Twenty-five young lives have been lost in the movement against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Two millennia and a score years, give or take a few days. That’s the approximate count back into time when Jesus’ earthly parent, Joseph of the House of David, became a refugee escaping the jurisdiction of King Herod who had decreed the slaughter of infants, though not before he had travelled from Nazareth to Bethlehem to enrol his family in Augustus’ “NPR” (national population register).
How far has the human conscience evolved since those barbaric days? Marking the birthday of former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee by unveiling yet another statue at the expense of the taxpayer, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has exhorted citizens to put duty over rights and introspect about their responsibility to the nation, as if thousands of students and civil society members dissenting all over the country haven’t already done exactly the same. He has asked people to respect the work of the police in order that they may keep them safe.
Forty-eight hours ago, Mr Modi had declared that a National Register for Citizens (NRC) was not in the pipeline. Twenty-four hours later, his Cabinet okayed the formation of an NPR — clearing the decks for just such a denouement. Disguised as guidance, Mr Modi’s supercilious speech on “Good Governance Day” is really a warning to dissenters: Get ready to be co-opted by the juggernaut. You are with us or against us; there is no middle way. He had not a word of explanation or regret for the death of Anas (21) in Bijnore, who was out to buy milk for his seven-month-old and was shot by police. Or for Suleman, whose dream of entering public service has been snuffed out.
Twenty-five young lives have been lost in the movement against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that overtook India since the enactment of the law on December 11. Eighteen of them, 16 Muslim, belong to Uttar Pradesh, the state ruled by Yogi Adityanath, a chief minister who models himself after the PM. At Aligarh Muslim University, hundreds have gone missing and scores suffered amputations. A community that had accepted even the Ayodhya verdict which made no move to make amends for the razing of a historic mosque is now being made to seem backward and riot-prone.
How else does one interpret these murders and the reign of terror unleashed by the police in places like Muzaffarnagar except as ones fuelled by prejudice and hate, emotions that the PM, himself, is accused of openly stoking?
Hope lies in the (Muslim) millennial’s hearty disdain for his petty dogwhistle politics. His Goebbelsian mind games might just fall flat because India’s young have realised that non-cooperation and not violence is the way forward. But it is time now for them to show true grit away from the spotlight of social media by refusing to register in the new database. Chief ministers, too, should stonewall this move. Meanwhile, on Christmas Day, platitude and post-truth was the gift we got from the PM, dished out with a dollop of paternalism (he did say his government rose to the challenge of protecting the “dignity” of persecuted foreign Hindu women), Indian style.