Citizen resistance in the age of Hindutva: Lessons and Way forward

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The earlier article on ‘Citizen resistance in the age of Hindutva’ had mentioned different forms of resistance after 2014. These included resistance by writers & artists (Award Waapasi), Dalits (Una protest), Dalits & Student community (Rohit Vemula protests), Students & Teachers (JNU Nationalist debates), Muslims & others (Anti CAA protests), Muslim women (Anti hizab restriction protests), Journalists (Independent youtube media channels), Film lovers (Pathaan film watchers), Students & Youth (Resistance songs), Documentary watchers (BBC) and political parties and civil society (Bharat Jodo Yatra). Farmers movement too was a major form of resistance.

The resistance was not just for protection but to stop efforts to change the very character of the republic. The current government had sought to transform India from a secular to communal, democratic to fascist, inclusive to exclusive, enabler to attacker of rights, protector of human rights to violator of human rights, enabler of liberty to one which curbs the basic civil liberties & freedom, creator of harmony to a polariser. Instead of looking at diversity as a strength, it tried to impose ideas of one religion, one language, one culture.  Under the garb of Hindu unity, it only attacked the hard-won rights of various groups such as that of farmers, workers, Dalits, Adivasis through policies that tried to subvert the rights and protection earlier won.

Lessons from the Resistance movements

Resistance is a way to win back lost spaces:

While the Hindutva regime is bent on shaping each aspect of life on what to eat, what to wear, what to sing, what to watch which only close the available spaces for the citizens, the different forms of resistance only enable in winning back those lost spaces. Anti-CAA protests stopped the process of carrying out NRC. Farm bills had to be recalled after anti-farm protests. The dilution that was sought to be brought in SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities act) had to be reversed after Supreme court ruling after voices against the subversion.

Dissent to restore back democracy:

Dissent is an essential element in Democracy. It allows for democratic debates and allows spaces for citizens to express. Such spaces are sought to be curbed. The bulldozer raj, arrests of intellectuals and civil society activists, attack on journalists who tend to question power, passing of bills without a basic discussion in parliament and parliamentary committees are all attempts to curb democracy. Dissent is sought to be punished through threats and abuse of power. Resistance has sought to fight such dictatorial tendencies and win back democracy. The groups which are sought to be curbed are reasserting their position in a democratic spirit.

Countering efforts leading to exclusion and inequality.

The regime had sought to create an unequal system where the minorities do not enjoy equal status as citizens but are reduced to secondary status. The relationship between the majority and minority is not that of equality, but that of unequal relations. In the cultural space, it seeks to exclude available spaces for Minorities in the field of art, literature, music, and films. In the political space of the dominant party, there is complete absence of minorities. There are curbs on where they can perform worship, what they can wear, what to eat etc. Community assertion on secular lines enables in retaining the rights as citizens. Though it is being curbed, such assertions prevent further damage and expand the spaces of those sought to be excluded.

Segment focused resistance necessary but not sufficient:

While segment specific resistance contributes to winning back spaces, it may not be sufficient to defeat the forces of despotism. A Dalit taking up Dalit struggle, a minority taking up minority struggle, women taking up women’s struggle while it is necessary is not sufficient and there is a need for alignment of different forces to defeat the despotism. United resistance cutting across caste, religious, racial lines and supporting each other’s might be essential.

Alignment of forces necessary:

There is a need for alignment of different forces. These forces could be people’s movements taking up multiple causes (Dalits, Adivasis, Women, Environment, Livelihoods), Individuals (Social Activists, Intellectuals, Professionals, Writers, Artists), Political parties which believe in the basic framework of the constitution. The alignment of forces for the single cause can bring greater results than individual struggles.

Love an inherent aspect of resistance movements

There were examples of people coming together. Anti-CAA movement saw people cutting across religions coming forward to extend support to the protestors – which could be in terms of food, monetary support, and moral support. Documentation on Bharat Jodo Yatra showed that hate is not the dominant pattern prevalent among people though forces of hate have taken over.

Potential way forward

Unity of the people against forces of hate and despotism

A unity of the people who believe in basic framework of the constitution is essential for the way forward. Though there could be differences across political parties, approaches, personalities, social movement groups, a common minimum unity based on constitutional values could be the uniting factor. Such a unity is essential for common fight against the takeover by forces of hate.

Combination of pressure from below and electoral arrangements:

There needs to be a combination of pressure from below and electoral arrangements among political parties. While grassroots pressure prevents government from undertaking actions which further polarises the society and causes harm to constitution, electoral arrangements of parties opposed to hate based on basic minimum oppositional unity against forces of hate can prevent further damage.

Promoting harmony through social media:

Social media and WhatsApp have been used in ways by hate forces which have further polarised the society. Enmity is created through falsification of history where a particular community has been villainised and fake propaganda ‘Hindu Khatrein main hain’ propagated. Social media needs to be utilized in a greater way by the seekers and promoters of truth. Messages have to be put forth in more creative ways which develop harmony among people. To counter troll army, there is a need for truth army.

Expanding the alternative news:

The mainstream electronic media at national level has been largely taken over by forces of hate. The spaces available are primarily in print media and alternative media such as independent youtube channels. Some of the independent alternative news media include countercurrents, the wire, newsclick, newslaundry etc. There is a need to expand and create more spaces for independent views in these channels and sites. The potential of these channels and sites needs to be tapped.

Bharat Jodo Abhiyaan as a resistance form:

Bharat Jodo Abhiyaan is emerging as a resistance form with a seven year program. It needs to expand being a single party program to a program which unites all opposition against forces of hate and prevents destruction of the constitution. There are people’s movements, individuals associated with the same.

Its recent resolution of 6th February states that it seeks to promote constitutional values of a secular state, promote ideas of social justice, participatory and decentralised democracy, a welfare state, recognition of people’s right over natural resources, positive nationalism and pride in civilizational heritage that rules out oppression. It seeks to rearticulate constitutional vision, amplify vision through alternative media, create a community of believers, launch campaigns and engage political parties committed to defending republic. This is sought to be done through bodies of Mentors, National / State council, National / State working group, multiple functional teams, Task forces, Collectives, Secretariat. The action plan suggests developing a Truth army, Targeted constituency campaign, taking up movement support, oppositional unity and setting up finance and operations team for execution of the abhiyaan. The abhiyaan should also raise voices against arbitrary arrests of individuals such as that of Stan Swamy, Umar Khalid, others and misuse of UAPA that go against the constitution.

Drawing on lessons from the resistance movements, developing alliances of individuals – movements and political parties, spreading truth to counter misinformation, targeted campaigns, building opposition unity and a targeted approach can enable in winning back the republic.

T Navin is an independent writer


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