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The CAB agitation – What lies beneath?

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Jai Menon
Jai Menon
Pro Bono Consultant

The mechanics of what is happening are clear enough. The CAA was enough time in discussion for opponents of the NDA government – the Congress, the Communists and the Commentariat to plan for it. Once the bill was passed by democratic process through the Lok and Rajya Sabhas, forces that have no democratic approval on the national level decided to take the street route, i.e. “protests” – but basically pre-planned violent riots at which all three are experts. They have developed it into a fine art over the last seven decades of independence.

Their language is simple, clear and completely the opposite of truth. The CAA, in fact, just allows for systematically persecuted minorities of neighbouring countries – all majority Muslim – to come into India and receive a fast-tracked citizenship. Naturally, the minorities in these countries will be non-Muslim. In the initial days of demonstrations, this illogic became self-evident. So the goalpost was shifted slightly to ask “but why are Ahmedis, Rohingyas & Shiites excluded”? The messaging was that these Muslim groups are persecuted too, why exclude them?

The reason is straightforward. All three of these states are Muslim majority, none of these subset Muslim groups claim themselves to be non-Muslim, and most importantly, if Muslims are to be included then why not just declare that these three countries’ territories are also part of India and simply take good governance there? Or is it that only Sunni Muslims are “real” Muslims? In any case, this is an internal discussion between Muslims in which India has no explicit role. India can only offer to protect minorities stranded from 1947 who have been suffering for decades. (And let’s not forget that it was the Congress Party which wanted to bring these minorities into India in the first place).

In about a week after the minority Muslim groups argument came to the fore, this line also started to wear thin. The next case was then raised to include a general animus towards all policies of the NDA government, with emphasis on BJP and Modi. This is when you started hearing slogans like “Hinduon se Azaadi” and seeing “F**k Hindutva” banners with the sacred Om symbol stylised into a “hakkenkreuz” (the Nazi symbol which is often referred to as a “Swastika”). Here too, the problem was that now a lot of the majority community in India began to sense that things were going in a direction they are all too familiar with, having been at the receiving end of such sloganeering for a millennium.

So, it looks like the Congress, Communist and Commentariat group are switching to the “class war” argument. Priyanka Gandhi, her mother and some leftist fellow travelers have been laying heavy hints in this direction with tweets, comments to the media, etc. Whether this will have any traction remains to be seen. But they are hoping it will because it handily combines with the “economy is destroyed” by demonetization and GST narrative, which even people who should know better (inside and outside the country) have been peddling for a while now.

Political parties, meanwhile, sensing a possible opportunity because of the numbers in the crowds shown on TV and the social media are getting into the act and fomenting violence as well as arson in the hope that this general sense of instability will reduce public support for the BJP. Congress Mother Sonia Gandhi’s concerned diatribe against the government is one of the few times she has gone on public record with anything. It is clear that an opportunity has been sensed, and the Congress machine, which knows better than anyone the value of a good riot has swung into action.

Political commentators, an integral part of the so-called Lutyens elite or Khan Market gang, have spotted an opportunity to get back at the Modi government which has given them well-deserved short shrift. So you have the avowed opponents of the government, the anti-state elements, as well as those slippery opportunists with the finest sense of wind direction coming out with their own positions and criticisms. Some are out in vendetta mode, and others with an attitude of “let me slip in the knife when I can” just in case it does help in getting the government down. Quite a number are taking chances with a strong sense that they can switch right back if things do not pan out as they predict/hope for in the current situation.

Many in the parties and commentariat will come to regret all this, because the Indian public is as savvy as any you can get on the planet. It is not for nothing they have repeatedly elected Modi. What the majority community will eventually do is actually read the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), and they will discover that there is nothing in there against Muslims or anyone else. It only permits the persecuted minorities an exit route from these three countries where they are systematically & often legally targeted for violence and discrimination.

When all is said and done, the Indian voter will also remember. The majority community will certainly take the events of the last two weeks to heart. They have seen the wanton violence visited on small businesses, on private and public properties and against an entire civilizational ethos with racist and bigoted statements and imagery which cannot now be erased from public memory. All this will come up again and again, just as elections do.

The poor patsies in all this are the Muslim community. The vast majority of them are not inclined to violence and just want to get on with life as everybody else. But, once again, they have been incited into street action, into violence and sloganeering by a cynical group of politically motivated instigators, ideologically blinded agitators and opportunists operating purely on personal motive, for position and perceived advantage.

Sympathy for the Muslims will decline, unfortunately. Just as it has in most of the West, not to mention China. No one mentions China anyway, in this context. The dragon in the room breathes fire on anyone who even mentions the Muslims of China. But who will then be able to question India when it says that it only wants to keep its own boundaries under control? Who can, and not be labelled a transparent hypocrite? No country will want to engage with India on this issue. Observe the silence of the world governments (not their irrelevant mass media) over the last two weeks.

The world itself is not sympathetic and Indian Muslims know, instinctively, that over the decades since independence there are not many countries (Muslim or non-Muslim) on the planet that offers them the kind of religious and economic opportunities that India does. India is no longer as poor as it once was. It is unfortunate, therefore, that they are so readily inflamed by their own community leaders, as well as those who claim to support them like the Congress Party, the Communists and the Commentariat. But it is not unexpected, or unpredictable. However, this attitude might be adjustable.

Only time will tell.

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Jai Menon
Jai Menon
Pro Bono Consultant
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