By Dr. Gyan Pathak
Completion of two years of anti-CAA movement by protesters at Shaheenbagh on December 15, 2019, which the March 24, 2020 nationwide lockdown to contain COVID-19 outbreak forced to an end, could not erase the anti-CAA sentiment among the people. Rather, the movement like this is showing signs of resurrection across India. Protests were organized to mark the second anniversary across the country. Moreover, as the election to the legislative assembly of Uttar Pradesh is approaching, which is due in early next year, politics hots up with communal frenzy around CAA-NRC-NPR, threatening turning the whole state into Shaheenbaghs.
Withdrawal of the three controversial farm laws by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ignited hope of rolling back of several laws and reforms, which not only included the four controversial labour codes and moves for privatisation of bank, insurance, and many public sector undertakings, but also the CAA-NRC-NPR. Protesters marking the anniversary has said that their sit-in protest at Shaheenbagh ended but their movement was not, and would carry it on until they are rolled back, since they are discriminatory and many agitators were still in jails.
In Uttar Pradesh, where political activities are gaining ground on account of election to the state legislative assembly, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi has threatened to turn the streets of the state into Delhi’s Shaheenbagh if CAA and NRC are not scraped. “CAA is against the Constitution of India, and if BJP government does not take back this law, we will come out on the streets and another Shaheenbach will come up here,” he threatened first addressing a public meeting at UP’s Barabanki on November 22.
Since the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizen (NRC), and the Nation Population Register (NPR) have originated from the problems in Assam having roots in illegal Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh, these have anti-Muslim connotation that suits the politics of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM). The party hopes to gain from consolidation of Muslim votes in its favour. It also suits the BJP, since anti-Muslim connotation of the CAA-NRC-NPR that they had brought is has a history of consolidation of Hindu votes in their favour, and any further consolidation of Muslim votes on account of Owaisi’s stance in UP politics would proportionately consolidate Hindu votes in their favour. That is why, the next day after Owaisi’s threat, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath picked it up and raised to even higher pitch and warned Owaisi that his “government knows how to handle it.”
Yogi Adityanath further said that Asaduddin Owaisi is hand-i-glove with Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party (SP), while the Congress and SP has been repeatedly saying that both the BJP and AIMIM are playing the communal game with an intention to help each other by consolidating the Hindu and Muslim vote banks. “I want to warn that person who is invoking feelings in the name of CAA, I want to say to these preachers of ‘Abba Jaan’ and ‘Chacha Jaan’ that if they try to do it then the state government knows how to handle it strictly,” said Adiyanath. “Today’s government doesn’t protect rioters but runs bulldozers on their chest.”
However, all these statements do not reflect the “Shaheenbagh”, since the movement there was peaceful on the line of ‘Satyagraha’. Moreover, the majority of citizenship claims rejected in Assam were of Hindus and not of Muslims, proves that the BJP’s presumption of implementation of CAA would affect only illegal Muslim migrants from Bangladesh was wrong. It proves that the CAA along with NRC and NPR can create great difficulties to all communities, not only Muslims as the BJP wants us to believe. Therefore, Owaisi or any other person who are trying to bring the issues related to CAA-NRC-NPR as only anti-Muslim are also wrong, though they have roots in anti-illegal-Bangladeshi-Muslims.
Therefore, the Shaheenbagh movement must not be seen as only a movement of Muslims though it was primarily led by Muslim women. Moreover, it would also be a mistake to believe that the movement had died after it was forced to come to an end on March 24, 2020 after the lockdown, and the updation of NPR and other related field activities have since been postponed. The protests to mark completion of two years of Shaheenbagh movement indicate that it may resurrect whenever the process of updation will start.
There are additional reasons for that. For example, the CAA was brought at a time in 2019, when the BJP found that majority of the people who could not prove their citizenship were Hindus. It therefore aims to facilitate grant of citizenship to migrants belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, or Christian community from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan who entered into India on or before December 31, 2014 and who have been exempted by the Central Government by or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 or any rule or order made thereunder. The CAA has already been notified on December 12, 1019 and has come into force w.e.f January 10, 2020. The CAA excludes Muslims which is against the principle of equality before law.
In reply to a question, the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Sri Nityanand Rai had said, “Till now, the Government has not taken any decision to prepare National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) at national level.” Government has decided to update the NPR under the Citizenship Act, 1955 along with the first phase of Census, 2021. The demographic and other particulars of each family and individual were to be updated and collected during the exercise of updation of NPR. No document was to be collected during the exercise. However, due to outbreak of COVID-19, the updation of NPR and other related field activities have been postponed.
It means the Damocles’ Sword is still hanging on our head, and the government officials can anytime ask us to prove our citizenship, which crores of people in the country from all communities, not only Muslims, cannot prove, as we have seen in the case of Assam. We will then be on the mercy of the government officials, and a person without citizenship will lose all legal rights to have facilities like medical, jobs, foods, land, home, etc. Without withdrawing the CAA-NRC-NPR, resurrection of Shaheenbaghs across the country is imminent. (IPA Service)