India is witnessing a set of massive protests against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB). These protests do offer a ray of hope of preserving and protecting the idea of ‘secular’ India. What the parliament sought to undo to the constitution through the majoritarian numbers is sought to be redone by the mass protests. A regime which is bent on bringing ‘religion’ in defining citizenship, the protests question the basis of the same. Two set of protests, one questioning the basis for exclusion of Muslims and in the process discriminating against them and second which fears that entry of outsiders (irrespective of religion) will threaten the scarce resources in the region – both reject the idea of ‘religion’ as a basis of defining citizenship.

For the first time, the dissent against imposing Hindutva on the country seems to be acquiring a form of a movement. The questions raised by the movement goes beyond the bill and raises concerns of redefining India on the basis of Hindutva. The questions being raised by the protests include the following: –

· How can a religion be discriminated against in defining citizenship? Muslims did reject the idea of ‘Islamic state’, when they decided to remain in ‘Secular India’ instead of an ‘Islamic Pakistan’.

· Why Muslims should be treated as a separate category, when they followed the path of ‘Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’ instead of ‘Mohammad Ali Jinnah’.

· Why should Muslims become a second grade citizens in the country? As humans, they are entitled to the same rights, entitlements and privileges as any others.

· How can the state which needs to treat its citizens as equals and without discrimination can treat its citizens differently on the basis of religion?

· Why do the minorities need to prove their ‘citizenship’ in the name of NRC? The loyalty to the nation is ‘given’ and why should they ever try to prove their roots in the nation through documentary evidences proving their roots? Why should they face harassment to prove their citizenship? Why the struggle and burden to prove citizenship increase with Muslims?

· How will flow of people in resource scarce regions in North-east (through allowing spaces for Hindus from outside) be dealt when such events in the past has already led to conflicts and local communities felt threatened to their cultural identity? The movements in the past only expressed concerns against outsiders rather than the religious basis of outsiders.

· If immigrants are being seen as an issue by the regime, what is the basis for differentiating between religions? What is the basis for treating one set of immigrants as ‘infiltrators’ who need to be sent back and another as ‘persecuted’ and accepted as citizens.

The questions being raised thus have the potential to challenge the idea of redefining India on the basis of ‘Hindutva’. Recent acts such as removal of Article 370 and division of state on religious lines, Triple Talaq, Ayodhya Judgement, Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) and also others such as allocation of resources for statues believed to be symbols of Hindutva (Ram, Patel, Shivaji), emphasis on cow as a cultural symbol etc were based on Hindutva agenda. Those in line also include Bills on Conversion and Uniform Civil Code.

To build the country on the basis of Hindutva, the mentioned actions have been taken. This will only build a country based on ‘inegalitarianism, ‘inequality’, ‘discrimination’, ‘communalism’, ‘oppression’, ‘violence’, ‘un-freedom’, ‘irrationalism’, which stand in contrast to the constitution.

Hopefully the protests redo to India, what the regime is bent on undoing. Going beyond the bill, thus the anti-CAB protests seems to have the potential to challenge the very basis of defining the nation on the basis of Hindutva.

T Navin is working as a Researcher with an NGO


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