Unanticipated not by just the ruling leadership but even by those who participate in protests, the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act movement has come to represent a turning point in India’s political trajectory.
From the brave women of Shaheen Bagh to shehr shehr (city-city) Shaheen Bagh, from creative placards reading “chaiwale teri chai unsecular hai” (tea-seller, your tea is unsecular) to speeches asserting, “If this time Muslims go to detention centres, we Hindus will go with them,” the resistance to the National Register of Citizens and CAA is incredible.
As I write the word “incredible,” I am also reminded of the famous words “Incredible India.” We were socialised to take pride in the idea of a diverse and united India.
We grew up admiring streets where a temple happily co-existed – and may even shared a wall – with a mosque. This happy story, however, seems to be getting forgotten now.
In contrast to what most Indian media is directed to portray, the anti-CAA movement has seen the coming together of people of all faiths.
There is, however, another reality.
The reality that is, on one hand, created or sustained by the biased media and on the other, exposes the deep-seated prejudice of the majority community.
Govt Has Normalised Hate Speech
While biased and one-sided narratives are always fed to people of all communities, WhatsApp has expedited and intensified their circulation. The current ruling government with its apparent political vision of a Hindu Rashtra has contributed to this both directly and indirectly.
The government, with some help from its IT cell, has created a culture that has normalised hate speech and bigotry. People no longer need the mask. They no longer need to cloak their political intolerance.
Majoritarianism and Hindutva run uncontrolled in our WhatsApp groups. Anyone who tries to put a cap on it is either accused of being a political opponent or is dismissed by one-sided and sometimes even doctored videos.
There are those who may not be supporters of Hindutva and are the ‘apolitical’ kind, or those with dilemmas, if not hatred, but the Opposition to the anti-CAA movement is transforming even them.
Those who wore the mask of development, buying the ‘56-inch’ claims, no longer worry about the cost of this NRC procedure or the fact that while the nominal GDP rate of 7.5 percent stands lowest in 42 years and the onion crossed the Rs 200 mark in the retail market, the government seems to be more focused on a Hindu Rashtra.
These people, who were also concerned about checking the movement of “illegal refugees” (as, according to them, their claim over the already-limited resources will affect development) are no longer shouting. This is because their lies stand exposed.
Beneath this facade of “development” lies the idea of an India that belongs to upper-caste, upper or middle-class, Hindu Indians.
There are some who are much concerned about the destruction of the public property or the traffic inconvenience caused by the protests. While these concerns are valid and public property should not be violated, it has to be kept in mind that ‘public’ cannot be confined only to a public bus.
I remember my friend’s message on the night of 15 December that all that she could see from the window of the metro train was tear gas shells and fire, and my own memory of feeling the same as I watched a group of hooligans enthusiastically sloganeering “tera mera rishta kya, jai shree ram jai shree ram” outside the JNU gate, a day after the JNU attack, with the police patiently standing.
I don’t know how to hierarchise the flame – that of a bus that was set on fire, allegedly by angry citizens, and of these state-backed hooligans stomping over the foundational basis of our nation.
Sanity Can Only be Found in Anti-CAA Protests
Amidst this bigotry and – to use a lighter word – “cheating” by the apolitical ones, sanity can today be found only in the anti-CAA protests. It is the protests that are saving the nation today, relying not just on the Constitution but also invoking the nationalist legacy with “Phule wali azaadi, Ashfaq wali azaadi, Gandhi wali azaadi.”
The opposing and silent ‘Hindus’, however, also need to note that neither is this protest just about the religiously-discriminating CAA, nor will the state stop at this.
Even though today Muslims are being targeted, this state also hates Christians, and has dismissed Jains and Buddhists as “Hindus”. This state also opposes LGBTQ rights and our right to love, which will be demonstrated every year on 14 February, either through violence of right-wing groups or with fake messages that prepone Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom day.
This state is conservative and will impose the idea of an "Adarsh Bhartiya Nari" (ideal Indian woman). It will also eventually tell us how to be a true "Hindu". This is just the beginning. It is important for us, all of us, to break our silence and come out to speak in favour of a progressive, secular and united India.
(Devika Mittal is pursuing a PhD in Sociology at Delhi School of Economics. She is the Convener (India) of Aaghaz-e-Dosti, a joint Indo-Pak friendship initiative and a core committee member of Mission Bhartiyam. She tweets at @devikasmittal. This is a personal blog. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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