Was Shaheen Bagh Movement Scripted by BJP?

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Aam Admi Party, rather Arvind Kejriwal’s party on 17th August accused the BJP of sponsoring the anti-CAA protest at Shaheen Bagh, “The BJP won some seats from the North-East in Assembly polls because of Shaheen Bagh, creating a gap between Hindus and Muslims. In Delhi, the BJP rose from 18% to 38% due to Shaheen Bagh.” As a proof they also claim that joining BJP by Shehzad Ali, who claims to be part of Shaheen Bagh (SB) movement along with few residents of SB area joining BJP. Their accusation is that as the women blocked the part of the Kalindi Kunj Road, a six lane highway the police further helped them by closing both the sides of the road for over a kilometer. As per AAP, this was done to give benefit to BJP, AAP’s main opponent in Delhi. They hold that “The BJP won some seats from the North-East in Assembly polls because of SB, creating a gap between Hindus and Muslims. In Delhi, the BJP rose from 18% to 38% due to S B. As they could not win the elections they caused riots”.

The whole argument is not only ridiculous it shows the ideological bankruptcy of those putting forward this formulation or their political motive of defaming SB. This undermines one of the greatest democratic public movements in Independent India.

Part of the accusation of AAP is true though. It is true that, BJP could polarize and gain in strength partly. Keeping that aside, let’s see whether BJP’s policies helped or undermined the goals of SB movement? Surely the women at the forefront of the movement had blocked the part of the highway, but closing down the road by police, controlled by BJP, was to defame the Shaheen bagh movement, not to help it. And Shahzad Ali, who claims to be part of the movement, is hardly speaking the truth. He was spotted at the site occasionally but was not a part of the decision making or shaping the policies of the Movement.

The movement was primarily that of the Muslim women, cutting across their class lines, from poor to middle class upwards, who not only participated but planned the whole movement in a democratic way. It was an ongoing ‘parliament’ of the Muslim women which took decisions. Other’s those sympathetic to the movement had at best supportive role in adding on diverse activities to supplement the speeches.

The movement was triggered due to the BJP policies of ruthless action against students in particular of AMU, Jamia Milia Islamia and JNU. But even this was the crystallizing point not whole of the reason. The deeper reason was the dissatisfaction among the Muslims; which has reached critical level. While BJP Government was patting on its back that through passing the law against Triple Talaq, by criminalizing triple talaq, it has helped the cause of Muslim women, the total reality was that the Muslims community, over a period of time has realized that it is being continually pushed against the wall and is being relegated to ‘second class citizenship. It is labeled as Gaddar (Anurag Thakur-Dessh ke Gaddaro Ko…), they are victims of lynching in the name of cow, Muslim youth as being targeted as terrorists and love jihadis. The community started feeling the pinch of intimidation leading to all round ghettoisation and marginalization.

Already there were reports like Gopal Singh Commission, Sachar Committee and Rangnath Mishra Commission which showed that the condition of Muslims is worsening at economic and social level. The efforts of ruling party, Congress, to give affirmative action, were ridiculed and aborted due to the strong Sangh Parivar propaganda of Muslims being loyal to Pakistan, Muslims raising their population to become a majority community so that they can officially bring in Sharia law.

Congress, which occasionally tried to at least pay lip sympathy for this minority was presented as a Muslim party, despite the fact that due to the communal atmosphere created in the country, it could not muster courage of the type of Gandhi and Nehru to stand firm for pluralism and diversity. It was and is no match to the powerful machinery constructed by RSS over a period of time to demonize the Muslim, (Lately Christian community also). Incidentally it also glorifies the past where Manu Smriti ruled. Communal politics did succeed in the creating a fear in the minds of majority community that this small minority of Muslims (14.2% as per 2011 census) is a threat to the majority of Hindus.

Two underlying factors of the response of SB were the CAA-NRC combination, which gave the clear signal that Muslims in large number will be disenfranchised. The facts of this combination were so clear that the Government’s false promises that Muslims will not be disenfranchised did not wash. At another level the severe attacks on University boys was a definite trigger.

In a way, Shaheen Bagh was a most democratic expression of the response to the atrocities and deprivations which Muslim community has been facing in Independent India. It debunked the theory that BJP’s policies are making Muslim women happy. It debunked the popular notion that Muslim women are dumb and under the thumbs of their men folk. For Muslims injustices against them was never articulated and expressed so well. It broke the myth that Muslims are more committed to Sharia than to the Indian Constitution. The movement was totally spontaneous and bore the tricolor as it symbol and preamble of Indian Constitution as its ideology. The leaders whose posters found prominent place apart from Gandhi were Ambedkar, Patel, Maulana Azad and Bhagat Singh.

AAP wants to strengthen its base as a regional party in Delhi, National level corruption has since long disappeared from its agenda and ultra nationalism of BJP variety is its underlying ideology also. So at one level it also wants to defame one of the most democratic, far reaching movements of our times, SB which talked of Azadi, which sung :Hum Dekhenge and which did try to claim their equal citizenship in this country (Hindustan Kisike Baap ka nahin).

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Dr Ram Puniyani

Dr Ram Puniyani was a professor in biomedical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, and took voluntary retirement in December 2004 to work full time for communal harmony in India. Email: [email protected]

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