The two states which saw the worst violence during the Partition of India– Punjab and Bengal—were the first to reject the CAA and NPR aka the NRC
In recent weeks, as the voices of protest on the streets grew louder– and women and children joined them across the cities and small towns of India in sit-ins and flash mobs to show their defiance against an unyielding government that insists on a citizenship amendment act that nobody ever asked for, nobody wants– we hear the regime’s apologists demanding an open debate. At the same time, they want the traitors—read anti-CAA protesters—to be shot at sight.
What debate do they want? What debate is possible when non-violent protesters are being abused, intimidated, beaten up and arrested? In fact, there are BJP leaders proudly declaiming that in states where BJP rules, anti-CAA protesters are “shot like dogs”. What debate is possible when a regime is deaf to all appeal? They have just told over 600 European Union Parliament members (out of a total 751) who have expressed concern that the CAA could create the “largest statelessness crisis in the world” that it’s none of their business.
And, pray, who will the regime pitch for the debate? A rabid politician whose hero is the Mahatma’s assassin? Or a businessman looking for quick favours? A pliant godman masquerading as a spiritual leader? Or a hysterical television journalist trying to incite trouble at protest sites? The problem with the right wing Indian state today is it has no genuine thinking people on its side, no cultural leaders, no artistes, no economists worth their name, no one of the slightest intellectual stature who can stand up for it or try to explain its disruptive, divisive policies.
A few who may have considered defending the regime, to offer an alternative to the left-liberal dominance of Indian politics, have quietly walked away. embarrassed to argue for a government that speaks so dismissively about its own citizens and surrounds itself with a pack of howling jackals boasting about revenge and vendetta politics. You may call them bhakts or trolls. Or whatever. But their role is clear—to drown out all serious debate with high pitched vulgar abuse and slogans laced with grudge and lies.
So what we have as defenders of the faith today are rabble rousers, sycophants, history-sheeters and rent seekers, hoping to gain privilege from proximity, special favours for defending what no else will defend. They have evicted the few well-meaning people in the party trying to convince the government that it’s still possible to build a new India without rancour and hate, without bullying its own citizens. Threats are the language of today’s majoritarian politics. Obscure heroes are being dredged out from the dank vaults of history. Temples are being raised to the Mahatma’s assassin. And dark, dangerous rumours are being spread that once the Ram mandir is up and running, the Hindu rashtra will boldly fly its swastika.
The Partition comes up in most discourses to justify all this, making the minorities—especially Muslims—feel nervous. The other minorities are assured they can stay, as long as they lower their eyes and not question the politics of the regime. The same holds true for foreign investors. They are being wooed to come to India but once they are in, and have met with some success, then comes the arm twisting, the politics of economic nationalism laced with sarcasm and constant queries about business practices. Investigations are often launched on the provocation of powerful local lobbies.
The problem lies in the government’s own dithering. It talks of reforms but wants total control. Regulatory issues are becoming more and more complex and frequent policy changes are a nightmare for those who actually bite the bullet and come to India to invest. Despite all the promises for easing business, the government has made life infinitely tougher for all, from the foreign investor to the local tax payer who is no longer able to file a return without the help of a CA.
But let’s get back to the Partition because that’s where everything began. All this hatred, all this anger has its roots in the creation of two nations out of one. Later, a third—Bangladesh—came into being. Curiously, the two states most affected by the horrific events of that time, the killings and mindless bloodshed—Punjab and Bengal—are the ones most boldly standing up to the CAA and NPR aka NRC. They are among the four states whose legislative assemblies have passed resolutions against the black act. More are likely to join them while Kerala has gone to the Supreme Court.
Whether they succeed or not, one thing is clear. The man on the street has refused to fall in line with the divisive agenda of the right. His wife is at the sit-in. His kids are missing school. His college-going daughter is facing the baton and the bullet. But he will not yield. And therein lies the regime’s challenge. How long can it keep fighting its own citizens as the world watches India’s economy come apart?
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.