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‘Mind your language’ time for Amit Shah?

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Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan
Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan
The author is practicing advocate in the Madras High Court

Is Modi 2.0 guilty of demonetising citizenship of we the people? Compared to the present avatar, Modi 1.0 was innocuous and unimpactful. Is the induction of Amit Shah, as Union Home Minister, the difference? The first 100 days and beyond, has been one helluva Big Bang after another. If RSS grapevine is to be believed, Modi 2.0 is on missionary mode in its first year.

Yes, the economy stupid is facing the great slowdown, as former chief economic adviser, Mr. Arvind Subramanian, to Modi 1.0 argues, in the Harvard University paper, he has co authored. The Government did slash corporate income tax bigly, before Modi’s trip to US of A for Howdy Modi with Donald J Trump. Ms. Nirmala Sitaraman, new finance minister, is faced with a challenge, far more difficult than what Manmohan Singh, possibly faced in 1991, as P.V. Narasimha Rao’s, with a make or break Budget 2020.

Under Modi 2.0, the core agendas of BJP manifesto are on assembly line. Triple Talaq, as mandated by Supreme Court in Shayara Bano verdict, is now a legislative reality. Arts. 370 and 35A of the Constitution are off the Constitutional radar, to ‘integrate Kashmir with mainstream India’. The series of legislations that Modi 2.0 has parliamentarily managed, with a cobbled majority in the Rajya Sabha, is a historic high. The functional efficacy of Parliament, as envisaged by our framers in Art.245 to ‘make law’ has been stunning, statistically. All adopting a  constitutional course.

Be that as it may, even as one thought that it was time for economics to trump politics and take over, Modi/Shah, in any order, as is your won’t, came out with, seemingly, the most impactful of them all – Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) now an Act (CAA) with overwhelming majority in the Lok Sabha and not so underwhelming one in Rajya Sabha. It has been on the legislative agenda for a long, long time, literally, as old as Independent India. Pre Independent Indian National Congress passed a resolution for its enactment. No less than Mahatma Gandhi advocated a protective umbrella, to recognise those affected, by the mayhem of Partition dislocation. So, it was nothing new and/or a devious genie that Modi 2.0 let loose, out of the blue, in the jurisprudential lore.

And as providence would have it, Lord Ram blessed the dispensation with a unanimous 5 Judges’ Bench verdict in Ramjanbhoomi verdict. The quiet dismissal of 16 Review petitions from the contesting parties suggests that the nation has largely accepted the verdict and there appears to be calm, with no storm prognosticated. A huge and humongous bonanza for Modi 2.0, to accomplish one of its most high profile promises to build a Grand Temple for Maryada Purushotham Ram, fell in its lap, with a unanimous imprimatur from the top court.

Emboldened by these fortuitous set of sequential successes, Modi 2.0 embarked on CAB and morphed it into CAA, in no time. The wording of the language of legislation is accused of being  provocative . Whether it is  a fault line, left there by the bureaucracy or an intended choice to provoke, only Lord Ram would know. The minority Muslim community was by name excluded while others as Hindus, Sikhs, Budhists, Jains, Parsis and  Christians, were by name included. Could the naming names have been avoided to reach the same effect? CAA is under the scanner and Supreme Court may have the last word on it.

Language matters. Citizenship, at the best of times, is too sensitive a subject. It relates to the very core of a being. It is intertwined with the heart, mind and soul. It has an umbilical connect, which is never severed or severable. The emotional contours are undeniable and BJP with its core agendas relatable to Hindutva, ought to have seen the ‘national outrage’ coming. Just as Modi 2.0 moved a posse of armed forced into Kashmir,  before Art.370 evisceration, what was  the CAA equivalent?

As it is, the Media is  mostly in the hands of the voluble liberals, who have  no love lost for Modi. And his disdain for mainstream media though, a lot less vociferous than Donald J Trump,  who christened it as ‘Enemy of The People and purveyors of  #Fake News’, was a godsend for the Media to keep the agitational pot boiling.

The entry of student community was concluded to be spontaneous. And the central government was accused of suppressing basic civil liberties. Social Media platforms can never be trusted for their authenticity or truth in Post Truth era. The spin was based on which side of the divide of Liberals -Vs- Populists’ teams, one’s allegiance may lie. Credibility has gone  for a full  toss. The entire national turf  has become  a spinners’ paradise and the ball is  spinning fast, furiously and viciously. With doosras galore, which the common people  cannot  decipher at all. The cacophony in the drawing rooms has meant that even dinner table conversations at home, are risk borne.

While Modi was trying to soothe tempers with his cautious construct on CAA as protective of those persecuted and not intended to throw out any ‘citizen’, Amit Shah was going on a tangent. The whole CAA/NRC/NPR syllabus – had its recent origins, in more than one verdict from the Top Court. The most critical of them being the one dt.17th Dec,2014, in Assam Sanmilitia Mahasangha vs Union of India,  presided over by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi who himself is  from Assam and a  Ahom, which is in the eye of storm, as it were.

The NRC was whiplashed by the apex court, literally, into compliance, Modi 1.0’s protestations notwithstanding. This aspect ought not be lost sight of, even as the Supreme Court, is slated to hear the present CAA challenge. 1.9 million of Assam populace were left out of NRC. All sorts of stories were circulated, invented, spun, spread, with love, poison and venom, from all sides, with no clarity, to even the well informed. It is in such a vitiated  environment that Amit Shah entered with his ‘termites’ quote and tweak that CAA was a precursor to NRC/NPR. Modi tried to douse the fire by ruling out such a link. Yet, Shah is  on his own trips with challenging language, thanks to the visceral hatred, the opposition spews selectively and reserves for him and him alone.  Amit Shah’s very presence is infuriating to the opposition, and his pronouncements even more. And Shah is giving as well as he is getting.

Narendra Damordas Modi has a huge responsibility, on his shoulder and his 56’ inch chest may need to be on full stretch. He is the Prime Minister of India. Not of those who voted for him. He agrees it to be so. So far so good. The absence of Arun Jaitley has meant that the BJP is struggling on the perception front. Jaitley had the skillset for a suave packaging, instead of the Amit Shah’s on your face responses. A nuanced defence of a constitutional CAA is wobbling on the political front. Nation deserves better. Is it Time for Modi to  counsel Amit Shah first,  before he counsels us We The People?

(Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan-Author is practising advocate in the Madras High Court)

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Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan
Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan
The author is practicing advocate in the Madras High Court
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