Ramachandra Guha: History Will Punish Them
The rough-handling of historian Ramachandra Guha in Bangalore, when he came to protest against the hasty and un-reflected passing of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, won world attention. Guha, however, had no harsh words for the police; who, he said, were merely acting in behalf of their “colonial masters.” He felt sorry for them. What he was worried about was the fact that when India needed an intelligent approach to her mounting problems, she was being led by a government that was “deeply anti-intellectual.” The protest continues. A 1000 scientists and scholars have written in protest against the CAA. Kaleshwaram Raj and Thulasi Raj describe the CAA as “authoritarian and fanatic.”
Such messages fall in the ears of “deaf” leaders who are unable to rise above “village school level thinking,” as a critic described. Instead, society is dragged into ‘ideology-driven anxieties’ instead of being inspired and guided towards hope-filled goals.
China looks ahead with confidence towards 2050 when it is likely to be the Leader of the World; the present Indian leadership leads the country back to Ramayana times, dead set on crushing marginal regions and browbeating weaker communities… and claiming a moral right to do so. Ramachandra Guha is very sure that this sort of authoritarianism sabotages independent and intelligent thinking. Mere loyalists are being appointed to key positions. Guha does not hesitate call the present government “philistine and bigoted.” But the ‘brutal crackdown’ continues, while the Army Chief Bipin Rawat tries to create a tension at the borders to distract society. “History will punish them,” says Guha.
Assam is a Repeat of Kashmir
The BJP’s first experiment with ruling by the use of force was in Kashmir. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah says, “They (BJP) have no experience of governance and lack sanity…For now, Kashmiris are keeping quiet. A day will come when they will erupt and no one will be able to control the situation…They are controlling Kashmir through the gun. They have deployed nine lakh troops.” And she laments, “Gandhi’s India has ceased to exist.”
Ghulam Nabi Azad asks how they can keep seven million people paralysed for months. Then he adds, Northeast is a repeat of Kashmir. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury of the Congress agrees: Assam has become the new Kashmir. Kashmir has gone silent for months. Does it exist? Will Assam continue to exist?
Insensitivity Mounts to Himalayan Heights
Assam is shocked at the ‘gross insensitivity’ of the Central leaders about the destiny of Assam. Assamese students had been agitating for decades, calling for measures to prevent immigration from Bangladesh that would reduce their community to a minority in their own homeland. More than 860 heroes had laid down their lives in the struggle. It was after prolonged negotiations that an agreement was reached in 1985 which accepted 1971 as the cutoff year for citizenship. Now, CAA nullifies Assam Accord with one stroke, as though it was worth nothing. No prior consultation, no discussion, no explanation. No sensitivity to the entire region’s anxiety. All Assam Students Union was shocked beyond description. The entire region was stunned. Anger rose, emotions went high, reactions went tempestuous. The effigies of Modi, Shah and Sonowal were burnt.
What hurt the regional sentiments most was the distressing “insensitivity” of the leaders in the region and at the Centre and the haste in getting the controversial Bill through. Himanta Biswa Sarma ridiculed the critics. Sonowal dubbed them emotional, irrational, misled. It was, in fact, Kiran Rijiju who was misleading when he assured protesters, that the Citizenship Bill would not affect the Northeastern states. All assurances were deceptions. Tathagatha Roy, Governor of Meghalaya, described opposition to CAA as the “height of absurdity.” The general feeling in Assam was that Dispur had surrendered to Delhi and that the BJP was seeking to “murder” Assamese society. Further divisions are being planned.
Tarun Gogoi accused Himanta and Sonowal of trying to please the RSS-Modi-Shah clique at a heavy price for Assam. Indeed, Modi-Shah had dropped a political bomb into the region. Led on by mass anger, students slit their wrists and wrote with their blood “We will go to Saraighat,” recalling the Assamese struggle against the Mughals. Thy cried in one voice, “Repeal CAA or arrest us.” A first report spoke of 3,000 detained and hundreds of cases filed.
Unconcern and Arrogance
The rush and the hurry with which Delhi got a “very, very” controversial and “divisive” bill passed has given birth to an undescribably intense “resentment” in the region. The alienation is complete. While Modi is accusing Congress of misleading society, he has shown himself to be past master in that dubious art. He claimed from the beginning that the Citizen’s Amendment bill had the support 130 crores Indians. False. He assured that the Northeast will be specially protected. Untrue. In the face of nationwide criticism he insisted that the CAA decision was 1000% right. Totally wrong. He called his critics Pakistanis. Grossly unfair. But Nirmala Sitharaman faithfully echoed the message and called the protesters jihadists and separatists. No wonder anger rose to an unprecedented level. Security forces used tear gas, rubber bullets, stun grenades, pellets, other explosives on students. Five martyrs are reported so far, one of them a 16 year old Sam Stafford who was merely a passerby. Akhil Gogoi stands on trial.
Meantime, the Hindutva camp is exultant: Kashmir, Triple Talaq, Ayodhya, CAA… all in quick succession. Their agenda has advanced. They acclaim Amit Shah as the true “Hindutva icon.” An admirer exclaimed, “This is Shah’s style, to go for a kill.” If Modi is criticized for his “all-knowing poses” and over-confident postures, Shah is accused of being ‘arrogant’ and going ‘brutish.’ If protesters have gone to excesses, the leaders who used provocative and humiliating styles should take the responsibility. Moreover, their unconcern for distant regions is shocking. It was thought that seeing the awakening of the ‘Maratha Manoos” after the Maharashtra elections, the Centre would grow more attentive to the regional sensitivities of the East and South. On the contrary, their unconcern has only hardened. And the nation is burning. India is competing with China in cutting off the Internet.
Unfortunately what the Assam electorate feels today is that the BJP has betrayed them of all the promises it had made before elections. The official reaction to protesting states has been stubbornly firm. The Home Ministry says, the states cannot reject Citizenship Act. In UP, Yogi threatens the strongest action against protesters and their property. He has the full support of Modi. Their callousness provokes anger.
“Urban Maoists” of the Hindutva Ideology
Modiji is right in asking whether society would approve of the destruction of public property. Pandey, the DGP of Bihar, explains how such rowdy behaviour has grown in the country. The BJP has been building up ready squadrons of Dharm Veers (religious warriors), teams of anti-social elements, gangs of lawless vigilantes, to promote their ideology. Yogi himself gave training to many. Pandey says, “You support criminals in the name of caste, religion and party. You make a hero out of them…Garland them and speak of checking crime.” The public comment is this: the piety of the BJP has become “lethal.” The RSS and the BJP have been sowing seeds of discord in the country over the years. Imran Khan rightly points out that Modi has only one goal: to promote “Hindu supremacist agenda.”
Neeti Nair of the Virginia University sees in the CAA-NRC promulgation a sure step towards Hindu Rashtra. What is aimed at is the Israelification of India, allowing Hindus in any part of the world to claim Indian citizenship. If all persecuted Hindus can come to India, people ask, how the word ‘persecution’ is defined. And if persecution is an entitlement, where will the “persecuted” Indian citizens (like Congress men, communists, intellectuals) go? Meantime state-sponsored atrocities are growing nationwide, Hindutva thinkers acting as ‘Urban Maoists.’ There is little evidence that the Government knows how to interpret the public mood about their Hindutva policies and strategies. They think they will do best taming the rising generation. Priyanka warns, “An attack on students is an attack on the soul of India.”
Declared Reasons, and Real Political Reasons
Despite public declarations, the real reason for hurrying up with the CAA and NRC was not concern for “persecuted” Hindus in the neighbouring states; it was to build up a safe vote-bank for the 2021 elections in Bengal. Hindu refugees are significant in 80 Assembly constituencies. Further, there are two crore Hindus in Bangladesh; CAA is an invitation to them so the Hindu proportion in Eastern India can rise and the BJP vote-bank is permanently secure!
This duplicity is evident as India has consistently assured Bangladesh that CAA and NRC are merely India’s internal matters. That, in spite of the fact that the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, AK Abdul Momen has expressed his willingness to take back actual Bangladeshis if India proved them to be so. This inconsistency has caused great damage to India’s international image.
Pritam Baruah asks why India has brought the Army into action against its citizens, while China has not deployed its Army in Hong Kong even after eight months of violent protests. He wonders how the use of the Army against its own citizens has become ‘normal’ in ‘democratic’ India, while ‘authoritarian’ China refrains from doing so; how force is hastily used against Assamese protesters as if they are second class citizens… always condemned to live amidst siren blarings and Army interferences? AFSPA still holds.
No Respect for Formal Agreements
Hong Kong Administration repealed the ‘extradition bill’ under protests, though it was extremely unwilling to do so. Xi did not interfere, and respected the formula “one country, two systems,” which Beijing had formally accepted at Hong Kong’s accession to China. It is in this respect that Modi-government has failed seriously with regard to Kashmir, when they sent the army in with little regard to the formal agreement ensuring their autonomy. Who then can attach any importance to the Hindutva leaders’ most solemn pledges and promises?
On the Eastern side, something similar is happening in Nagaland. As the Naga talks are reaching their conclusions, NSCN (I-M) feels that the Centre is unleashing its “military might and arrogance at this crucial stage.” They say that the Government is showing “double standards” and has become extremely “provocative.” The army has taken over a number of school buildings to keep a watch on people. They are harassed even as they go to the fields. The Government seems to have developed an enormous sense of insecurity.
Fears Come True One by One
The ordinary citizen’s fears are coming true, one by one: the abolition of article 370, Ayodhya verdict, CAA…all moving forward with a sure step! The RSS formulate the strategies, Modi makes the decision, Shah gets the task done. Let us look at one example. There was a lingering fear that the demolishers of the Babri Masjid would be rewarded. That is exactly what happened. It was a perfect example of a majoritarian triumph. Now rises the next fear. Asaduddin Owaisi says the RSS has a list mosques to be expropriated. Subramanian Swamy agrees immediately. He affirms that Hindutva has just begun, more temples should be reclaimed. What were once considered baseless fears are all coming true. With the flattering of the army and the political interferences of the Army Chief, Bipin Rawat, Owaisi fears an Army takeover over of India! Baseless? In today’s India, nothing is impossible!
We have moved into a world of irrationalities. There is no end to crazy statements. A swami suggests a Golden Temple at Ayodhya. Amit Shah, campaigning in Jharkhand, promises a sky-touching temple at Ayodhya in four months! He is the one who accuses the Congress of misleading the public. Voters could see through his hollow boasts. No wonder his party was thrown out in Jharkhand. Most revolting was his eloquence against the Muslims. Addressing the Jharkhandis who were worried about their loss of land and natural resources, he elaborated how Mir Jafar betrayed India before the Battle of Plassey. If he was speaking about traitors, why was he silent about the betrayal of Jagat Seth who paved the way for Plassey? Or Jaichand who betrayed Prithviraj? What about hundreds of Maharajahs and petty Hindu chiefs who betrayed the interests of India in support of invading aliens and remained loyal till the last day?
Hopes Go Crashing
No, it is not time for such “idiotic tales” as someone has remarked, but think about our fast declining economy. Modiji, the proposer of a $5 trillion economy does not explain why he has placed the nation on a sinking boat. If he loves the Hindus, why is he taking them downwards? While Bangladesh is moving ahead with a 8.1% growth rate, India is diving towards 4.5% and lower. Niranjan Hiranandini comments, “Countries like Bangladesh are growing at twice the pace of India.” What Manmohan has been insisting all along was that an economy can flourish only in a climate of “confidence and trust,” which today is seriously ruptured. Distrust, fear and hopelessness prevail. Diktats and coercions don’t work. No one dares to venture any more for fear of retribution. Government must shed their debilitating doctrines.
Meantime a school of Astrology is opened in Guwahati, and the Government allots 50 lakhs for the temple in Golaghat in the name of tourism. Don’t make a mistake, Hindutva of devotions are planned to be a door to obscurantism first so as to blind people, and the plundering national resources next. Public Sector undertakings are being sold off to business tycoons and Hindutva loyalists. Sonia laments the haste with which these things are being done, with no qualms of conscience. Mighty projects are given to staunch supporters and reliable donors of the BJP.
A Prayer for Humility
Truly, Modi’s honey moon period is over. People demand performance. The economy needs to be rescued. We need a united India. The 56-inch chest of Modi did not work in Maharashtra nor Jharkhand. Balakot and Pulwama did not help. Nor did Kashmir, Ayodhya or CAA. His allies are dropping out of his bandwagon one by one. Uddhav Thackeray did not hesitate to call Amit Shah and his team ‘liars.’ Rahul gave the same epithet to Modi as well. All wonder how BJP developed super-expertise in political aberrations of every kind in five years that the Congress did not succeed in fifty. So, people are not agitating merely against the CAA, they are protesting against the style of the functioning of the BJP team, their arrogance, their political duplicities, their ‘divisive’ strategies, their hate-loaded ideology.
A speaker at a Guwahati meeting besought that Modi’s mind may be made ‘clean’ as a part of his campaign for Swach Bharat. Similarly, a gathering of people in Shillong prayed for “humility for Modi and Amit Shah.” With no intention to offend anyone, we pray for a great stock of SENSITIVITY among all of us belonging to different ethnic groups, religions, parties, interests. We want India to be ONE. We must march forward together!(Published on 06th January 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 02)