Today year 2020 bids farewell not only with memories of the pandemic and lockdown but also of protests and struggles that shook India. On last New Year's Day, the entire country was on the street. They became the venue of a protest against ruling dispensation making an effort to behead India's democracy and pluralism in the arrogance of brute majority in the parliament. In other words, the country ushered in the new year opening a unique war front. It was not a mere protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). When the Hindutva politics put out its fangs to sting and bite the very soul of this country, slogans were heard signalling spirited and collective resistance against it. And at the lead of that fight were the first victims of fascism. That was how the Shaheen Bagh tent put up by a few Muslims housewives on the Noida-Kalindi Kunj national highway in Delhi became a spectacle all over the country. A symbol of upholding all forms of diversity in its essence, the tents however came to a pause with the pandemic. Now at the end of the year too, borders of the national capital have become a battle ground with protests. Although at the face of it, the protest is against the Modi government's farm laws, ultimately the support it is garnering represents a resistance against fascism itself.
The long span of months between the two struggles has been one of anxieties and uncertainties. By the end of March, before the country went into lockdown, Hindutva activists ran berserk in northeastern Delhi and went into a rampage. There started the onslaught against the anti-CAA protests, and through that against the popular protest itself, taking the lives of over 50 people in racist attacks. Thereafter the government put behind bars scores of people including targeted Muslim students and activists. Many of them are still in jail. With the lockdown, the country moved into another phase, when the abrupt declaration, in a manner reminiscent of the thoughtless note-ban declaration, led to the mass migration of labour. Not only did crores of people become refugees in different parts, tales of starvation also started emerging. But still lockdown did not succeed in mitigating the intensity of Covid either. At one point, India stood second in Covid caseload per day.
In the meantime, the country was hurled into a deep economic recession, also recording the biggest unemployment rate in four decades. During last November alone, job losses numbered 35 lakhs. Numerous independent studies of this period showed that India had slipped deep on several indices of poverty and starvation, democracy, media freedom, economic equality and human development. But even then the regime was fully focused on implementing its divisive agenda under the cover of lockdown. There is no dearth of misdeeds to cite about this period including muzzling dissenting voices, and putting critics in nail, gagging the media, and letting loose horse-trading through Operation Lotus on state governments to wrest power in states ruled by rival parties. What more, even the hugely unpopular farm laws were introduced through the back door during this period. But even in this period of uncertainty there was no let or hindrance on one score, i.e, corporate servility. When the country slipped into starvation, corporates were getting fatter.
At the dawn of the new year too, the same doubts and fears linger as such. Despite the optimism raised by the advent of vaccine against the pandemic, there again are clouds of concern. India also has reported cases that indicate the presence of new virus variants - mutations with higher transmissibility which raise a threat against the efficacy of the vaccines. And the union home minister's declaration that after the vaccination phase in the country, CAA will be implemented, also has to be seen as a warning signal of danger. In such scenario, Shaheen Baghs of resistance are bound to rise again. Although Kerala is ahead in the matter of Covid defence, there exist some socio-political circumstances warranting popular resistance. The left government has made at least some moves which, though cannot be termed as equal to that of Hindutva, were helpful for it. The introduction of upper caste reservation and some interventions by the home ministry cannot be seen as isolated shortfalls of a government. Even amidst declarations about providing housing for all, the poor in the land die for want of a roof to sleep under; this may open the doors for new protests and debates. Therefore, the coming year also will be like the one on the way out, marked by democratic struggles.