What has Gandhi got to do with the recently concluded elections in Delhi? On the face of it nothing. But at another level, the election process, its campaign and its results – all invite us to revisit Gandhi’s stupendous moral-political project of cementing the Hindu-Muslim division with his own blood and his heroic failure. He could not prevent the Partition and ultimately fell to the bullets of a fanatic Hindu nationalist of the kind who are in power today.
I remember Gandhi today because gung-ho secularists (the political community that I inhabit, if very uncomfortably) are once again at their favourite occupation of daring Arvind Kejriwal and AAP to ‘prove’ their ‘anti-communal stance’ and all that it can mean today – as though they alone have the talisman to fight communalism. I am reminded of Gandhi because his was by far the most audacious attempt to fight the communal menace but he too had no readymade answers to it.
Secular warrriors have been basically daring Kejriwal and AAP to do and say things that he had been avoiding doing or saying all these days. Just two instances – of the quotes below from two dear friends – should suffice to indicate what I mean. The first is from Apoorvanand, writing in the Business Standard,
‘Voters in Delhi were confident that the AAP victory in the assembly elections wouldn’t so much as serve as an irritant to the BJP, let alone rock its boat, as the saffron outfit was firmly and safely ensconced in power. An efficient delivery boy is all the electorate wanted. In the Delhi voters mindset, an ideology-agnostic party that does not impede the BJP’s nationalist drive is tolerable.’
Three incidents of firing in four days – two in Jamia Millia Islamia and one in Shaheen Bagh – quickly followed open calls to violence (‘goli maro saalon ko‘) by Union minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur and the demonization of Shaheen Bagh protesters by BJP MP Pravesh Verma (‘the protesters will enter your homes and rape and kill your daughters’ if Modi and Shah aren’t there). In the case of the Shaheen Bagh shooter, Kapil Gujjar, the Delhi Police (which has till date not managed to find out the JNU attacker Komal Sharma’s affiliation) was quick to link him to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) – an allegation expressly denied by his father. All these episodes, so obviously set up, basically aimed at provoking the protesters into committing some violence that the lapdog television channels would then play up, in their usual hysterical style (some of them may even have appeared on air in police uniform!), to vitiate the atmosphere.
On the very first shooting, one such channel did indeed keep doing precisely that till long after the identity of the shooter (in the clip above) had been clearly established. The clips were circulating almost instantaneously and you can hear the gunman shouting Delhi Police zindabad, and there was little chance of mistaking him for an anti-CAA protester. The channel knew exactly what it was doing and at whose behest but kept on at it till 9 o’clock at night.
[संशोधित नागरिकता-कानून, जनसँख्या-रजिस्टर (एन पी आर ) एवं नागरिकता-रजिस्टर (एन आर सी ) पर निन्मलिखित परचा रोहतक ज़िले के दो संगठनों – सप्तरंग व नागरिक एकता व सद्भाव समिति ने शाया किया है. जनहित में इस सामग्री का किसी भी रूप में प्रयोग किया जा सकता है। ये सारी जानकारी सार्वजनिक तौर पर उपलब्ध सरकारी या भरोसेमंद प्रकाशनों से ली गई है न कि अपुष्ट स्रोतों से। ]
आसाम समझौता, नागरिकता-कानून में संशोधन एवं आसाम का नागरिकता-रजिस्टर
नागरिकता कानून में संशोधन एवं नागरिकता रजिस्टर का विरोध एक कारण से नहीं हो रहा। यह दो कारणों से हो रहा है – उत्तर-पूर्व में अलग कारण से और शेष देश में अलग कारणों से । दोनों तरह की आलोचनाओं का समाधान ज़रूरी है।
उत्तर-पूर्व के राज्यों में इस का विरोध इसलिए हो रहा है कि इस के चलते अवैध रूप से देश में 2014 तक दाखिल हुए लोगों को भी नागरिकता मिल जायेगी जब कि 1985 में भारत सरकार के साथ हुए आसाम समझौते के तहत केवल 1965 तक आसाम में आए हुए अवैध प्रवासियों को ही नागरिकता मिलनी थी। (मोदी सरकार द्वारा पिछले कार्यकाल में प्रस्तावित नागरिकता संशोधन कानून का उत्तर-पूर्व राज्यों में भयंकर विरोध हुआ था। इस सशक्त विरोध के चलते मोदी सरकार ने 2019 में पारित कानून के दायरे से उत्तर-पूर्व के कुछ इलाकों को बाहर रखा है पर इस से भी उत्तर-पूर्व के स्थानीय संगठन/लोग संतुष्ट नहीं हैं। वे इसे वायदा-खिलाफ़ी के रूप में देखते हैं।)
आसाम (और तब के आसाम में लगभग पूरा उत्तर-पूर्व भारत आ जाता था) में अवैध प्रवासियों की समस्या बहुत पुरानी है। इस के नियंत्रण के लिए पहला कानून 1950 में ही बन गया था। इस का कारण यह है कि भारत-बंगलादेश सीमा हरियाणा-पंजाब सीमा जैसी ही है। कहीं-कहीं तो आगे का दरवाज़ा भारत में तो पिछला बंगलादेश में खुलता है। भारत के नक़्शे के अन्दर कुछ इलाके बंगलादेश के थे तो बंगलादेश के नक़्शे के अन्दर स्थित कुछ ज़मीन भारत की थी। (इन इलाकों का हाल में ही निपटारा हुआ है।) बोली, भाषा, पहनावा एक जैसा होने के चलते कलकत्ता में पहले-दिन-पहला-फ़िल्म शो देखने के लिए बंगलादेश से आना मुश्किल नहीं था। ऐसे अजीबो-गरीब तरीके से हुआ था देश का बंटवारा।
The Constitution of India should be seen as a work-in-progress – not because it has been amended ever so often by different governments but because it has been taken over by ‘we, the people’, repeatedly, especially since the 1990s. The ‘authorized’ interpreters of the Constitution and Law are no longer its sole interpreters. The continuous battles over its interpretation in the courts of law are only one way in which meaning is contested. But from the dalits reclaiming it as “Babasaheb’s Constitution” to the pathalgadi movement of the Jharkhand adivasis and finally as the banner of citizenship movement today, its meaning has been contested time and again in the streets and in villages.
It is customary, in most secular-nationalist and left-wing circles, to invoke the “great values of the national movement”, which is seen as synonymous with the “freedom struggle”, which in turn is reduced to the “anticolonial struggle”. On 15 August 1947, India attained Independence from colonial rule and on 26 January 1950, “we, the people of India” gave to ourselves the Constitution of India. The anticolonial struggle came to an end in August 1947 but that did not mean that all the currents that comprised the larger “freedom struggle” – the jang-e-azadi – got their freedom. We perhaps need to make a distinction today between the “freedom struggle” (that is still ongoing) and the “anticolonial nationalist” movement.
We need to state emphatically that the “freedom struggle” of different social groups is not – and never was – reducible to the “anticolonial struggle”. There were many different strands and currents that either functioned at a distance from mainstream nationalism , or even worked in opposition to it.
The question that is uppermost on most people’s minds today is what will happen to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and how long will the protests continue? The home minister Amit Shah declaring that the Act will not be withdrawn and the government will not move an inch, regardless of the protests, is a direct challenge to the people of India. With the Supreme Court looking the other way, taking up challenge thrown by Shah can only mean one thing now: if the Act does not go, the regime must. Mass movements have been known to bring down oppressive regimes, and even in the recent past, we have seen that happen in different parts of the world.
Subsequent developments, however, also indicate that often forces emerge that basically take advantage of the mass movements to hijack them and install equally unpopular regimes – a matter we need to discuss very seriously. I will briefly return to this ‘political question’ later as it is of utmost importance that we grasp the possibilities and dangers inherent in the present moment.
Amidst the bustle of talk and announcements on stage, there is a surprise at Shaheen Bagh. A young, slim girl student in ankle length boots, dark pants and shirt is invited to take the podium. She begins her speech by saying that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has put her in a dilemma. She studies in Jharkhand where many of her close friends are Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members. Their opinions matter to her personally. At the same time, when she comes to Shaheen Bagh she is gripped by the dangers and stakes involved in the CAA.
Beginning this week, we are starting a column which will appear every Thursday. The name of this column, ‘Parapolitics’, is meant to indicate something that happens all the time, outside the formally designated sphere of politics, or what is sometimes called ‘the political’ by political theorists. As a matter of fact, most of such politics – parapolitics – takes place everyday and is deeply tied to our everyday lives. It is also what we may call ‘existential politics’: the dalit boys flogged by upper caste men inside a police station in Una, the woman of Unnao, whose family is decimated by the rapist’s henchmen, the mob-lynching to which Muslims are subjected on a daily basis, the farmer or the unemployed who commits suicide, the displaced adivasis or the workers who fight back – all these are instances of things deeply political but occurring away from or beneath the ‘proper’ domain of politics. The ‘proper domain of politics’ – that of state/government, parties, elections, alliances and so on – has repeatedly historically revealed its fundamental disconnect with such existential politics. Indeed, whenever faced by mass protests, the first response by the political class is to reduce it to the purported machinations of ‘opposition parties’. It cannot think of people, ordinary people, coming out in autonomous action. We might recall the response of the UPA government, at the height of the anti-corruption movement, challenging the locus standi of the protesters with the questions: ‘who are you?’ or ‘who has authorized you?’ etc Parapolitics is that unauthorized politics of everyday life, which often bursts out into the open but may also simply go on under the surface without any necessary public manifestation.
The most striking aspect of the present upsurge of popular anger around the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), as has been widely noticed, is the way defiant young women have become the face of the struggle. I am not referring here only to the women whose iconic images are circulating everywhere today, but also to the sheer number in which they have come out and the power with which they have been speaking their mind before the media. And they belong to all communities.