Justice Markandey Katju-
The sight on the internet of a large number of anti Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protesters gathered at midnight at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi (near Jamia Milia Islamia ) to welcome the New Year by singing the national anthem and shouting slogans like ‘Azadi’ and ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ ( Long live the Revolution ) has prompted me to write this article. The protests at Shaheen Bagh against the Citizens Amendment Act (CAA) have been going on since December 15th. Similar protests have also been going on in several places in India.
I regret to pour cold water on the heads of the protesters, but in my opinion these protests will fizzle out within a month or so, like the Anna Hazare agitation against corruption, or the Nirbhaya agitation against rape.
To explain my view let me first state that secularism is a feature of industrial society, not of a feudal or semi feudal one. India is still semi feudal, as evident from the rampant casteism and communalism still prevalent in our society. Merely writing the word ‘secularism’ in our Constitution does not make India a secular country when the ground reality is very different. In India most Hindus are communal, and so are most Muslims. Since about 80% Indians are Hindus, and since most Hindus are communal, it follows that most Indians support the CAA. The CAA discriminates against the Muslims, but for that very reason most Hindus approve of it, just as when a Muslim is lynched most Hindus are either indifferent or even happy (a former BJP Union Minister, Jayant Sinha, even garlanded alleged lynchers).
Those who think that these anti CAA protests will frighten the BJP Govt which will withdraw the law are laboring under a gross illusion. The BJP knows that Muslims will never vote for them, and citizenship carries voting rights. So, they will never grant citizenship to immigrant Muslims.
As I could perceive it, the anti CAA protesters can broadly be categorized in two groups (1) Muslims, and some other Indian minorities (2) The secular Hindus. Since most Hindus (like most Muslims) are communal, it follows that the secular Hindus are in the minority among Hindus (maybe 10-15%). Hence 85-90% Hindus would be supporting CAA.
The CAA has aroused communal feelings (which were always latent in our society), and hence the anti CAA agitation has in fact benefited the BJP as it thrives on communalism. The BJP will therefore never withdraw the CAA, however long and however widespread the agitation against it. In fact, the anti CAA agitation has diverted public attention from the real issues plaguing India e.g. the sinking Indian economy, record unemployment and soaring food and fuel prices—which this govt is unable to solve. Hence also the agitation benefits the BJP.
Most people agitating against the CAA appear to be middle class youth, and these people have no staying power, they will soon get over their enthusiasm and start thinking about their career and jobs. Their parents too, on whom they are dependent, will put pressure on them to forget this ‘netagiri’ and start thinking of their future. In fact some youth who were participating in these protests have told me that their parents are very angry with them.
And apart from that, it seems that the BJP leaders have taken a decision to crush such protests with an iron hand. What has happened in UP is proof of this.
There is an adage ‘Jab padi maar shamsheeran ki, to maharaj main nai hoon’. So some police dandas will soon convince these potential ‘revolutionaries’ that they are only barbers!
[Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.]