The Aam Adami Party (AAP) has irreparably damaged its image as a pro-people party by claiming that the protest at Shaheen Bagh was organised and sustained by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It suggests deep-rooted scorn for the protestors to say that they were no more than puppets in the hands of their political adversaries.
By alleging that Shaheen Bagh was masterminded by saffron leaders, Chief Spokesperson of AAP, Saurabh Bharadwaj, has declared that ordinary citizens cannot develop an autonomous political leadership.
It beggars belief that such a statement should come from a party that emerged from a peoples’ movement and made leaders out of ordinary men and women. To deny the authenticity of the Shaheen Bagh protest is to negate the agency of Muslim women, its huge impact on the politics of the Muslim community, and the emergence of an inclusive and secular young leadership inspired by India’s Constitution among Indian Muslims.
Impossible To Believe That The Diverse Groups At Shaheen Bagh Were Mobilised By BJP
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is considered unconstitutional by many citizens as it is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees equality and equal treatment before law. The carrying forward of the CAA’s agenda by a future National Register of Citizens or through the enumeration process of the National Population Register, was a threat to the Muslim community more than others. The Assam experience showed how easily officials could disenfranchise legitimate citizens.
No wonder then that the Indian Muslim felt the heat of a majoritarian ideology intent on converting India into a Hindu ethnic democracy.
The Shaheen Bagh protests began a day after the police beat up the students of Jamia Millia Islamia University next door on 15 December 2019. Once student protestors who had gathered overnight at the protest site left, the women who had spontaneously joined them found themselves in-charge. These mothers, wives and daughters decided to carry on the protest for safeguarding the Indian Constitution.
To suggest that this was somehow connived at by the BJP, boggles the mind.
It is impossible that the diverse groups who participated – such as the students who set up the Fatima Sheikh Savitribai Phule Library or the group of 300 Sikhs who came from Punjab to protect protestors from threatened police action – could have been mobilised by the BJP.
- To deny the authenticity of the Shaheen Bagh protest is to negate the agency of Muslim women.
- It is impossible that the diverse groups who participated – such as the students who set up the Fatima Sheikh Savitribai Phule Library – could have been mobilised by the BJP.
- Shaheen Bagh, and the protests it inspired in other parts of India, changed the trajectory and position of Muslim women as a collective irreversibly.
- For AAP to deny this process shows its deep ignorance of the movement or worse.
- Kejriwal was ‘exposed’ when, after his staggering victory as a third-time CM, he did all but nothing to control the anti-Muslim riots in NE Delhi in February 2020.
For AAP To Deny Emancipation Of Muslim Women At Shaheen Bagh Reveals Their Deep Ignorance
Muslim women had not come on to the streets in this manner in recent memory: not to protest the demolition of the Babri Masjid, or cheer when the BJP government banned ‘triple talaq’, or to protest when Muslim men were falsely lynched by cow-vigilantes. Shaheen Bagh, and the protests it inspired in other parts of India, changed the trajectory and position of Muslim women as a collective irreversibly. Their vibrant leadership demonstrated the utter failure of traditional Muslim leaders who thrived as supplicants of the State, and never took up issues of gender or constitutional rights.
The women unapologetically asserted their identity as both Indian and Muslim.
Gender roles were reversed, even if briefly during the protests, with women on stage, holding political discussions and men on the fringes. The agency of Muslim women in public life was firmly established.
For AAP to deny this process shows its deep ignorance of the movement or worse.
Kejriwal’s Acts Of ‘Perfidy’
AAP is increasingly exposing its lack of political acumen, and its leader Arvind Kejriwal, his ideological bankruptcy. This first became evident when Kejriwal eagerly acquiesced in the withdrawal of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir without any consultation with the people of the state.
This should have immediately raised red-flags about a politician who emerged out of a people’s movement and claimed that his politics was shaped by a sustained dialogue with the people.
Kejriwal’s second act of perfidy was his stunning silence during the anti-CAA protests. He kept quiet when Jamia students were brutalised by the Delhi Police inside the university. He had nothing to say when masked saffron goons hunted down and broke the skulls of JNU students. And he kept his distance from all anti-CAA protests taking place in Delhi, especially the iconic Shaheen Bagh movement.
Political observers tried to explain it away by the nearness of the Delhi elections, saying that his reticence was to preserve his ‘Hindu vote’ in the slums and jhuggis of Delhi.
This worked with the minority community, which in fact bought into the argument that his distancing was merely an electoral tactic.
They voted for him thinking he was a better alternative to the BJP. AAP won in all the five Muslim-dominated seats (with more than 40 percent Muslim voters) of Okhla, Seelampur, Ballimaran, Matia Mahal and Mustafabad. Indeed, Amanullah Khan, AAP’s candidate from the Okhla constituency, which includes Shaheen Bagh, won by a margin of 71,000 votes, the second-highest in the Delhi legislative elections. The exit polls showed that 69 percent of the Muslim electorate of Delhi voted for Kejriwal’s party. Now we know that he is only the poor-cousin of those he pretended to oppose – intolerant of dissent, egotistical and with rickety notions of secularism.
Arvind Kejriwal’s Praying At Gandhi Samadhi Is ‘Farcical’
He was exposed when, after his staggering victory as a third-time chief minister, Kejriwal did nothing to control the anti-Muslim riots in Northeast Delhi in February 2020, the worst in 35 years. He reposed faith in the Delhi police whose anti-minorityism had stood exposed in the anti-CAA movement. Reportedly in an internal meeting of the party Kejriwal turned down the suggestion to hold a peace-march in the riot-torn areas. His praying for peace at the Gandhi Samadhi was totally farcical because who can forget Bapu himself showing the way by walking bravely into the Noakhali communal riots to stop the violence.
Kejriwal only spoke about calling in the army on Twitter after the dance of death and destruction was over.
Electoral success can often breed over-confidence and shamelessness. Surely, 50 Muslims from Shaheen Bagh joining the BJP is insufficient reason to abuse the entire anti-CAA protest – communal parties have always needed symbolic representation of the minority community. More likely, AAP’s ludicrous charges are a post-facto rationalisation of its own inaction and failure to stand with the minority community in Delhi.
(The writer is a senior journalist based in Delhi. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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