Citizen resistance in the age of Hindutva


India has witnessed growth and acceleration of Hindutva agenda from 2014 onwards. The growth of BJP, penetration of communal propaganda through social media, decline of independent media, decline of institutions, and emergence of autocrat leader who gets identified as liberator of majority has contributed to this trend. However, the acceleration of Hindutva agenda has also been equally accompanied by different forms of citizen resistance. This resistance has challenged the core tenets of Hindutva. Some of these are described below: –

Award Wapsi:

A series of award returns popularly known as Award wapsi took place in 2015 following the death of various writers, the most recent at that point of time being MM Kalburgi. Earlier Dabholkar and Pansare were killed by right wing Hindu activists. Award Wapsi was in protest against what several writers saw as growing intolerance and attacks on free speech in the country. The writers felt that the government was not doing enough to protect freedom of expression and to bring those responsible for the attacks on Kalburgi and other writers to justice. The award wapsi was an act of protest against the government. It raised questions and brought to fore the importance of writers and artists in shaping public discourse.

Una protest:

In 2016, in the name of cow protection, about four Dalits were brutally beaten. What followed later under the leadership of Jignesh Mewani under Dalit Atyachar Sangarsh Samithi were a series of protests in Una. A long march named Dalit Asmita yatra was organized from Ahmedabad to Una which was participated by 20,000 Dalits. They declared that they would give up their traditional jobs of removing cow carcasses. The protesters declared and demanded to be given land and jobs. The movement raised questions of caste discrimination and called for upliftment of Dalits.

Rohit Vemula protests:

A series of protests followed in the country in Indian universities followed by suicidal death of Rohith Vemula. His death was seen as a result of practice of caste discrimination followed in institutions. While this had nothing directly to do with Hindutva agenda, the government did not take steps to hold those responsible to implement the commission’s recommendations which investigated Vemula’s death. Campuses saw protests to highlight caste discrimination.

JNU Nationalist Debates:

In 2016, a propaganda was carried out that anti national slogans were raised in the university. Student activists were arrested for their supposed involvement in raising anti national slogans. It gave raise to a nation wider debate on nationalism. What followed in JNU was a series of talks on ‘Nationalism’ which was later published in the form of a book. These debates on ‘nationalism’ were a counter to the Nationalism propagated in the name of Hindutva nationalism. These debates emphasised the importance of inclusive nationalism and called for a nationalism which is respectful of diversity and minorities.

Anti CAA protests:

Citizenship amendment act (CAA) in 2019 brought in religious dimension for according citizenship. It stated that persecuted minorities in neighbouring countries (other than Muslims) could acquire Indian citizenship. It was seen as discriminatory of Muslims and a way of marginalising Muslim minorities. It led to several citizen protests in the form of peaceful rallies, protest marches and occupy movements. Shaheenbagh in Delhi saw thousands of Muslim women congregating in protest in chilling cold during winter. The occupation of Shaheenbagh could have continued further. Only the COVID threat put an end to the same.

Hizab not as restriction to attend educational institutions:

While there are different debates around hizab, what followed in Karnataka was a call to give up hizab in Schools and Colleges. This was seen as a way of imposing Hindutva and challenging the cultural and dressing patterns of Muslims. Several protests took place to express anger against the ban in which college going Muslim girls participated. Wearing of Hizab was depicted as a cultural right which should not come in the way of attending educational institutions. Questions were raised why Hizab should be given up while at the same time Hindu activists continue to wear saffron scarfs.

Independent youtube media channels:

There was little space left for independent minded journalists who wanted to bring out truth to public. The media space was largely captured by those which was supportive of power and critical of opposition. What followed was setting up of independent youtube channels such as thewire, newslaundry, newsclick, deshbhakt etc., Many of the independent journalists such as Faye D’Souza, Ravish Kumar, Abhisar Sharma set up spaces outside mainstream media. These also provided a space for independent minded news audience to listen to alternative views.

Acting against the Boycott call:

The film space was sought to be liberated from traces of secularism, traces of Muslims and Urdu in film industry. Calls were given for boycott. It was sought to be liberated from influence of khans and other Muslim artists. Objections were raised against what they believed to be hurting majority religious sentiments. Recently people went against the call given for the film and made the movie ‘pathaan’ a massive success.

Resistance songs and slogans in campuses:

The university campuses and protest sites saw resistance songs being sung such as ‘Hum dekenge’ and ‘Dastoor’. These were written by neighbouring country poets in protest and resistance against oppression in their own country but similarities with oppression was seen in India. New songs also emerged as that of ‘Hum kagaz nahi dikayenge’ during anti-CAA protests. Slogans of Azaadi emerged in campuses which sought to liberate the country from communalism, casteism, hunger, poverty etc.

BBC documentary watching despite ban:

The recent period also saw watching of BBC documentary despite the ban imposed by the government. These were watched across many university campuses and in available spaces on internet. While the content of the documentary was a familiar version to many of the Indians, but in the act of watching was an effort is expressing dissent.

Bharat jodo yatra:

Bharat jodo yatra was a political response by the principal opposition party to counter the trend of Hindutva and protect the republic. This also saw a participation by many civil society activists, artists, writers and intellectuals who participated during the course of the yatra.

Hence during the phase of growing Hindutva agenda, the period has also been accompanied by citizen protests which has questioned what has followed in the name of imposing saffron agenda. These have taken multiple forms and do provide seeds of change for the better.

T Navin is an independent writer


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