'Modi's Wish for Change Has Begun': As 2020 Pays Tribute to 1947, Shaheen Bagh Will be India's Arab Spring with Tricolour
This agitation belongs to the young who have faced the brutality of fellow humans. Hopefully many will graduate to the ranks of a new generation of politicians but conventional politics will need to provide the support.
Protesters gathered in Shaheen Bagh. (Photo by Ahona Sengupta)
Dear sisters and brothers, dreamers, soldiers of the Constitution,
How deep is this fight?
Agitations and public protests are not new to India; they are indeed familiar to democracies. But each takes on unique characteristics. The AASU movement morphed into a political party that presided over the fortune of post Assam Accord eastern State; the Mandal agitation made reservations a fact of life; Kejriwal-Anna Hazare campaign of IAC grew into AAP; the Telangana unrest gave birth to the State as indeed TRS; the Nav Nirman agitation changed the combination of Gujarat politics; the JP movement demolished the permanent dominance of the Congress party in north India's politics.
Looking back one is left wondering what each one set out to achieve and where they ended up. Somewhere in many more recent movements the right wing agenda of the BJP was quietly lurking till it was ready to escape the body of the host and lay claim to be the natural political expression of the Indian people.
It is still too early to endorse the claim that Modi won a mandate for fundamental change in how the generations since Independence saw the country. A bit of Pak bashing and gloating over military superiority and selectively planted disinformation about minority appeasement might have added to PM Modi's macho image but that was not enough to ring the bell for a Hindutva knock out.
India has always been a Hindu majority country with the commensurate Hindu cultural influences but that was also the reason why we chose to be secular. Being secular is not an exception to being Hindu and Muslim but our expression of inclusionary nature of our religious ethos and rejection of the Two Nation theory.
The Partition we rejected but were unable to prevent cannot be the touch stone of our policies today as PM Modi, Amit Shah and their newly-marshalled spokesperson, Arif Mohammed Khan have tried to advocate.
Admittedly there is a problem that the BJP are attempting to use as an excuse to implement a devious agenda. Every country is entitled to keep itself informed about its residents and citizens. But drawing up lists cannot be oblivious to the realities on the ground.
Poor people who have no property and proper birth or schooling documents cannot suddenly be asked to produce them not only for themselves but also their parents on the pain of being made stateless and taken to detention centres. And to add insult to injury, those who are unable to produce documents will not be harmed if they are of faiths other than Islam.
One can ask a hundred questions about the false reasoning given in support of CAA-NRC but for the present it is enough to say to the government not to exert effort explaining no Muslim citizen will be affected.
It is the right Muslims have as citizens to object to decisions that smack of a prejudiced imagination. The business of explicitly or implicitly stifling opinion and expression by making people self conscious about or scared due to wild charges of being anti-national is now exposed. Whatever the government says, the entire enterprise is permeated with a toxic ideology.
I pity the government making excuses about the Congress spreading disinformation and inciting protest. No one could spread disinformation on the scale that stirs people across the country. There are no leaders who have been assimilated in the movement because every step we have seen is spontaneous; that indeed is the beauty and inspiration of the out burst.
The battle is as much about the CAA-NRC discrimination as it is about a voice. After months and years of hesitation about when to speak and when not to, Muslims have discovered their voice and a splendid resonance of their colleagues from faiths including Hindus. There is still some talk of strategy and tactics about the best face for the protest but commitment has taken over from caution and deference.
There is no going back now: it is no minority politicians seeking publicity and quick popularity, it is young and old, some very old, innumerable women the BJP cynically claimed through the Triple Talaq legislation a few months ago. The question is whether the government will sensibly retreat or relentlessly push for a confrontation that can hurt the country grievously. This will probably prove whether the BJP cares more for its myopic beliefs or for the country. It is time that the BJP and their cohorts get called out for their doubtful patriotism.
Despite their intransigence of the establishment our constitutional commitments require that we keep the door to negotiations open. For all the vicious violence unleashed on the protestors our constitutional commitments so not allow us to declare war. Democracy must settle this dispute through an electoral verdict. It is there that the role of conventional politicians needs to be refigured.
This agitation belongs to the young who have faced the brutality of fellow humans and harshness of the weather. Hopefully many will graduate to the ranks of a new generation of politicians but conventional politics will need to provide the support needed.
At what stage and manner should they get into the conversation without taking away the credit that justly belongs to the young. As the agitation stretches out these relationships will find suitable accommodation. But one thing might be clear that our politics has changed irretrievably, something that PM Modi had wanted.
2020 will be a land mark in tribute to 1947. Some of us might not have been able to brave the cold or present our limbs for vicious strokes of police batons but we have felt the pain every moment as we have rejoiced in the solidarity of these new freedom fighters. But we can yet dedicate our years ahead to fulfilling the dreams of these soldiers of peace and democracy. Shaheen bagh will find a place with Martin Luther King’s Washington March for Civil Rights, the Anti Vietnam Movement and Woodstock, Tiananmen Square, Arab Spring and Jasmine Revolution but will have its own very special tricolour feeling. Please, please, young people let this not end without your complete victory for humankind.
With prayers for your success,
(This was first published as a blog on Facebook. Author is former Minister of External Affairs, Minister of Law and Justice and Minister of Minority Affairs of India.)
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