December 22, 2019

Rising Opposition to CAA

THE latest assault on secularism and the constitution in the form of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is meeting with strong opposition all over the country.  The entire Northeast, with Assam in the forefront, has erupted with mass protests.  Five young men were killed in police firing, curfew was imposed and internet shutdown.  But this has not prevented continuing protests by the people from all walks of life. The BJP-led state government is seen as a betrayer of the vital interests of the Assamese people by supporting the CAA which nullifies the 1971 cut-off point in the Assam Accord. 

Notable in the opposition to the CAA has been the widespread student protests.  It is heartening to see students coming out in every part of the country against the CAA. The student protests are significant for two reasons – it is a student movement for defending the constitution and secularism; further, it is a countrywide movement in solidarity with the students of Jamia Millia Islamia University and Aligarh Muslim University, to protest State repression of dissent.  The fact that the students of professional institutions like IITs, IIMs and the Indian Institute of Science, have joined the protests add to its significance.

The brutal display of police repression in entering the Jamia campus, beating up students in the library and dragging away students, both male and female, out of their hostels was a shocking example of the Modi government’s hostility towards any student protest – something which was seen earlier in the police action against JNU students. The AMU campus also witnessed shameful scenes of police excesses, including the use of stun grenade.

Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have given a typical authoritarian and communal response to these protests.  Modi has said that those “setting the fire can be identified by their clothes”, thereby implying that only Muslims are creating trouble.  He has also cautioned the students that “urban naxals” are using them for their nefarious purposes. Amit Shah has declared that “they can protest as much as they want, but there will not be an iota of change in the Act”.  Nirmala Sitharaman has darkly warned of “jihadists, Maoists and separatists getting into student activism”. 

Despite all these threats and warnings, the struggle to defend the secular concept of citizenship and constitutional values is gathering strength. More and more people are realising that what the BJP-RSS combine are out to accomplish is nothing but the setting up of a Hindu Rashtra. The struggle against the CAA has to be carried forward by extending it to the fight against forthcoming drive for the National Population Register (NPR) which is the first stage of the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

(December 18, 2019)