India’s CAA and NRC are uniting people across the nation -- just not the way they intended
The Indian government has implemented a new law that grants citizenship to all religious minorities, apart from Muslims, causing widespread condemnation and protests across the nation.
Millions of Indians are protesting like their lives and their democracy depend on the controversial Indian Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The present protests in cities across India, which cut across secular and pro-democracy factions in the multi-cultural society, have joined hands against the controversial laws.
The protests have united all faiths, castes, races, and languages in their society, which adds another colour to the world’s largest democracy.
Indian lawmakers passed the CAA -- which makes Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Jain, and Parsi (Zoroastrian) citizens of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh eligible to apply for Indian citizenship -- but deliberately excludes minority Muslim sects, like the Ahmadiyyas, fleeing persecution in those countries.
As an expert on Indian issues, CJ Werleman writes: “India’s ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), however, has given tacit, and sometimes implicit, approval to the country’s security forces and far-right street goons to mete out violence to those who oppose the government’s expressed intention to create conditions hostile enough for Muslims and other non-Hindu minorities that they will ultimately be left with no other choice but to migrate to Pakistan, Bangladesh or elsewhere.”
The United Nations has deemed the law as being “fundamentally discriminatory against Muslim migrants,” and many non-Muslim Indians are pointing out that this law is against India’s secular values.
Fortunately, the protests have made little dent on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, despite calling it as anti-Muslim citizenship laws, which is deemed to affect 200 million Muslims.
Incidentally, these protests by law-abiding citizens have been peaceful, and give hopes of a pluralistic society.
The right-wing Hindu nationalist group Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), an affiliate of the ruling BJP, stormed Jawaharlal Nehru University and attacked students and teachers with wooden sticks and iron rods.
Even though the ABVP has promised further attacks against anti-CAA protestors, the continued recurrence of protests proves that India will not only be defined by the Hindu nationalists.
Instead, the social construction will also be shared by the secular democracy caucus, which has the support of the civil society as well as the mainstream media, both print and electronic.
Let’s not debate how many protesters were killed and how many Muslims have died in the violence in the streets of India. Most of the deaths have occurred in Uttar Pradesh, a state led by a chief minister who has referred to Muslims as “termites” and “invaders.”
Well-known Indian author Siddhartha Deb argued: “What we are living through is not some tragic downfall of a once great secular democracy.
“Rather, what we are experiencing, with great shock and horror, is the collapse of our own exalted ideas about ourselves. Acknowledging the latter is vital if we are not to dangerously prolong our state of self-deception and attempt to restore a reality that never existed.”
Saleem Samad is an independent journalist, media rights defender, and recipient of Ashoka Fellow (USA) and Hellman-Hammett Award. He can be reached at @saleemsamad on Twitter, and [email protected] through email.