For the last two and half months, India has witnessed massive rallies & protests against NPR NRC & CAA. There has been at least one protest in Pune, every single day since the day the Delhi Police attacked Jamia students upto mid-February. Besides those protests, scores of public meetings, street-corner meetings and door to door campaigns have been carried out by various progressive organisations.

Lokayat has been conducting door to door campaigns to make people aware about NRC-CAA-NPR, since the first day of the new year, in various neighbourhoods of Pune city. All our activists are currently engaged in this campaign.

In parallel to the ongoing protests, we started conducting door to door campaigns in the evenings. In beginning, about 6 teams of 5-6 activists from Lokayat commenced the campaigns. In a few days, local people who had become conscious of the issue joined us. Eventually we teams in ten localities, each of 10 to 20 people. On many evenings, dozens of people joined the campaigns on the spot, and it became a group of 50 to 100 people and the campaign transformed into a rally!

So every evening the teams visit slums in their locality and enter a new lane. They start with slogans -- “NRC Nako, Rojgaar Pahije!”, “NRC Nako, Shikshan Pahije!”,”Samvidhan Jindabad! Lokshahi Jindabad!” -- meaning -- (No NRC, we want JOBS, No NRC we want Education, Constitution Long Live, Democracy Long Live!) etc. and appeal people to gather at chowks / nearby common areas. Here we deliver a short talk of about 20 minutes, accompanied by video clippings about NPR-NRC-CAA. We keep the narration as simple as possible and in the local language and give the essential legal and historical facts of the issue. In places where we have sufficiently large teams, we have been able to visit each home in the lanes and converse with the people at length.

We also give facts and figures of economic policies of the government -- about inflation, privatization, the firesale of natural resources and public sector companies to MNCs, the weakening of labour laws, the increasing inequality etc. We consciously conduct these campaigns in areas of mixed Hindu-Muslim population. We underline that the current government which claims to be working for Hindus, has nothing to do with Hindus but is concerned merely with with the 1% -- the richest of India. Hence, the real divide is between the super rich and the common people, who are exploited to maintain the growth of super rich.

The response:

We have been met with mostly positive response. The best thing is that many local people who heard us in the campaigns, joined our teams in subsequent campaigns. There were localities which we’d have never visited, being on the outskirts of the city. But locals in these areas, finding out about our campaigns, took the initiative and organized campaigns there and so our team started campaigning in those areas as well. Many people, after taking to us, put up stickers on their doors and scooters saying “No NRC, No NPR, No CAA -- Save the Constitution”.

We also noticed the increasing involvement and development of common people -both men and women, who come from the working class -- auto drivers, maids, plumbers etc. People who were afraid of shouting slogans, are now giving fiery speeches about the unjust policies. People who were cowed into silence by poverty and lifelong indignities have started singing and playing the Dafli with elan. They argue and converse, they reason and convince.  In some localities, RSS supporters have tried to disrupt our campaigns, but these ordinary workers, who are now activists, have stared them down coolly and silenced them with confident arguments.  They are confident citizens of India who are asserting their right to criticize unjust policies. This, we think, is the strengthening of democracy in the real sense.

We screened selected clippings from the  1982 film ‘Gandhi’ for the new activists. The film had moved people more than what we had expected and struck into their minds, making their commitment to non violence even stronger in turn making the  movement stronger.

The video shows our campaigns and some of our experiences and also explains why we are giving so much importance to these campaigns.

NPR-NRC-CAA के ख़िलाफ़ पूना में हो रहे अनोखे अभियान | Unique campaigns against NPR-NRC-CAA | Pune

Why Door to Door Campaigns ?:

The scale and relentlessness of the nationwide protests against CAA-NRC-NPR is indeed heartening. It is equally heartening to see that  Muslims of India, after suffering systematic marginalisation in the last five years under the Modi rule, are asserting their citizenship and their equal stake in this country, with confidence. It has rekindled our hopes and shown that democracy in this country is not dying quietly, on the contrary it is fighting back and can still grow stronger.

The strengths of the movement are non-violence, the leadership of women, adherence to the constitution, reliance on the ideals of Gandhi and Ambedkar, the confident  reclaiming of our national symbols -- the Tricolour and the Preamble of the Constitution -- and the effective use of art, poetry and music. It has helped the movement set the narrative so far.

However, the whole movement is not without its weaknesses. The overwhelming majority of those who have protested against these have been Muslims. Most Hindus are largely unaware of the threat posed by the NRC. In the communally charged atmosphere of today it is easy for the propaganda machinery of the rulling RSS-BJP, which today includes most of the mainstream media, to fool them into believing that whatever the NRC is, it will adversely affect only Muslims and that they need’nt worry. On the other hand many ordinary Muslims are still unaware of the details and facts behind the NRC-NPR-CAA. They know only that it is a discriminatory act, a “black act”. So on the whole it is easy for the establishment to paint this issue as a conflict of “Hindu and national interest v/s Muslim and anti-national interest”. Indeed by making statements to the effect of “80 % of the people support CAA” the Home Minister revealed early in January that this is their gameplan. Local level leaders of the BJP, such as municipal corporators have been holding meetings to  reassure Hindus’ that the NRC will not cause them any problems. The recent organised violence in Delhi has left no doubts about it. They have made it a communal issue and succeeded to a great extent.

The challenge, therefore, lies in staying in control of the narrative. This can only be done by confronting communal propaganda with the truth. And the truth is that the Modi government has failed miserably to deliver on all its promises of development. It has revealed itself to be the most anti-people government since independence. In the nearly six years of Modi’s rule, India’s poor people and its public exchequer have been robbed of dozens of lakhs of crores of rupees -- given as freebies, tax holidays, ‘loan-restructuring’ and ‘incentives’ to billionaries. As a result the number of dollar billionaires has risen from 56 in 2014 to more than 120 today. Their collective wealth has multiplied anywhere from two to five fold. On the other hand, NSSO data, the PLFS figures and independent surveys reveal that unemployment is at a 45 year high. Farmers’ suicides have increased so much that the government is afraid to reveal numbers. The economy is deep in recession. The Modi government is unwilling and unable to fix these problems because they have been helped into power by corporate honchos to do exactly what they have been doing to the economy. But as the economic crisis deepens they need diversion after diversion to keep public anger at bay. Therefore the NRC and CAA, which appeal very nicely to RSS sentiments, is a perfect diversion.

This is the real issue, behind the smoke screen of the NRC, CAA and NPR. We believe that if we convince people to look at the facts  and understand this, we can succeed in beating the communal propaganda.

We hope that this account of our experiences and this video will help people to jump start campaigns in their own towns, cities and villages and assure that we will help to the best of our strength.

Shubham Halle is an activist of lokayat.org.in


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