Rasheeda Bhagat

The fight for secularism is descending into chaos

Rasheeda Bhagat | Updated on December 24, 2019 Published on December 24, 2019

Protests against the CAA and the NRC are marked by the spread of disinformation and violence instigated by political players

It is the darkest before dawn, they say. In recent times, our country’s liberal and secular ethos has been torn bit by bit, and its soul attacked in a variety of ways, causing deep-rooted divisions that seemed irreparable. But dawn is slowly approaching, in the way various sections of India — young and old, Hindu and Muslim, upper classes and lower — have come together to protest the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens.

Alongside the protesting Muslims, petrified by rumours, truths and half-truths, are their Hindu brothers and sisters. Irrespective of caste or community, protests have erupted against an Act and a Registry which have potential to put millions in detention centres. Yes, Muslims are terrified at being told that though they might have paid their taxes with PAN numbers, travelled overseas with passports, voted for decades with IDs or linked their Aadhar accounts to all and sundry, these aren’t sufficient to prove their citizenship.

At a time when the country is so viciously divided along communal lines, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not help when he told a Jharkhand rally: “Yeh aag lagane wale kaun hei? Inke kapdo se pata chal jata hei...” (Who are these arsonists? It is clear from their clothes). The reference was clear.

Well, it has been found that the traditional Muslim attire — skull caps and lungis — were deliberately used in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh to vandalise public property. One English daily reported that in Murshidabad in West Bengal, a well-known local BJP worker and five of his associates, wearing this attire, were caught throwing stones at a train. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said she had “specific inputs that the BJP is buying skull caps for its cadres, who are wearing them while vandalising properties to malign a particular community.”

During these inflammatory times, I wouldn’t believe any politician from any party. But it is a different story when the locals identify ‘imposters’.

Eruption of violence

A question begging an answer is why maximum violence and deaths have taken place only in BJP-ruled States. Uttar Pradesh — led by Yogi Adityanath, known for his Islamphobia — tops the list. Karnataka has seen violence too. In Delhi, where the violence first erupted at the Jamia and Daryagunj, the police is controlled by the BJP-led Central government.

In Daryagunj, several Muslims walking on roads were reportedly picked up by police, put in a private bus, promised a free ride “jamna paar”, put behind bars, and beaten.

But tens of thousands, led by students and other youth, took out protest marches all over India; and voila, there was no violence. Take Mumbai for instance, where Shiv Sainiks can go on rampage on any issue connected with Hindus/Hindutva — the protests were peaceful. A clear indication, that it is mostly politicians, of all hues, who pour the petrol and light the fire.

A Mumbai police officer told a news agency that along with the local police, Riots Control Police, Quick Response Teams, State Reserve Police Force and policemen in plain clothes were put on vigil. This is what any efficient police force is expected to do; not vandalise educational campuses like Jamia Milia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University.

As another newpaper points out, Mahatman Gandhi gave his clarion call for non-cooperation against the British from the St Stephen’s College campus. But the police, controlled by the British, did not storm the college.

System breakdown

Yes, those pelting stones at police deserve condemnation and punishment. This has been reported from Ahmedabad, and ghastly videos have been posted too; one showing the crowd chasing and beating policemen. This was unequivocally condemned on social media not only by BJP bhakts but even those stridently opposed to the India is CAA. But later, quite a few other such videos of bleeding policemen were found to be fake, and from 2018.

So in this highly vitiated period in our history, who and what do we believe and discount? How do we digest the information that we get? With a chunk of media controlled, one turns to the social media — till the Internet is either cut off or filled with fake content and vitiated by trolls.

As the country bleeds, vital issues are forgotten, the ₹150/kg onions, slowing demand, rising unemployment and growing farm distress. And, let’s not talk about fiscal discipline; the economy is in a tail-spin even as the Sensex climbs new highs. During these bleak times of fear, disquiet, violence, suspicion, divisions and baying for blood, at least one section of the community is happy.

But, I am an incurable optimist. This too will pass, and woh subah kabhi toh aayengi, as Mukesh sang in 1958. Meanwhile, the Jharkhand results will hopefully serve as a wake-up call for the BJP leadership.

 

Published on December 24, 2019
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