The CAA is meant to polarise India as part of the Hindutva enterprise
The PM’s anguish over property damage is selective. His silence on the loss of lives is even more worryingUpdated: Dec 29, 2019 20:00 IST
I was touched by the concern Prime Minister Narendra Modi displayed during his recent speeches at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan, and in Uttar Pradesh (UP), on the destruction of public and private property during protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). The PM exhorted those responsible for the destruction to burn his effigy, instead of targeting the poor and the police. He went on to claim that the CAA was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s thoughts, and “that the law was not Modi’s brainchild”. Modi said he was upset at students throwing stones, and that those protesting with the national flag must also be aware of the responsibilities that come with it. He assured Indians that he will always do everything for preserving harmony in the country.
While only peaceful protests are constitutionally permissible, and those responsible for damage to public property must be dealt with, the PM’s anguish is selective. Otherwise, it sounds insincere. When the Jats agitated in Haryana in February 2016, demanding Other Backward Class (OBC) status, resulting in an estimated ~20,000 crore loss to public and private property, we did not even hear a muted murmur on it from the PM. Modi was also silent when violence erupted, following the conviction and sentencing of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and the capital, New Delhi.
However, this time around, without ascertaining the facts, the PM is blaming the protesting students and pointing a needle of suspicion at a political party. It may well be that miscreants fomented violence by throwing stones, providing an excuse for the police to retaliate. The fact that violence erupted in Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled states should worry Modi. This could well be a well thought-out plan to justify the brutality perpetrated on the students, a strategy to which the administration in BJP-ruled states may well be complicit.
I thought the PM should be more concerned with the loss of lives. Of course, they are not public property, but precious lives that the Constitution, to which he has taken the oath, protects. Not a word of anguish for them. Loss of property can be compensated but those dead are lost forever to their families.
Modi should recognise the rising tide of discontent among the young on the party’s divisive policy prescriptions, and the arrogance of university administrations, as a reason for the protests. Episodic evidence has revealed that non-protesting students have lost their eyesight and some of their limbs. In Uttar Pradesh, allegations of police excesses are far more worrisome. The PM should be concerned at policemen shouting “Jai Shri Ram”, while lathi-charging the students of Aligarh Muslim University. No word of admonition for those responsible for mindless acts of violence, especially in UP, suggests that the priority of the PM is far removed from his assurance that he will do everything for “harmony” in the country. Since 2014, the prevailing harmony has developed deep fissures, given the divisive agenda of the ruling establishment.
The PM’s theatrical exhortation asking protesters to burn his effigy, and not damage public property, also doesn’t ring true. When a post critical of the PM may land students in jail, burning his effigy might expose students to more frightening consequences. Citizens have been prosecuted for sedition for doing less. I still remember the PM asking for only 50 more days to stabilise the ostensibleanomaliespost demonetisation. If the situation did not normalise, he said the people might impose on him any sentence they wished at any “chauraha”. We know well now the impact of demonetisation, and how the PM has escaped responsibility for it.
No one needs to burn Modi’s effigy. But we do expect the PM not to make statements that defy credulity. For the PM to say that the CAA was inspired by Gandhi’s thoughts, and was not “Modi’s brainchild”, is as true as saying that Gandhi’s assassin was a “desh bkakt”. The CAA was brought to deal with the unexpected results of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, which threw up lakhs of Hindus as illegal immigrants. It was designed to confer citizenship on them, and, then, use that as a precedent to apply to the rest of India by extending in phases, the NRC. That has resulted in a lot of misgivings, injecting a lot of uncertainty in the minds of people about their future. The manifestation of people’s discomfort with this enterprise is seen in the groundswell of opposition we are witnessing to both the CAA and the NRC.
The CAA has been choreographed to further polarise India as part of a larger Hindutva enterprise. To plead innocence is Modi’s “brainchild”.