On 30 December, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Twitter handle was used to share a video by controversial self-styled Godman Jaggi Vasudev aka ‘Sadhguru’ as part of a social media push, #IndiaSupportsCAA.
This attempt came after weeks of powerful protests against the passage of the CAA – Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019.
As most of you know by now, this is the law which says that Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Christians and Parsis from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan will not be considered illegal migrants even if they entered India without visas or don’t have the required documentation, and allows them to get fast-track citizenship.
As most of you also know by now, the protests against the CAA aren’t only about the CAA itself – which claims to be about helping those facing religious persecution, but excludes Muslims, Jews and atheists facing such persecution from its ambit.
It also excludes anyone facing such persecution in countries apart from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, or anyone who has faced or will face such persecution after 31 December 2014. All of which makes its status as a bona fide tool to help those facing religious persecution more than a little doubtful.
The protests against the CAA have not focused on the violation of the right to equality under Article 14 that this law suffers from, but have expressly, from the very beginning, emphasised how the CAA will tie into the proposed nationwide NRC – National Register of Citizens.
When the NRC is implemented across the nation, as the BJP promised in its manifesto, and as its own Law Minister reiterated just two days ago, it is argued that the CAA will become a safety net for non-Muslims left out of the NRC.
Because let’s face it, in an exercise to determine who has enough paperwork to prove they are citizens of India, the results are not going to be pretty, and whether for lack of paperwork or other logistical difficulties, a lot of people who should be on the list are going to be left out.
Those who can claim the benefits of the CAA – aka non-Muslims – get a ‘life jacket’. Those who can’t – aka Muslims – will not. Even Chetan Bhagat, a longstanding cheerleader for the Modi government, has understood this.
So, why are we telling you all this again? That’s because the Prime Minister of India wants you to forget all of this and instead, be gaslighted by a vapid, disingenuous and misleading ‘explanation’ by a ‘Godman’ who has not even read the Act, as he himself admits.
This Jaggi Vasudev video about the CAA is one of those things that is actually dangerous to even refute, because to do so risks giving it more oxygen. There are already fact-checks on the contents of the video, including by Times Now, if you would believe it.
Unfortunately, it is also one of those things which needs to be debunked thoroughly to ensure it can’t be used for the incredibly sinister reason it has been made in the first place: to mislead the public into thinking the opposition to the CAA is calibrated to create mischief, that protesters and mindless and illiterate, and that the reasons for opposing the CAA are being changed by protesters now to save face.
Gaslighting Attempt No 1
Gaslighting is an action of “tricking or controlling someone by making them believe things that are not true”. When it comes to the Jaggi Vasudev video, there is no diplomatic way to put this: the nearly 22-minute long ‘explanation’ is a combination of half-truths and misdirection, all to make you believe things that are – you guessed it – not true.
It begins with a long-winded talk about Partition and how there is discrimination by law in some countries, and about Vasudev’s visit to Azerbaijan.
There is a clear point to all of this: to make you feel compassion for the Hindu minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh which were all part of the same country till 1947, and tell you why they need help. This is not controversial in itself – there is religious persecution that has negatively affected Hindus and other minorities in Pakistan in particular.
However, there are two glaring flaws to this approach.
- First, if the idea was to help those who come from pre-Partition India, there’s no reason Afghanistan is on the list. If anything, Myanmar, which was part of the same British colony till 1935, should be – but of course, the persecuted minorities there are the Muslim Rohingyas.
- And Vasudev, again, conveniently forgets that there are Muslim sects in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh which also face religious persecution, including the Ahmadiyas, the Hazaras and Shias.
Over halfway into the video, Vasudev has still not actually dealt with the actual contents of the CAA, but he does say that the CAA is focused only on religious persecution and that he is amazed at the ‘hard-hearted’ reaction of the people of the country.
This is the first example of gaslighting in the video. Because nobody is saying India should not help those facing religious persecution, they are, however, saying that this should not be arbitrarily restricted to only some religions and to some neighbouring countries.
If the CAA had made religious persecution the test without specifying which religions it was covering and without excluding atheists, there would be no problem.
If Vasudev had bothered to read the barely three-page-long Act, he would have also noted that religious persecution is not expressly written into it. It only comes in because of references to secondary legislation, which can, by the way, be removed as a criteria whenever the government – not even Parliament, just the executive – wants.
Gaslighting Attempt No 2
The next example of gaslighting is when Vasudev claims that the people opposing the CAA realised the Act was fine and thus, changed their stance to say that the problem is with the police entering universities.
This is blatantly untrue. Protests against the CAA continue throughout the country, and yes, people are bringing up the way the police attacked students in universities, but nobody has changed their stance towards the Act. Both objections are running alongside each other, and indeed, the police’s heavy-handed response in Muslim-dominated universities like Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University are actually proving the point.
Vasudev also conveniently ignores the violence against non-student communities, particularly in the state of UP, where Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s police has gone on rampages, killing nearly 20 people, damaging property and making illegal demands for people to pay compensation.
Vasudev never acknowledges the people who have been killed, and only talks about damage to property by protesters, and claims that the police are not expected to see who’s throwing stones or not, once they enter a university.
Vasudev’s gaslighting on this point is incredibly insidious, claiming the police was thrashed brutally while ignoring the police violence, and then throwing his hands up and saying he’s not trying to justify anything. He uses small but calculated untruths to drive his message home – for instance, the claim that 56 police personnel in Lucknow have suffered gunshot injuries, to make it look like each protest is a hotbed of violence.
In truth, the UP DGP claimed 57 policemen have received gunshot injuries across the state, not just Lucknow, a claim which has been strongly disputed. Even former UP DGP Vikram Singh has called out what he considers malicious and vindictive actions of the UP Police, who have actually shot protesters and flouted norms on where to hit people during lathi charges.
Gaslighting Attempt No 3
The gaslighting doesn’t end there, of course. Next, he moves on to the chief objective here: to paint the protesters against the CAA as illiterate people. He claims that they haven’t read the CAA even though it’s so easy to do so in this day and age. Which is remarkable since he admits he hasn’t read the Act himself.
Vasudev then claims that there has been a calibrated attempt to mislead minorities into thinking their citizenship is under threat – easily ignoring the express linkage drawn in the protests between the CAA and the NRC. He claims that the lie that the CAA will discriminate against minorities has now been found out, and so protesters are now trying to find a different reason to justify their actions.
There has been no such attempt to change the reasons for the protests, and if Vasudev had actually looked up anything about the protests as he claims to have done, he would know this to be untrue. But he’s saying it anyway, without any proof of the same.
And he’s still not finished with the gaslighting, by the way.
Gaslighting Attempt No 4
Nearly 18 minutes into this PM-endorsed video, he finally refers to the NRC. He first claims that there is an NRC in every nation (there isn’t – see, in fact, how the UK destroyed the database they started to create because they realised how dangerous it was), and then goes into an utterly bizarre analogy about getting dogs registered in Coimbatore.
He says it is important to know how many human beings there are in this country. Which is why we have a Census. He says we need to know who was born here, their antecedents, who has come from outside – all of which can certainly be determined if there is a need to do so, and doesn’t need to be done on a blanket basis.
He also makes misleading claims about which documents can be used to prove you’re a citizen for the NRC, and belittles those who argue that it will be difficult to produce these. FYI, Aadhaar cards or ration cards or school documents cannot be used to prove citizenship. Only birth certificates are conclusive – IF you were born before 1987. For everyone else, you need to prove the citizenship of at least one parent.
It’s disturbing that he gets the crowd to laugh about all of this – demeaning how difficult this process will be for the poor, the underprivileged, women, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes – just see the hardships created by the Assam NRC to get a taste of the horrors this exercise will unleash.
Gaslighting Attempt No 5
Finally, he concludes with the claim that the only problem here is the government’s failure to communicate properly, that the perception that the CAA and the NRC will be used to strip people of citizenship is a deliberate miscommunication posited by some shadowy figures.
This conveniently ignores the multiple statements by Home Minister Amit Shah – videos of which can be accessed here – in which he expressly says Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Christians and Parsis will not need to worry about the NRC because of the CAA, conveniently leaving out Muslims.
So there you have it.
Not only is Jaggi Vasudev’s video ill-informed and misleading, it also seeks to gaslight the public. But you don’t need to take our word for it – read the background to the CAA, read the Citizenship Amendment Act itself, read the provisions of the Citizenship Act on NRC (Section 14A), see how the NRC has caused hardship in Assam, check out what the protesters are saying by going and seeing what’s happening on the ground.
And then take a call.