Understand the Chronology

CAA1 1

Opinions are divided over the constitutionality and morality of Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). The extent of this dyad is difficult to comprehend, however, the ambit of anti-CAA stir steadily swelled across India. Soon after President Kovind gave his nod, protests against the contentious law gripped different cities and smaller towns. A sit-in protest was organized in Shaheen Bagh – a largely Muslim-dominated locality in Delhi – which has now become emblematic of such protests across India. The novelty of Shaheen Bagh is being replicated in many cities now.

In the absence of mainstream political leadership, the emergence of these organic protests is unprecedented in recent Indian history. This is, in spirit, a truly people’s movement for the assertion of their rights – not only for their right to dissent but on their right to exist per se. In facing the might of the state, these people are drawing strength from the very essence of the constitution which the government is trying to dilute by incorporating religion as a criterion in the amended citizenship law. The amendment, therefore in effect, is an institutional attack on secularism which is one of the defining characteristics of Indian democracy.

Despite the widespread opposition to CAA the government continues to maintain a stoic silence over the imperative for establishing any semblance of dialogue with the protestors to work out a resolution to the standoff. On the contrary the government and its supports launched pro-CAA rallies to make the matters more complicated. Not only this but in BJP-ruled states like Uttar Pradesh (UP) police was a given a free hand to deal harshly with the protestors. Massive police crackdown led to scores of casualties in parts of UP and Karnataka. At some places violence did took place but the police largely failed to identify the real perpetrators instead it randomly arrested hundreds of protestors, not even sparing some well-known civil society activists including septuagenarians.

What made these protestors, especially Muslims, to hit the roads and organize sit-ins? Probably they have understood the chronology which the government is subtly trying to make them understood for long.

At the heart of the urgency to bring CAA is the anticipation of a majority backlash post the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Assam. To the disappointment of the central government, NRC in Assam left out nearly 1.3 million Hindus, mostly of Bengali origins, out of a total of 1.9 million people. In the aftermath of NRC in Assam, those not included in the list potentially face the danger of losing their citizenship. Thus, it left the central government in a quandary not postulated beforehand. The reason for this political conundrum is perhaps the government’s fallacious belief that majority of those not finding their names in the NRC would be Muslims whom they can easily declare the “guspathiyas” (infiltrators). Paradoxically, the result of Assam NRC did not turn out as intended and emancipated a difficult problem of accommodating the left out Hindus. CAA is nothing but a remedial prescription for the pathological condition engendered by NRC in Assam. Can anybody imagine that a government elected on the Hindutva plank will go ahead interning or deporting more than a million Hindus? Claims of granting citizenship to persecuted minorities in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh is simply a capricious postulation to distract the attention from the real intent.

Post the NRC debacle (for the central government) in Assam, Home Minister Amit Shah quickly moulded himself in damage-control mode to ward off any majority dissension. Rationale of granting citizenship to persecuted minorities in the neighbourhood is nothing but a red herring which this government is best in devising one after the other. Demonetisation exemplifies how the government changes its own assertions once its reasoning fails to persuade the people. Discarding the old currency notes was again a decision taken in the absence of a careful analysis; the decision was weaved around arbitrary assumptions about black money or terror funding. To avoid the embarrassment over such reckless policy decisions, the ministers, especially Prime Minister and Home Minister, keep churning out deceptive argumentations which ironically get enough purchase from their supporters – a great chunk of whom frame their opinion based on WhatsApp forwards or slyly concocted canards by the BJP’s IT Cell.

Love for the Persecuted Minorities or Hate for the Muslims?

The government’s attempts to rationalise CAA falls flat in the face of several loopholes in the explanations offered thereafter. Why only persecuted minorities from these three countries? Why not Tamil Hindus from Sri Lanka? What about Rohingyas if religious persecution is the criterion? These and many other questions have been thoroughly scrutinised in the public discourses that followed after the amendment in citizenship law.

The government and their supporters’ sudden exhibition of love for minorities from the aforesaid three countries seems hypocritical when seen in the backdrop of increasing hate crimes against their own people in the last few years. Atrocities against Dalits and marginalised have become the new normal. On the one hand key party leaders and ministers in different state governments are very vocal for the need to protect the rights of persecuted minorities in neighbouring countries while on the other the same leaders are giving clarion calls of open shooting of anyone voicing dissent. The BJP’s West Bengal Chief, Dilip Ghosh, advocated shooting the anti-CAA protestors like dogs. Another BJP leader, Raghuraj Singh of Aligarh, UP issued an open threat that people raising slogans against UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be “buried alive”.

Chest-thumping statements by such leaders about the protection of minorities’ human rights in the neighbourhood seem more farcical than true. On January 13, hundreds of radical Hindus belonging to BJP, Hindu Jagran Vedike, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Rashtirya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) protested against the proposed installation of a 114-foot tall statue of Jesus Christ in Karnataka’s Kanakapura. How can the government be trusted on its claim to protect the harassed citizens from other countries when it has repeatedly failed to take cognizance of the flagrant abuse of the rights of their own citizens?

On careful scrutiny of the need to bring CAA and implement pan-India NRC one can discern the dreadful chronology that the government wants to bring. The bewilderment lies in the simplified assertion and seemingly naiveté defence of CAA that the legislation is not for snatching citizenship rather according it. Unequivocally, CAA combined with NRC forms a lethal combination which effectively will render millions of Indians stateless; burden of proving citizenship falls on every Indian but the eventual victims would be the Muslims. CAA is a filter designed for all others except the Muslims.

The ‘Dreadful’ Chronology: Vilification, Exclusion and Extermination

For the Sangh Parivar represented by political parties and organisations championing Hindutva ideology, Muslims are eternally the ‘other.’ CAA is the logical extension of what the Parivar relentlessly working towards achieving. The ideological ‘Gurus’ of the Parivar have promulgated the idea of negating the acceptance of Muslims and Christians in the larger national consciousness: this ideology never allowed its disciples to reconcile with the choice made by Indian Muslims at the time of partition. Before independence itself, the idea got traction among the Hindutva brigade through the writings of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar; their writings fundamentally form the philosophical foundation on which the Parivar’s grand ideological edifice has thrived over the years.

The gospel for the Sangh Parivar is Golwalkar’s controversial book, “We or Our Nationhood Defined”. The book is full of vitriol against the non-Hindu communities particularly the Muslims. In this utterly diabolical exposition on nationhood, Golwalkar explicitly promotes outright exclusion of Muslims or their relegation to second-class citizens. In chapter 5 (page 45), Golwalkar writes, “All those who fell outside the limits of that idea could have no place in the national life”. Here he referred to the “idea” as the land – Hindusthan – belongs exclusively to Hindus. A little further he almost warns, “they (Muslims and Christians) could be considered part of the nation only if they abandoned their differences, adopted the religion, culture and language of the nation, and they completely merge themselves in the national race.” If they will not surrender their own practices and culture to the larger national race they will remain foreigners who can be ‘friendly’ or ‘inimical’. For Golwalkar and his ilk, the biggest enemies within the nation are the Muslims followed by Christians and Communists.

Savarkar, in his most famous work Hindutva, explained what a Hindu is, and the overarching Hindutva philosophy. According to Savarkar, Hindus are the people whose fathers and forefathers inherited the blood of the race whose first discernible source could be traced to the Vedic Saptsindhus (the system of seven rivers including the Indus). These people ‘inherited and claimed the culture of that race expressed chiefly in their common classical language Sanskrit and represented by a common history’. In Savarkar’s Hindutva ideology, the essential qualification to be a part of the Rasthra (nation) is that every person must represent a common Jati (race) and Sanskriti (civilization). For him, Muslims and Christians do not qualify for being a part of the nation as they have adopted a different ‘cult’.

Golwalkar and Savarkar were the true believers of the nation-state concept – the ideal in which cultural boundaries are congruous with state boundaries. They firmly rejected all other beliefs and cultural practices which they did not deem fit for Hindu Rasthra – either “they” have to comply with the essential practices of Hindutva or remain outside the concept of the nation.

At the core of their ideology is either total assimilation in, or absolute subjugation to, the Hindu culture. In Chapter V (page47-48), Golwalkar reproaches all the non-Hindu minorities of India, “there are only two courses open to the foreign elements, either to merge themselves in the national race and adopt its culture, or to live at its mercy so long as the national race may allow them to do so and to quit the country at the sweet will of the national race.” The vitriol and hubris in which he admonishes the non-Hindus specially the Muslims are eerily similar to the present times when right-wing leaders and supporters condemn Muslims quite frequently, and time and again tell them to go to Pakistan at the slightest hints of community’s expression of dissent against the current political dispensation. Few sentences later, Golwalkar suggest them to lose their ‘separate identity’ and live a life ‘wholly subordinated to Hindu Nation’; they can claim nothing and deserve no privileges, not even ‘citizen’s rights’. For Golwalkar, excluding or expunging is the only solution to the minority problem which is akin to the development of “cancer” on the state’s body politic.

Such views were in existence even before the partition that steadily supplicated with more vitriol among the believers of Hindu Rasthra. Muslims who chose to live in India continue to face humiliation from the chest-thumping Hindu nationalists and are relentlessly subjected to loyalty tests. Hate for the Muslims in India is not a product of partition; Savarkar and Golwalkar have exhibited unreserved contempt for the Muslims through their writings well before the tragic episode ensued. Through their writings they have envisaged the project of a Hindu Rashtra and provided a clear roadmap to accomplish that.

It would not be naive to contend that the present government is working towards realizing that grand Hindutva vision. The chronology started way back through carefully engineered riots in different parts of the country: riots were/are the tactical moves in BJP’s grand strategy. Communal riots only impact a fraction of the Muslim population but the effect is widespread. Such politically motivated collective violence helped the Hindu nationalist parties succeed in sowing the seeds of suspicion between the Hindus and Muslims, and consequently creating deep chasm between the two communities. For BJP, invoking Hindu sentiments proved to be instrumental in garnering electoral support. On the one hand the party leaders appealed to the ‘millennial’ – sadly with shallow historical and contextual understanding of complex social realities – through farcical promises of creating a great nation and on the other, they hit the peoples’ nerve by instilling a hypothetical fear of “Hindu khatre me hai” (Hindus are in danger particularly because of the growing Muslim population). For the proponents of Hindutva, the ultimate goal of exterminating such a large Muslim population was not achievable through occasional communal violence. They had to institutionalise this exercise through legal means similar to what the Nuremberg Laws did to the Jews in Germany.

The current emerging situation in India resembles the 1930s Germany whereby the Nazi regime passed a series of legislations to disenfranchise the Jews. Firstly, the Hitler regime began the vilification of the Jews by unleashing hate-mongering propaganda, holding them responsible for the economic depression in the early 1930s and the country’s defeat in World War I. Through relentless hate propaganda the Nazi regime convinced the population that Jews and some other groups are the real threat to the progress of the nation. The demonization of the Jews paved the way for their seclusion and ghettoisation.

Secondly, a number of legislations were passed to exclude the Jews from remaining in public service or even availing of public education. They were reduced to second-class citizens and even worse than that. Around 1933, the Nazi government began the process of detaining the groups whom they termed “undesirables’ or “enemies of the state” in internment camps. Jews were the most affected, however, other groups such as the Roma (gypsies), the Jehovah’s witnesses and the homosexuals were also interned. This period saw a massive onslaught on political opponents, trade unionists, and against all those who do not fit into their idea of the racially pure German nation. What happened in the years that follow is a horrible reality in history.

The present Indian government is playing straight from the Nazi book. First, it has built a social capital for the actions that it intends to take in the future. Secondly, through fervent projection of itself as a party comprised of true patriots BJP cleverly undermined the legitimacy of all other voices and ideologies; those on the opposite side of the spectrum were labelled as pseudo-seculars, “sickulars”, and most popularly, anti-nationals. In years following 2014, anyone dissenting against the government is quite easily shunned as anti-national. Dissent which is an essential feature of democracy has become an abhorrent idea now. Anyone expressing dissent over government policies or programs finds himself/herself fending off instant onslaught of verbal abuses coming from the supporters of the ruling party. The current political atmosphere is full of vitriolic assertions and outright hate for opposing ideas.

The government and its apologists nevertheless would vehemently reject this parallelism but experiences from the history would urge the saner minds to take cognizance of the emerging vicious atmosphere and do not be a witness to the same history repeating itself.

The Indian Muslims find themselves in a very precarious situation in the current milieu. A remarkable transformation has come about in just a matter of past few years whereby the oft veiled references have graduated to become direct frontal attack on the community. Unabashedly the Muslims are labelled as traitors, anti-nationals, and even, terrorists. Very much to the surprise of saner minds the Prime Minister himself takes lead in branding the Muslims as troublemakers as can be discerned from his speeches – past or present – and he even tried vilifying a minority university (Jamia Millia Islamia) back in 2008. A few days into the anti-CAA protests, Prime Minister Modi made a snide remark against the Muslims by making a veiled reference to the type of clothes they wear.

The sub-project of Muslim vilification is accomplished a few years back. Now, the exclusion has started with zest by the combined implementation of CAA & NRC; the extermination will follow in a few years hence. This can be dismissed as fear-mongering by the government representatives, right-wing organisations and their apologists nevertheless the extent of damage is difficult to fathom now. But the damage for the Muslims and for rest of the country, however, stands to be beyond one’s scope of imagination. At this watershed moment in history, the singular hope resides in the ongoing wave of peoples’ resistance.

Dr. Md Intekhab Alam Khan ( M.A., PhD.)
Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science and International Relations
College of Social Science and Languages
Aksum University, Ethiopia



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