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India’s Tryst with Dissent Precedes Modi’s Nationalism!

When the country is ruled by fanatics, where any and every action is a sitting duck and one question against the authority could lead to an assassination of your nationalism and segue your fundamental rights, even sighing in the faces of the majority becomes a protest, a mutiny, a rebellion! And rebellions have always been India’s domain. It certainly is dangerously problematic when those very fanatics could label you as Us v. Them, as Nationalists v. Anti-nationalists, or worse as terrorists, only based on what you eat, how you look, and whom you politically support!

“But in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship”.

— Ambedkar, 1949

India has been engulfed by the saffron wave under the garb of nationalism, and with it has come bigotry, xenophobia, and more riots. Ironically enough, the one thing that united India and made it unique from any other country in the world was its cultural diversity and yet, with the radicalization of the majority, this very diversity has become the bane of the peaceful India that we wished to know but could not. Fighting and overthrowing foreign entities is easy, but how do you fight a civil war? A war where your enemies are your very own neighbours who helped mow your lawn or the ones who bought you snacks when you were short of a few bucks – a war, particularly between the organ and the organism. So how does one win this war?

History accounts for the first war of independence to have been fought in 1857. The embers of mutiny that lit in Meerut and soon spread like wildfire through Delhi, Agra, Kanpur, and Lucknow have once again asked for its due on the announcement of CAA, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the protesting farmers, becoming the very Hijab on the gutsy women that chose to fight for their freedom of choice and continue to find a safe haven in every grumbling heart that dare not roll under the government pressure.

Credits: PTI

Despite being surrounded by nuclear powers and equally nuclear leaders, the country has managed to make students and armless citizens its enemies. India is home to the largest democratic population and in these recent years, the nation has seen some of the largest protests in its history, led mostly by youngsters. Some would have us believe that a student’s rightful place is inside a campus and not in the country’s politics, but recent protests have shown us that when politics dare enter our classrooms (the Hijab Ban) or our houses (the Jahangirpuri demolition), every citizen must rise against the organized alienation and future genocide. They would have us believe that the minority is in danger, only to distract citizens from mainstream issues, such as hikes in petrol prices or cost-per-kilogram of lemons. However, it is a glaring disrespect to the minorities, whose homes were vandalized, whose bodies were thrashed, and whose rights were snatched.

When UAPA and illegal detention were not enough to curb any and every form of dissent, educational institutions are now being targeted to create mere sycophants who would proudly support corrupt politicians and their policies, by loudly proclaiming, “Agar Modiji kiye hain toh soch ke kiye honge“. This statement comes when essentials like lemons are sold at 300/kg, and petrol prices are hiked five times in a week. Educational institutions have always come under fire for promoting rote learning instead of inculcating hard job and life-related skills. But, now with time, they intend to create mere robots who follow their masters’ call without any free-thinking – doesn’t sound like much of a democracy, does it?

Unfortunately, for minorities in India…. any claim for the sharing of power by the minority is called communalism while the monopolizing of the whole power by the majority is called nationalism.”

— Ambedkar, the Father of Indian Constitution

Bennett University had demanded its students and parents to sign an undertaking that they will not indulge in any anti-national or anti-social activities. Jamia Millia Islamia continues to detain its students for protesting on an issue as small as fully reopening the University. The campus that pulled off such a large protest on CAA, is now being screened during the application process itself, with questions like “have you ever been detained/prosecuted/kept in detention/bound down/fined/ convicted by a Court of Law” Or “whether any case is pending against you in a court of law?” Or “any vigilance/disciplinary case is pending against you?“, being asked beforehand.

Inferring the literal meaning of these questions and suggestions:

  • A) Who decides whether an activity is anti-national or anti-social and what kind of actions do they contain?
  • B) Does this screening not prejudice the administration that already sees its student with scepticism?
  • C) Knowing that India is a socialist state, would it not give second chances to the ones convicted/prosecuted/detained?
  • D) Does the government not believe that the prosecuted/detained/convicted deserve a fair chance in education since it’s their fundamental right?
  • E) Is the government so ignorant that they forget that wrongful conviction is a reality?

Data analysis of Prison Statistics India (PSI), 2019, shows that 69.0% (3,30,487) of the total population of prisoners (4,78,600) are still under trial, and although it’s not a data on the wrongfully convicted, 69% of jailed are still supposed to be “innocent till proven guilty“.

In a letter to the prime minister, ex-bureaucrats have asked him to call an end to the “politics of hate“. Shivshankar Menon – former national security advisor, Sujatha Singh – ex-foreign secretary, GK Pillai – former home secretary, Najeeb Jung – former lieutenant governor of Delhi, and TKA Nair – former PM Manmohan Singh’s principal secretary, are among the 108 signatories to the letter saying, “Your silence, in the face of this enormous societal threat, is deafening.” After a significant increase in communal violence and religious politics, the signatories said that they were compelled to write to the prime minister as “the relentless pace at which the constitutional edifice created by our founding fathers is being destroyed compels us to speak out and express our anger and anguish.”

The government is overtly trying to subdue any kind of rebellion. Those who do dare rebel are tagged as anti-nationals and told to go to Pakistan as if just about anyone and everyone holds the power to snatch and manipulate one’s identity and passport from them. To be accountable is the duty of a democratic government, and to hold the government and the bureaucracy is the participation asked of a responsible, democratic nation. India has grown intolerant of anyone daring to oppose the Hindutva groups, and the prime minister’s inability to call them out shows just how polarized he is. Surely, the ones that hailed Dr. Manmohan Singh to be dumb and a puppet should come out today and hail the current prime minister as the same.

India’s history of dissent is richer, longer, and much more powerful than a recent prime minister and his lackeys calling for a nationalism certificate for the 1.3 billion Indian people, especially the minorities. Amidst blind UAPA charges on journalists, students, and dissenters, under which even bail is a privilege, groups such as the Bajrang Dal, VHP, RSS, ABVP, and just about any Hindutva group roam free despite the havoc and terror they wreak. In a country where only foreign powers are classified as terrorists, and any domestically inbred violence is shown a blind eye, such as the Jamia shooter, Mahant Bajrang Muni, and many more, who gallop and crack heads repeatedly but can run scot-free, should instead be categorized as state-sponsored violence.

Juhi Salim is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.

Edited by: Maryam Hassan

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Written by Juhi Salim

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