Social impact of Shaheen Bagh anti-CAA protest 

Shaheen Bagh protest in South Delhi in Okhla area, seems to have become the most talked about anti-CAA protest in the country. This is so because organizers have used women and children to block a road that is used by more than hundred fifty thousand vehicles daily to commute between Delhi and NOIDA / Greater NOIDA. The men who are part of the organizing team mostly stay behind the scenes. If one visits the protest site it appears like a mini fair with abundant free food, entertainment, people playing around and at times music blaring from high wattage speakers. At any given time four to five hundred ladies with children can be seen there including at night. The value they are adding to anti-CAA protest may be debatable but what is not debatable is the serious negative impact it is likely to have on many social aspects related to Muslim community, communal harmony and the nation as a whole.

The organizers have used children as young as eight to ten years to shout slogans against the government, Prime Minister and BJP. It is obvious they have poisoned the minds of these children who are their future in years to come. It is chilling to see a ten-year-old girl shouting slogans on microphone with the crowd not only repeating after her but also egging her on. One slogan with obvious reference to Prime Minister and Home Minister said ‘Tu Hitler Ki Maut Marega’. Other slogans included ‘Hamen Chahiye – Azadi Azadi’, “Modi Teri Tanashahi Nahin Chalegi, Nahin Chalegi’, “Alah Bol, Alah Bol, Inqilab Zindabad’ among a host of other provocative lines. The venom that some children spewed against the government and some leaders was bone-chilling when they were being interviewed by media. 

Anyone who feels that these eight to twelve-year old understand the complex issues of CAA or NRC needs to have his head examined. Anyone who insists that reaction of children and hatred being displayed was spontaneous, and not by design, is lying through his teeth. It is obvious these children had been tutored and their minds poisoned before they came on the stage. Will these children be able to live in harmony with children of other faiths in schools or colleges in future? Chances are that even there they will revert to protests at the drop of a hat. More importantly their protests will always have a religious bias and that will invariably lead to more problems. In the larger context, as these children grow in years, they are bound to see rest of the society with suspicion. Instead of being part of overall Indian society, there will always be a tendency to stick together with others of same faith. Is this the right way to go for future? Does the community wish to raise such generations of Indian citizens in the years to come?

Next, what about women who are part of this protest? From late teens to as old as seventy to eighty-year-old women are taking part in the protest. Irrespective of age, there was no mincing of words when it came to the toxic bitterness that was flowing when they talked. Mothers were encouraging their children to be even more toxic than what perhaps the organizers of the protest wanted. One young woman even boasted that her three-year-old asked her for a gun so that he could shoot the police. These women, many of whom have lived lives of extreme exploitation within their families and community, forgot all that in their fervor to throw accusations and barbs at government and the nation in general. These seventy-year-olds forgot all the goodwill and communal harmony that they may have been part of and witnessed in their lives. This just shows the extent of indoctrination that seems to have been done over the years with possibly a booster dose before the protest. Will such women ever be able to raise young children without any communal bias? One does not need to call Sherlock Homes to find the answer to this simple question. 

Were the protest organizers, mainly politicians, student leaders, religious and community leaders, hoping that police and authorities would come hard at these women and children? Is that what they wanted so that they could then exploit the issue and talk of police brutalities and excesses against women and children of their community? Were they willing to see their own women and children injured, including some fatalities, in case violence went out of hand? Frankly one cannot rule out such a motive once they decided to spearhead this protest with women and children. One has to thank God that good sense prevailed and nothing of that nature happened. However, it does raise a lot of uncomfortable questions about the motive of organizers. 

This protest has held lakhs of commuters to ransom on a daily basis since they had to face traffic jams running into hours. Many children had to miss school; many would have reached late for their exams while a few may have even missed the same. Even ambulances had to take longer routes through traffic jams jeopardizing lives of serious patients. Without a doubt, traffic snarls have added to the already serious problem of pollution in the city. Did anyone explain these repercussions to these protesting women and children? 

Protesting is a right under our constitution and no one grudges this right to those who want to protest. But organizing protests with the aim of holding lakhs of other citizens to ransom and trying to blackmail authorities into submission is an entirely different matter. That is not constitutional and therefore not justifiable. The aim of right to protest is not to create more problems. The right is exercised to voice one’s divergent opinion with a view to bring it to government’s notice. It goes without saying that government is not bound to agree to every divergent opinion because protestors will invariably have a narrow and perhaps selfish view on the issue. The government, on the other hand, would be looking at the same in national context and take decisions accordingly. The right to protest is a privilege to voice one’s concern and not a right to force the government to capitulate – come what may. 

So, can Shaheen Bagh protest be seen as just one more protest? Will majority of Delhi residents forget the inconvenience that this protest has caused to them for over six weeks? Will Muslim children and women involved in the protest be able to rid themselves of the hatred and poison that has been filled in their minds? Will all this not lead to a greater communal divide? These are very pertinent questions with dangerous social implications for the future. One hopes that other communities will not fall prey to this model of protesting as it will always be counterproductive. When a protest is mounted merely for the sake of protesting with motives that are far removed from the purported issue of protest, then it is indeed a very dangerous situation. This protest falls in that category as CAA and NRC are just fronts for some more sinister objectives.   

 

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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