The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) forced all Indians cutting across religious-community differences and with respect for the secular democratic constitution of India to come together against it and also demand withdrawal of National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR).
An all-party Opposition meeting convened in Delhi by Congress president Sonia Gandhi calling for halting all actions on the three measures, was arguably an inspiring one in general for the Indian people involved in a fight against fascism in general, and in particular for the religious minorites as likely victims of the government's moves. The public protests that took off from the campuses against the CAA and taken up by the people at large across the country, was in many ways reminiscent of the freedom struggle against imperialism. The emerging picture before us is of the protesting getting more widespread and stronger with each passing day, overcoming every threat and provocation of the Modi government. It was rather unexpected that our youth, especially its female section, would come out in the streets against the unconstitutional policies and actions with such unsagging vigour, at the same time using peaceful means.
This is happening at the same time when there is a loud hue and cry against the young generation turning irresponsible and falling prey to intoxicants, illicit relations and unhealthy influence of social media. They are now presenting a picture quite opposite this portrayal. Even as the government pushes through totalitarian legislations one after another using its majority, what is becoming clear now is that the new citizenship law has made nudged the public – so far given to apathy and silence over them - into a new awareness about the dangers in store. And the democratic protesters have been strikingly instrumental in awakening the covnentional political parties - so far victim to lethargy and despair - and bringing them into the theatre of action. It was this situation that stimulated the Congress, which had got nonplussed at the big defeat in Lok Sabha election, to mobilize as many of the secular parties as possible to come together against the divide-and-rule strategy of the Modi-Amit Shah combine. About 20 parties including the Congress, NCP, CPM, CPI and Muslim League shared the platform and were heard airing their voice in union against the CAA and the population registers. Even otherwise, 12 states had already declared that they would not implement the CAA. The Janata Dal (U) led by Nitish Kumar, which is a BJP ally in the ruling NDA of Bihar, has declared in unambiguous terms that NRC would not be implemented in Bihar. In Maharashtra too, with Shiv Sena chief Uddhav as the chief minister, the government has taken the same stance towards CAA.
The abstention from the Congress-convened opposition conclave by DMK, Trinamool Congress, Shiv Sena, BSP, Samajwadi Party, Aam Aadmi Party and TDP has been explained as owing to local issues. Even as that may be correct, this distancing is giving the BJP the consolation that even at critical juncture against fascist forces, secular parties are not prepared for a collective fight. And it was such disunity and cracks that led to the ascent to power of the far-right forces. It is sad that in spite of suffering first-hand the worst consequence of such splintering, the Opposition parties lose that sense of give-and-take or the broadmindedness required at this time. The DMK of Tamil Nadu, and Trinamool Congress of West Bengal are two parties that have so far taken a firm and uncompromising stand against the CAA and their follow up action. Even if these two are not able to settle their differences with the Congress in their respective states where they have dominant influence, that should not be a barrier for a united strugge at the national level or for taking a common approach in parliament. In UP, Mayawati of BSP and Akhilesh Yadav of Samajwadi Party, are at loggerheads with the Congress. The unfortunate reality is that the Opposition are not able to move in unison against the anti-humanitarian and undemocratic atrocities of the UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath. And the result? Their vote banks, i.e. Dalits and Muslims, are being pushed to the limbo as a leaderless troop. To end this stalemate, there is no alternative but for the Congress to take an initiative. It ill becomes any one to place narrow party interests and the ego of leaders above secular India and its constitution.