Shaheen Bagh Movement Isn’t About One Identity — It’s About ‘Haq’

No doubt, the idea behind CAA is to communalise the very notion of Indian citizenship.

Published21 Jan 2020, 01:39 PM IST
Opinion
3 min read

The unprecedented and sustained sit-in protest by women at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi has entered its second month. It is unprecedented in many ways; so far we have been used to headlines like, ‘women also participated in large numbers’ — here, women are at the forefront.

Secondly, in this age of identity politics, the movement is not for any religious or sectional demand, but against the distortion of Indian citizenship. It has inspired similar protests in many other cities across the country.

Snapshot
  • In this age of identity politics, the Shaheen Bagh movement is not for any religious or sectional demand, but against the distortion of Indian citizenship.
  • The government waited for this sit-in to wither away, but now there are unmistakable signs of its nervousness.
  • Instead of remaining only a ‘Muslim issue’, protests against CAA, NRC and its ‘chronology’ has evolved into an act of reiterating the inclusive idea of India and constitutional values.

Miscalculation on BJP’s Part

The government, in the first place, waited for this sit-in to wither away, but now there are unmistakable signs of its nervousness. The entirely peaceful and disciplined Gandhian form of this and other similar protests cannot possibly give an excuse for police force or violence.

In fact, the central government has been forced to say that in the National Population Register, it is not mandatory but voluntary to provide information regarding date and place of one’s parents’ birth.

Considering Amit Shah's hubris — of not moving even an inch from his position — this retreat sounds quite something.

This has been possible primarily because the basic calculation of BJP has gone haywire. 

Instead of remaining only a ‘Muslim issue’, protests against CAA, NRC and its ‘chronology’ has evolved into an act of reiterating the inclusive idea of India and constitutional values.

Question Of Identity Put Into a Larger Perspective

The pent-up discontent among the youth against the quixotic handling of the economy, coupled with self-righteous pompousness on the part of the establishment, has found channels of expression in this protest.

The CAA threw up a rude realisation of the establishment’s ‘style’: rake up something emotional, ‘nationalistic’; give it an anti-Muslim slant, and go on mismanaging everything. But the youth have been able to see through the ‘game’ this time.

No doubt, the idea behind CAA is to communalise the very notion of Indian citizenship.

By isolating Muslims even from other minorities, it was thought that it would be easy to term any protest as exclusively ‘Muslim’, and hence, ‘anti-national’. The ‘ordinary’ protesters have shown remarkable wisdom by refusing to fall into the trap. The real intent of the attack on a particular religious identity has been exposed.

This has been possible only by putting the question of identity into the larger perspective of citizenship and haq, that is, rights. Incidentally, the truth happens to be the primary meaning of haq. The connotation of ‘truthful’, hence valid and just ‘right’ follows from this primary meaning.

Herein lies the lesson for those who want to oppose CAA and NRC by declaring themselves as ‘Muslims’.

Identity Politics Will Defeat the Movement’s Purpose

To them, this may be just a way of expressing solidarity, but in fact, it means that one can oppose injustice only as a ‘direct victim’, which implies the denial of the very idea of justice.

One must take a stand against injustice against the ‘other’ without ‘otherising’ himself/ herself.

In other words, one need not declare oneself as a ‘Dalit’ or a ‘woman’ in order to oppose the injustice meted out to them. Similarly, declaring oneself as ‘Muslim’ is counter-intuitive, as it feeds into the RSS/BJP narrative that the whole exercise of CAA and NRC concerns Muslims alone — you cannot logically oppose this if you are ‘one of them’.

Why Shaheen Bagh Will Go Down In History

Whatever be the immediate fallout, including repression, the Shaheen Bagh protests and its counterparts all over the country have already entered the universal history of Satyagraha. The reason is that, going against the politics of identity and sentiments (of love or hate), it is an attempt to articulate the politics of truth (Haq), leading to the insistence on democratic rights within the framework of universal human values.

(The writer is Contributing Editor for Hindi Quint. He can be reached @puru_ag. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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