or to be more precise, aren’t they gravely insulting LGBTQ community and intensively propagating homophobia?
Thirdly, by questioning Savarkar’s Veerta-Bravery-by directly quoting his alleged homosexuality, aren’t they associating cis-masculinity with bravery? Or to be more precise, aren’t they gravely insulting LGBTQ community and intensively propagating homophobia?
If we go further back in time, we’d remember how when Rafale plane controversy was spiked, and Nirmala Sitharaman was made to answer the opposition regarding the same, though she was the defence minister, a lot of people ridiculed her, not for her incorrect arguments, but to take a jibe at PM Modi’s ’56” ka seena’, implying he was not ‘man enough’ so he put forward a woman to answer the opposition; ultimately implying that women are incapable/weak and all sorts of things. If we think that we can fight evil with evil, we are so very wrong..
How do the liberal allies treat the ‘intersections’ when it comes to women? Well, they leave them be, to be dealt with on their own, if it doesn’t have a potential benefit. So the way BJP politicized gang-rape of a Dalit woman in Alwar during elections because it was a congress lead state, or the way their supporters applauded the extrajudicial encounters without trials in Hyderabad gang rape case because one of the accused was Muslim, and the way the other side took on BJP for Kathua rape case because BJP MP’s participated the rally in support of the criminals (and even garlanded them) or rape case of one particular girl among so many others in Unnao-UP because here the perpetrator was a BJP MLA, all look the same to me. What about the countless atrocities against Dalits and Tribals happening daily? Not many (non-marginalized folks) bother.
‘Bhakt’ Downplays The Severity Of Their Intent
Also, while drenching in the adrenaline rush of political discourse, the people have come up with a term ‘Bhakt (originally meaning devotees)’, Urban Dictionary has recently added its interpretation in the context of Indian politics. For some, calling BJP supporters as Bhakt is Indian version of ‘Okay Boomer‘, some use it to mock their illogical claims to support the government, some use it to deal with trolls.
A senior professor of mine, a BJP supporter, was quite disappointed at this; she said, by outright branding us as ‘Bhakts’ you end any possibility of having a dialogue over the difference of opinion. So while the pro-government people are busy branding others as ‘anti-national’, ‘urban-naxal’, ‘tukde-tukde gang’ and so on, liberals among us balance it out by calling them Bhakts, where’s the difference? She asked a legitimate question. Sure, the government has every sorts of resources and it is continuously utilizing them to shut down any dissent. But while criticizing ‘Bhakts‘ for painting everything in binaries; we too brand people as bhakts (if BJP supporters) or BJP’s ‘B’ team if someone criticizes the internal hypocrisy.
For example, they heavily criticized Prakash Ambedkar for not having allied with Congress in 2019 elections and for allying with AIMIM (their claim was that by allying with muslims, Ambedkar incited communal tensions to cut down Congress votes), or the left and some dalit politicians criticized Chandrashekhar Azad for allegedly having Congress’s support, even Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP has faced similar criticism.
Because we are still ignorant of the diversity of people and their opinions, may it be in the right wing or the opposite of them. From where I see, we have Shiv Sena supporters who supported BJP because of NDA and stopped after 2019 assembly elections, we have liberals who were fed up with Congress’s corruption and voted for BJP in 2014 but now they regret it, we have communists who oppose both Congress and BJP, we have Dalits, Tribals and Muslims who oppose BJP, Congress and communists even, we have congress supporters who defend the abolition of article 370 and blockade in Kashmir, we have BJP supporters who like their developmental work but don’t like Pragya Thakur’s membership, we have law students and UPSC aspirants who applauded Hyderabad encounters, we have women wearing sarees with Prime Minister’s photo on them, we have uneducated people with finest sense of rationality along with the educated ones wearing blindfolds, we have people who mingle with everything and everyone, we have people who criticize everything and everyone.
We have countless permutations and combinations of people. How can we sort them all in just two groups?
By calling them Bhakts we downplay the severity of their intent. The second group is of those who don’t know the reality to the whole extent, those who don’t have the privilege to develop or resort to rationality-they’re in majority.
We have to understand that among the so called ‘bhakts‘, there can be two major groups. First group knows what they are doing; they really are Islamophobic, they actually want execution of communities other than their own through CAA, they truly want to throw every woman and lower castes down below their feet-basically the stakeholders of Brahminical Patriarchy. By calling them Bhakts we downplay the severity of their intent. The second group is of those who don’t know the reality to the whole extent, those who don’t have the privilege to develop or resort to rationality-they’re in majority.
Many of the elite/intelligentsia end up mocking them for their lack of logic, or their illiteracy (of course it was started with PM Modi and Smruti Irani’s dubious degree certificates). Such attacks by ‘intellectuals/liberals/self-declared stakeholders of rationality’ make the second group insecure and more susceptible to manipulation. Some demand that education should be a prime criteria to enter into politics; but ignore the fact that, because of the deeply ingrained caste and class hierarchies and discrimination, even basic education is a privilege for many. India’s global hunger index is 103 out of 119 countries, there are people dying of ‘hunger’, forget about education; let that sink in.
Not to forget the fact that we live in a country where PhD holders and professors from IIT are deeming Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poetry as anti-national and ISRO’s every mission is scheduled with Muhurat given by astrologers and starts with publicly held poojas.
If the critics of the so called right wing are following the same notions, what’s changing really? No doubt the marginalized will find their ways on their own, however tough it might be; it’s time for the privileged liberals to shed hypocrisy and join them in protests against CAA, otherwise history will be skeptical about them too.
Featured Image Source: The Economic Times