The twenty-third and twenty-fourth of February remain etched in the Delhi residents’ memories. The spirit of secularism and acceptance, the vibrant ethos of the nation’s most politically active city, the site of numerous progressive struggles of the working class, students, women and the like was violated and destroyed by a politically motivated fanatical violence against the Muslim people of Delhi’s North east region. One might name it as a riot, or a pogrom or an attack, but the event on its own stands as a crime against humanity.
To put the incident into perspective, for the past six months India has been boiling over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) issue, which was spearheaded by the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), a party which stands to the far right of the Indian political spectrum, with ideological and historical links with Hitler and Mussolini. The discussion over the prospective changes to the citizenship laws in India comes at a time when the nation has been grappling with majoritarian violence under the government led by Narendra Modi and his aide, Amit Shah. There are increasing cases of lynching and vigilantism against the Muslims all with the support of the people at the helm of affairs in the country.
The contentious CAA was passed on 11December 2019, which grants citizenship to any and all immigrants to the country except the Muslims. The BJP and the paramilitary group Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have been running the country with an intention of turning the secular fabric of the nation to a Hindu Nationalist one, where religious affiliation becomes the be-all and end-all of all social and political judgements. There is history of the Hindu right wing using repeated onslaughts in the decades that followed the independence. The CAA categorically denies the people from a persecuted community getting into India based on their religion. There has never been so much hate brewed in the popular media and general public opinion against Muslims. The very idea of the traditional, “Ram – Rahim Bhai Bhai” (Ram, a Hindu, and Rahim, a Muslim, both are brothers), which is taught to almost every child in the country is under attack since the current regime came into power in 2014.
The pogrom led by the Hindu fringe against Muslims is nothing new to the Indian milieu. There have been countless instances where such incidents have been made to take place, political mileage has been achieved and the sufferers on both sides have been thrown into the garbage bin of history. In the light of this, it is imperative for one to understand how the Indian state is functioning at this present moment, which is very similar to authoritarian dictatorial regimes of the bygone eras. It is a sad truth that post the 1992 demolition of the Mosque Babri Masjid and more so after the 2002 Gujarat riots, India has been riding on a silenced Islamophobic bandwagon, which has been used both politically and socially by the far right to mobilise support for themselves in the past decade.
Post the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992, India as a nation has witnessed the rise of the Hindu right wing. The present situation under the Modi led central government demands more attention because the rise has not ever been as rapid as it is today. Coming back to the current situation, the CAA not only categorically denies admission to persecuted Muslims, it also lands a huge blow to the already existing Muslim populace within the country regarding their status in the Indian society. Following the enactment of bill as a law, there has been a proliferation of protests led by the Muslim populace of the country. The most famous and dynamic has been led by Muslim women at the iconic Shaheen Bagh in Delhi. Incidentally, the Delhi pogrom was also a retaliation to the waves generated by this very protest site. The Delhi riots have again brought out in the open the existing fault lines in the Indian society. Images of the days that followed the statements released by a BJP Minister threatening of a similar outcome if the protest site of Shaheen Bagh does not get cleared, speaks volumes about how the ruling classes uses state machinery to its own advantage: videos of the riots, which have become viral exhibit how the law and order forces of Delhi joined in with the perpetrators of violence, have been banned. This proves that the armed forces of any country are not neutral justice enforcement agencies but a reflection of the dominant forces within the country. It also shows how far into the Indian society Islamophobia has pushed in. The Hindu populace of Delhi and even India in general, lived in harmony within a diverse population, is now being motivated and brainwashed politically into an idea where they categorically think of Muslims as immigrants and worse, ‘infiltrators’. The meaning of the words “Hindustan”, which historically stood for the ‘Land beyond the Sindh,” is being continuously twisted to mean “land of the Hindus” to generate an atmosphere full of hatred for Muslims. There is also continuous hatred being spilled in the media by the lapdog media which leaves no stone unturned to portray the ‘violent Muslim’ to be the culprit at all costs.
While the Muslim question remains a pivotal point of the protests against the CAA, one must not limit oneself to that. There are at least three contemporary streams of protests within the country and beyond who have been involved in the struggle against the divisive and draconian law. The groups in the North east have been protesting against the CAA because of its inherent call to immigrants to settle in India, which they believe will turn the North East into a dumping ground. Their perception does not differentiate between the immigrants on the basis of their religion, caste or creed.
The mainstream left in the country, has been divided over the issue of how it should react to the entire debacle raised by the CAA. While most of the left has been firm on the point that the CAA is a divisive instrument at the hands of the far right, many of them have missed the preceding dynamics of the National Register of Citizens and National Population Register, which was put up in the North east with an agenda to differentiate the indigenous from immigrants. Outrageously, this has generated support from some intellectuals and parties on the left.
These attacks by Modi’s far right government have been devastating for the working classes. The Delhi Pogrom has left countless working class families scarred for life on both sides. While the working classes from the majority community have been rendered voiceless already by the economic onslaught of neoliberalism and crony capitalism, the working classes from the minority have been the worst affected with almost everything in the popular perception going against them and their politics. The right wing of the Indian subcontinent is basing all its ‘bets’ on this primordial assumption, which is getting actualised day in and day out, that the Hindu majority can be rallied against the minority by instilling in them a fear of ‘the other’ robbing away all their economic and social rights.
We need to remind the working class of its internationalist nature. Citizenship, immigration, and status will all be used by the right wing to whip up divisive hatreds, as is happening towards Muslims in India at the moment. The present situation in India shows us that we have no other way but to rally behind the iconic slogan of the German revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg: Socialism or Barbarism.