At the time the women from Shaheen Bagh -the centrepoint of the anti-CAA protests of the country - were heading to home minister Amit Shah's residence, prime minister was speaking at a public programme in his own constituency Varanasi. There he declared in no uncertain terms that he will not bow before the protests and pressures against the citizenship law and will move forward with it at any cost. He said that in the matter of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and repeal of provisions of Article 370 granting special status to Kaashmir, there were pressures at inernational level on him and the government, but he ignored them all for the sake of national interest.
There is nothing new in the claim. What Amit Shah said to the protestors weeks earlier was that they could protest as long as they could but he would not step back an inch. And Modi had reiterated this while speaking in parliament during budget session. Naturally, nobody will expect a take from the sangh parivar regime that it would pay heed to the country-wide opposition to the legislation and freeze actions based on that.
But Modi's Varanasi speech contain hints of what the approach of the Centre and the BJP will be towards the anti-CAA stir. That ultimately is the same rationale as of partition. To put it plainly, the prime minsiter said in implication that the current democratic and peaceful protests will be put down using extreme Hindutva slogans. And that is why such a declaration came from the very platform of the event where he unveiled the statue of RSS ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyaya.
The citizenship protests of the country began the moment the central cabinet decided to move the CAA in parliament on 4 December 2019. The strikes started by students in campuses of Aligarh and Jamia were later embraced by people across the whole country. The slogans chanted by those unorganised crowds, with no leadership by any political party or organiation, were taken up by the people at large and the protests soon evolved into a popular agitation. It needs to be emphasised that all these strikes were entirely non-violent and peaceful.
But the authorities tried to suppress the protestors by using long batons and brandishing guns. When that did not seem to work, tactics like internet censorship were also employed. In parallel, the ruling establishment, sangh parivar's cyber cell and a few of the media were consistently engaged in attempts to brand the potesters as violent and anti-national. Now the protests are into their third month. Shaheen Bagh-model tents are rising around the whole country. If any of the tents gets demolished with muscle power, several such would come up in nearby locations, as the experience in Tamil Nadu and other places testify.
Furthermore, the seats of justice also speak against the trend of potraying protestors as anti-national. And states including Kerala have come out officially against the citizenship law. On another front, the sangh parivar has also been dealt shameful electoral defeats. Even the BJ's allies in NDA have raised questions of dissent. In a sense, BJP is politically on the defensive. To overcome this situation, Modi has again adopted the customary strategy of invoke Hindutva, the corner stone of its emotion-driven politics. Also to be noted is the fact that a major theme of Modi's Varanasi speech was the acquisition of land for Ram temple trust and the temple construction.
Modi and his followers had launched this hate campaign with his statement that the protesters could be made out by their very dress. Now it is to be suspected that the strategy is moving to a different layer too. Although the video pictures of the police atrocities in Jamia Millia University had gone viral, authorities were not prepared to believe them, sticking to the official line it was the protestors who were attackers and anti-nationals.
The sangh quarters intensify a hate campaign branding any protest initiated by Muslims as 'communal'. Those who indulge in this branding range from BJP's national leaders to local office bearers. No different was the first statement made by K Surendran on assuming office as Kerala BJP president. Surendran's contention that the Shaheen Bagh model protest going on under the leadership of Muslim Youth League at Kozhikode beach was without permission an therefore unlawful, was proved incorrect. But it cannot be seen as merely accidental that his first gunshot of fake propagaganda was aimed at the youth wing of Muslim League.
Given the fact that in the majority of draconian steps by the the Modi government including the CA, the victims are Muslims, such moves can only be seen as attempts to demonise all protests and strikes led by Muslims. It is also an example of how local leaders would narrate Modi's Varanasi speech. Ipso facto, the Varanasi speech represents a big warning too.