Since the CAB became the CAA, protests have rocked the country. Narendra Modi and Amit Shah must not have expected the reaction of different sections of society in states across India against a move that they thought was very clever! I have never seen these two gentlemen so disconcerted. Mr Shah disappeared from the TV screen for a couple of days but Mr Modi, after going on the back foot for those two days, took hold of himself and counter-attacked.
The protests have been met with counter-protests. But these counter-protests have not attracted the attention which the protests have. The BJP spokespersons and others have blamed the media for not giving equal importance to their counter-protests, but that is not what most Indians feel because the BJP has captured the electronic media and that has influenced public thinking on media loyalty. The propaganda machine of the BJP is simply superb. Other parties need to learn from its achievements though, of course, they will not be able to get similar results even if their propaganda teams are as efficient because of the advantage the BJP has from being in office.
What amazes me is seeing Muslim women, most of them in clothes that Mr Modi easily recognises, in every mass protest! These same women had been saved from the menace of triple talaq by Mr Modi’s government and it was not expected of them to oppose their benefactor.
It is obvious now that the triple talaq abolition has not improved the image of the BJP in the Muslim community. Women came out in great numbers and sat in dharna in different cities and states. The CAA has forced Muslims to lose their fear of the party in power!
They are prepared to defy it openly! Such defiance means braving the assaults of the police in BJP-led states. It was to be expected that Yogi Adityanath, an acknowledged diehard and now Chief Minister of India’s most populous state, would let loose the might of the State against these men and women who were coming out of the cocoon of fear. The atrocities of the police in Uttar Pradesh have attracted national and even international attention.
A people’s tribunal, consisting of three retired judges, two from the Supreme Court and one former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, Justice AP Shah, heard evidence from the protesters on how the police came down on them like wolves on the fold. Some of the stories were very poignant and will make your hair stand on your head! Pertinently, all clashes between the police and the protesters have taken place in BJP-ruled states only.
The BJP is now faced with protests that are not dying down despite Herculean efforts to convince the general population, particularly the Muslims, that the CAA is not anti-Muslim. How can it be not anti-Muslim, ask the protesters, if you are making a law which excludes Muslims from its benefits? There are many other questions they should ask, including who exactly is an “Indian Muslim”, a category spelt out by Mr Modi as one that does not have to fear the NRC. If they have to produce documents to prove that they fall in that category, then the exercise would become similar to the one tested in Assam and that very thought gives them the shivers.
Faced by the Muslim protests, even some allies of the BJP in Punjab, Bihar, Odisha and states in the North-East have discarded their support for the NCR. Mr Modi and Mr Shah have their work cut out for them, the irony being that the problem is of their own making. It was planned for the political goal of exempting the Hindus who had been identified as illegal immigrants by the Assam NRC, but that did not go down well with the Assamese. To add to their woes, Mr Modi and Mr Shah are also faced with a revolt from the youth, who till now have been supportive because of the hope they held for “achhe din”. Now since that hope has receded and the economy is in a downward spiral, unrest among the youth will be a bigger headache for the Modi-Shah regime to face. Probably, it might be even more difficult to come to terms with the youth than with the Muslims, who have lost the fear that once oppressed them.
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