by Badre Alam Khan and Wasim Ahasan
While paying homage to Bhagat Singh on his 113th birth anniversary, Prime Minister Nrendera Modi in his Mann ki Baat (telecasted on 27th September 2020) has said that we should not forget the revolutionary legacy of Bhagat Singh and his comrades who gave their precious lives for achieving Freedom from mighty British Empire. For achieving, Atma Nirbhar Bharat (Self-Reliant India) his legacy need to be taken seriously emphasized by him. While toeing the lines of PM Modi, most of the BJP’s senior leaders have also paid tribute to Bhagat Singh and underlined that his commitments towards the nationalist cause and revolutionary struggle is worthwhile to remember. But question need to be asked here, after the completion of more than six year of the BJP rule at Center; has so far PM Modi led BJP government follow seriously the revolutionary legacy of Bhagat Singh? Instead of following the legacy of Singh, the BJP-RSS combined has created communal fissures and social divide on the lines of religion, caste and class, as underlined by civil society and human Rights groups in its reports.
Contrary to allegations of communal forces, the fact cannot be denied that the protesters were resisting the anti-constitutional Act (CAA, Citizenship Amendment Act) on the lines of Gandhian values. Specifically in this protest, the Preamble of the Indian Constitution used to be read by the protesters at different protest sites of India. To be very precise, the protest against the CAA was started by Jamia’s students on 11th December 2019 peacefully. When the people were joined it in large numbers, the nature of protests had acquired a massive momentum and became pan-Indian in character. It is sad to note that to muzzle dissenting voices, Delhi Police on 15th December entered the campus (without permission of authority of Jamia) forcefully and started attacking on students brutally in the night. As a result, several students got seriously injured and hospitalized. Besides, the Delhi Police had also damaged the library chairs, CC TV cameras and other precious stuffs. It is ironical that instead of holding responsible to the Delhi Police for having done gruesome crime, the National Human Right Commission (NHRC) had blamed the victims and reproduced the manufactured narrative of the Delhi Police in its report.
In this historic agitation, protesters had also vociferously raised the essential questions like freedom from hunger, corruption, atrocities, communalism and patriarchy. In doing so, protesters were fighting second unfinished agenda of Freedom struggle that was thought of during the course of anti-colonial struggle. Contrary to communal forces and corporate owned media houses (Godi media), we can say that the nature of the protest was democratic and peaceful. And it was joined by every segments of Indian society enthusiastically.
It is unfortunate that the vibrant protests had been vehemently attacked by the Right wing fringe elements along with the section of Godi media having communal outlook. More importantly, when the Delhi Assembly elections campaign were at the height, most of the BJP’s stalwarts leaders including PM Modi, Amit Shah, UP CM Yogi Adityanath had made communal remarks and targeted female protestors especially at Shaheen Bagh, Jamia and others. Besides this, the Right wing forces had wrongly equated ongoing CAA-NRC-NPR protests with the Khilaphat movement and the Arab Spring. However, the protest was launched against the anti-constitutional Act like CAA in democratic manner and it was not against the Indian state and based on sectarian ideology.
It has to be mentioned that amid ongoing peaceful protests across the nation, the riots broke out in the north East Delhi in month of February 2020. But question arises who were the perpetrators of violence and participated in riots that led to killings of mostly Muslims and plundering of their properties, destruction and burring of homes, religious shrines, mosques and other places, etc. This is also true that some of Hindus had lost their lives and properties were also burnt and damaged during riots. To note that those fringe elements who had made hateful speeches and incited violence that finally culminated into riots, are still rooming freely and getting political patronage from the ruling establishment. Instead of arresting the perpetrators, the Delhi Police has allegedly arrested the peaceful anti-CAA protesters especially Muslims and social activists under the stringent draconian law like UAPA. If had Delhi Police been so much vigilant and taken preventive measure, the riots in north East Delhi perhaps could have been avoided.
It is unfortunate to note that Delhi Police had utterly failed to perform its Constitutional responsibilities and unable to control riots. Instead of arresting the rioters, they had arrested and allegedly accused peaceful protesters. In this respect, Sarjil Imam, Umar Khalid from JNU and Miran Haider and Asif from Jamia, and countless peaceful protesters have been arrested so far. Besides, several activists, leaders, and politicians, and intellectuals have been allegedly named in the chargesheets that was prepared by Delhi Police.
As PM Modi had emphatically said that we have to draw lesson from the revolutionary legacy of Bhagat Singh in his latest Mann Ki Baat. But question need to be asked why the PM is still silent at time when Delhi Police has arrested and harassed several students and activists and senior leaders who had registered their protest within the framework of Indian Constitution It is to be noted that Bhagat Singh and his comrades had launched revolutionary struggle against the colonial rule. More importantly, they had also been committed to fight against problems like communalism, untouchability and capitalism which are still deeply rooted in hierarchical society like India. While achieving the unfinished agenda of second freedom struggle as said earlier, the anti-CAA protesters were fighting in peaceful and democratic manner. Instead of listening the dissenting voices, the Delhi Police have harassed and allegedly arrested the activists and students, as stated above.
Recently, the Time Magazine in its latest issue mentioned the name of Bilkis Bano (famously known as Dadi Amma) among the most 100 influential persons of the world 2020. The Magazine presented Bano as a symbol of resistance against the anti-constitutional Act like CAA. Let us cite the couplet voiced furiously by Daadi Amma of Shaheen Bagh which has now become a popular slogan in the public domain.
Tere Ghuroor ko Jalaungee, Wo- Aagh Hu Mein,
Aakar Dekho Mujhe, Mein Shaheen Bagh Hu.
In a given gloomy political situations, it is high time that progressive and secular forces must forge a larger solidarity to fight against nefarious design of communal forces while standing with political prisoners who have been falsely put behind the bars by the Delhi Police. In doing so, we would be able to pay homage to the revolutionary legacy of Bhagat Singh and his comrades on the special occasion of his 113th birth anniversary and able to achieve Atma Nirbhar Bharat.
Badre Alam Khan is a Research Scholar University of Delhi and Wasim Ahasan is a former student of Jamia Millia Islamia.