15 July 2020 11:35 AM



CAA-NRC: Those Who Voted for this Regime Need to Wake Up

The Kashmirisation of the rest of India

For police to enter into the library and mosque of a university campus in New Delhi, and proceed to assault students, including women students, is a plunge by this nation into the dark. The ostensible reason given is that anti Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) processionists resorted to stone throwing and arson, which led to the police attempting to round up anti-social elements.

Contrary to the police version, videos on social media indicate that it was the police that set fire to the buses, as a precursor to their heavy handedness that followed on campus. At the time of writing, the police were shown on national television vandalising vehicles on the campus of the Aligarh Muslim University where sympathetic demonstrations broke out in solidarity with their student colleagues in Jamia Millia Islamia.

This makes it more likely that the police version of events in New Delhi is suspect.

The credibility of the police has never been high. It took a deep dive recently with a commissioner of police claiming that the law had done its duty while explaining the ‘encounter’ in which the police killed four alleged rapists in Hyderabad.

But even if the police version is true, for police to enter into a university campus in the national capital and rough up students in their search for anti-social elements shows the regime is going overboard.

Only a perception of impunity among the armed police could have led to such high handedness. This can only be the result of their action being taken under orders. We must ask: Whose orders?

By now it is evident that the regime is incapable of following through with its hard-nosed, ideology-driven decisions with any finesse.

The economic fallout and consequences on livelihoods of demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax decisions is now fairly evident. The surgical strikes failed to deter the Pulwama terror attack. The Balakot aerial attack failed to hit its intended target. It is equally clear that no F-16 fell out of the sky in the aerial duel that followed. Kashmir is waiting to explode, with each passing day of lockdown adding to the potentially calamitous consequences when it does. The outcome of the register of citizens’ exercise in Assam can be visualised from the condition of the detention centers there.

And now we have its seeming failure to anticipate the anti-CAA sentiment in the northeastern states and in Muslim communities across the country. Needing to divert attention from overreach and to delegitimise the emerging blow-back, it has resorted to time-tested tactics. Using alleged arson and stone throwing as excuse, it has tried to paint the counter to the CAA in dark colours. And it has already conditioned the media to loyally depict any violence as initiated and perpetrated by Muslims.

The intent is to reinforce its narrative on the CAA plus National Register of Citizens (NRC) which are its twinned answer to foolproof homeland security. From its point of view, the Muslims objecting to the CAA-NRC pose a threat because they have much to hide, including some 20 million illegal infiltrators, in their mohallahs and qasbas. Tough handling at the outset of the demonstrations would help deter and divide Muslims. Else they may heed emerging calls for non-cooperation against the CAA-NRC.

Besides, the strong arm would need to be much in evidence in case the ‘termites’ are to be accorded a burial at sea in the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh, having cancelled visits by its home and foreign ministers last week, being in no mood to welcome them back.

The necessity of firmness is easy to swallow for believers; they believe anything including that their prime minister is a graduate. The wider public has also been worked on for over a decade during which the notion of convergence between terrorism and Muslims was fostered by the media and fanned by the strategic community. Perpetrators of the black operations that depicted Muslims in poor light were set scot free, and at least one now graces Parliament.

Therefore, the expectation in the security minders who passed on the orders for mayhem on campus was that the rationale would be swallowed.

As with other implementation failures of misconceived policies, this time the regime has come up short. It has been exposed by the swirling social media clips that have found their way into mainstream media coverage of the incidents.

Accountability is not with the khakhi clad superiors of the communalised armed police. They have received their marching orders and – being supine – have in carrying these out, botched it.

Despite its inauspicious rollout of the CAA-NRC, the question still needs answering: whose orders? The deep state, comprising national security minders, is merely a link in the chain of command. Who does the deep state answer to?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at a mega rally the same day on the campaign trail in Dumka, Jharkhand, is a dead giveaway. Modi in his inimitable style said that it is possible to make out who is setting the nation on fire, by the clothes they wear. This is of a piece with his long standing dog whistle politics.

In a piece of immaculate coincidence, the demonstration in Okhla unfolding even as he delivered his address in early afternoon, culminated in arson a little while later, with police invading the nearby campus shortly thereafter.

Modi’s home minister during his performance in Parliament warned that the NRC was coming. The CAA only sets the stage. Communities of Muslim Indians are left with little recourse but peaceful demonstrations by their articulate members – the students – to register its reservations.

Modi and Shah, responsible for setting off the counter to the CAA-NRC, are out to manage the pushback with the only methods they know: the Kashmirisation of the rest of India, to borrow a phrase.

That the counter has acquired such dimensions owes to the urgency and significance of the juncture. The government for its part is not averse to the rigour of the counter since it helps it project the necessity – in its narrative – of the CAA-NRC double whammy, and paper over the widening cracks in the economy.

The takeaway from witnessing the aftermath of the first act of its folly, is that the largely Hindu support base of the ruling party needs to wake up in time. Only a shifting of sands below the feet of the Chanakyan duo will enable institutions play their part in the system of checks and balances that constitutes democracy.

The accountability for controlling Modi-Shah is with those who elected the two. The agent-principal relationship that underpins democracy implies that my Hindu brethren who voted Modi into power need inclusion, in the answer to the question, On whose orders?

They can yet make amends.

Ali Ahmed, PhD (JNU), PhD (Cantab) is visiting professor in Jamia Millia Islamia.

(Cover Photo: At the protest meet outside Delhi Police HQ. Taken by SHUBHDA CHAUDHARY for The Citizen)

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