CAA, NPR and NCR
What Use Are These Protests?
- AMANDEEP SANDHU
What Use Are These Protests?



Today the Supreme Court heard around 140 petitions filed against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019. The Supreme Court refused to grant an interim stay on CAA or NRC or NPR and the government is free to implement those laws as of today. The Centre will have to file replies on all other CAA-related pleas (except those about Assam and Tripura) within four weeks. SC will consider hearing pleas related to Assam and Tripura separately, after Centre files its reply after the given window of two weeks. 
 
Yesterday, in Lucknow, the Home minister declared, 'CAA will not be withdrawn.' The day before, in Bengaluru he declared, 'Protests against CAA are anti-Dalit.'

All this while, for the last 35 days, at the peak of north Indian cold, the brave and resilient women of Shaheen Bagh, New Delhi, have been protesting day and bitter cold nights, calling to the Home Minister, the Prime Minister to talk them.
 
By today's news, 40 Shaheen Baghs have erupted across big and small cities and towns around India. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of mass protests have already taken place in the nation and are continuing in full stream.

In my opinion, these protests are targeted at CAA/NRC but the anger in people is about something much bigger: the very apathy and arrogance that the Home Minister has displayed and the RSS-based BJP's divisive Hindutva project through which for the last six years there is a definite attempt to turn the secular Indian nation into a Hindu Rasthra.
 
This when our economy is in doldrums and even the IMF has said that the fall in Indian economy is now affecting world trade.

Many people unfamiliar with protests are asking: what is the point? The government won't bend.

To them my answer is any protest should not only be seen as targeted at one result. The nature of protests is such that it accrues many gains while staying focused at its primary aim. To me, the protests of the last month plus are significant for three primary reasons:

- Overcoming Fear: It is through these protests that India's largest minority - painted in the corner for three decades since Babri, especially for last six years since the rise of BJP - has found its own voice. When the community was stepping out, there was the usual even liberal critique of clothing, of slogans, of chants, of religious agenda.
 
There was also drastic police action, much attempt at bullying, but the community chose to take it all head on and prevailed. This is a major step towards feeling equal, being able to assert oneself. This happened because along with the community, a huge number of people, especially the Generation Z students and people from all walks of life have stood up in solidarity all over the country.

- Creating the Narrative: Until now, the right-wing's biggest strength has been its effective targeted communication. The right-wing did this by usurping the symbols of the nation.
 
These protests display a fascinating creativity of slogans and poetry, stay focused on a single slogan 'Won't Show Papers/Kagaz Nahin Dikhayenge' and in the process have reclaimed the national flag, the colours, the anthem, the Preamble of the Constitution, every symbol of the nation.
 
Each day the right-wing tries to disrupt the new narrative, each day it fails. Added to that is the huge focus on non-violence, on not giving the state a chance to hijack or break the protest. I love how the right-wing is completely disarrayed.

- Non Political Party Politics: Yesterday, Samajwadi Party's leader Akhilesh Yadav's daughter's pictures (left in pic) from Clock Tower, Lucknow started circulating. He was at pains to explain how though his party is opposed to CAA, the daughter had merely gone for a walk and not to join the women protesting at Clock Tower. The same women whose blankets, food material the police had confiscated the previous night. This shows the gap between all traditional political parties and the people. Specifically, that party politics is not personal.
 
Hell! Politics is personal. Every single citizen fearing to be deported to detention camps is extremely personal. The simple fact is that people have moved far ahead in their politics and the positions the political parties occupy are now redundant. After all, these parties abused the Parliament by allowing the Bill to be passed. The parties now have only two choices: either evolve or perish.

The beauty of these protests is that they are spontaneous, they are organic, and no one reason will put them down. They are now the fertile ground for a new leadership to emerge.

A nation is always in evolution. I believe, these protests have opened a huge space in our society to evolve, to mature, and no longer fall prey to rabid Hindutva propaganda. Where the protests go, what emerges, is yet to be seen. The protests are an open road, walk them. Be part of history in the making.
 

Amandeep Sandhu is author of PANJAB: Journeys Through Fault Lines

 
 

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