Dr Johar Iqbal for BeyondHeadlines
The peaceful protests against the controversial amendment of citizenship Act commenced at two Muslim-majority institutions remained largely secular owing to the evidence that national flags were used, and no one had chanted any slogan belonging to any distinct commune or raised any issue in regard with the identity or existential crisis of minority community. However, several efforts were orchestrated by disparate people or forces to give it a communal colour.
Firstly, peacefully protesting students from JMI and AMU were brutalized by the state on the basis of their discrete identity i.e. being a Muslim, whereas, prejudiced police actions failed to achieve it successfully and many non-Muslim students also became a victim of such atrocities. Further, the UP police went on the rampage and vandalized Muslims’ property in Muslim-dominated localities in various cities as they were given free hand by the Chief Minister. However, despite this malicious intent of state machinery to communalize the on-going agitation, the movement was vehemently supported by youth, irrespective of their affiliation of faith, at various institutions across the country.
Secondly, our honourable Prime Minister, while pointing at the protesters, purposefully said they can be recognized by their attire (unke kapdon se hi pata chal jaata hai) little after gruesome attack on the peacefully protesting students. This Muslim-only narrative, again, is challenged by another wave of nationwide forceful stirring of the resistance against CAA.
Thirdly, denying of permission to grassroots Dalit leader, Chandrashekhar Azad of Bhim army, to be part of the resistance, against amendment of citizenship Act, with protesters, mostly Muslims, followed by his detention and arrest by Delhi police was a clear message that administration did not want them to assimilate and hence progression of present agitation to other identities as well as masses.
Fourthly, Shashi Tharoor’s radical comment “Islamic extremism” against the chanting of shahadah i.e.’La ilaha illallah‘ (There is no God but Allah), tera mera rishta kya, La ilaha illallah (relationship between you and me is La ilaha illallah) by few misdirected students was meticulously carved by shrewd politicians belonging to Indian National Congress to attenuate anti-CAA movement by giving a communal hue.
Fifthly, several elite Muslims with an islamophobic lens joined the row to defend the chanting of ‘La ilaha illallah‘ and trying to narrow down the entire fight from the protection of secular credentials of India to Muslim existential crisis.
Communalism and secularism are two opposing poles and their co-existence is implausible. Not only Hindutva forces, including present BJP-led central government, but also certain Muslim groups, though minuscule, are trying to hijack the entire resistance. In addition, it is dangerous rather pointless to emphasize Muslim-only identity since it changes the paradigm of struggle against CAA. It appears quite obvious why Hindutva and allied powers are so stubborn to weaken the present agitation but why certain Muslim groups are trying to dilute it is worth pondering. The most beautiful part of the anti-CAA protest is that it started in two large Muslim institutions and later welcomed with much fervour by the entire nation as everyone considers CAA as a threat to the Constitution of India.
Amidst, on one side, Hindutva forces are working tirelessly to undermine the protest, on the other side, certain Muslim scholars, clergymen and organizations are trying hard to get their share. Fortunately, protesters, by and large, did not pay any heed, consequentially, these groups become vulnerable owing to lack of their desired bite. Further, due to the acquired frustration, they had stirred a controversy by invigorating few students to chant shahadah and tapered the goals of protest to Muslim existential crisis. Additionally, Congress lawmaker Shashi Tharoor’s attempt to fuel the nasty efforts of communal forces by his extreme views on twitter against the sloganeering and bending the entire agitation to Muslim-only narrative should not be seen as reactionary.
Nevertheless, the protest remains secular, but I strongly condemned the vicious intents of these communal forces, including Tharoor’s comment as it encouraged these misguided students including who defend such slogan chanting to continue their accounts in the ongoing struggle against CAA, in the diminution of people’s fight for their right.
Why it is so concerning to see the indomitable strives of heterogeneous groups to diminish the present dissent to Muslim’s existence issue and isolating them, by subtly and overtly manipulative segregation from other communes as well as dominant community, to fight their basic right alone? While we specifically remember six million Jews murdered during Nazi’s regime, we unknowingly forget the massacre of 1.5 million Romani gypsys by the very same Hitler and not to mention other numerous denominations who bear the sufferings of sick thoughts of supremacism including in India.
It might appear that only or largely Muslims will pay for the hatred inculcated by Savarkar and his allies for nearly a century, I doubt heavily with the notion in the light of the available evidence either the Nazi’s brutality or the incidents of violence, where atrocities against Dalits in UP after Yogi’s incumbency had increased substantially though Muslims remained a major victim, against various communities in our country after 2014. As a Muslim, I wish to believe that it is a fight for the Muslims only as all identities were included in the present amendment except the Muslims. However, I failed to do so. Moreover, no one is challenging or modifying characteristics of Muslim identity but right to be an Indian citizen as a Muslim. Therefore, it is a futile struggle to fight for the Muslim identity because even if we protect the Muslim identity we lose our basic right to be an Indian citizen. Furthermore, we are not an Indian due to our Muslim identity and our fathers had long back decided to remain in India by choice and not by any force despite the available opportunity to migrate to Pakistan, a country purely based on Muslim’s identity.
The very foundation of this country laid down by our forefathers is based on the principles of secularism. Though vexing and scary it is to see the communal character of enactment of CAA by the present regime, little relief is provided by largely secular nature of anti-CAA protests where all Indians, irrespective of their religious, caste, linguistic, cultural and regional identities, came together in solidarity with largest minority of the country. Our fight is for the larger goal i.e. to safeguard and protect the secular idea of India and its Constitution, which is being challenged by the recent pernicious alterations in citizenship Act. Many had rightly pointed out that if we fight and hopefully succeed for this larger cause, the various communes as well as their identities will remain protected. Lastly, we must remember that assimilation is inevitable in any society, but segregation is always purposefully manoeuvred.
(Author is Assistant Professor at Jazan University, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.)