It is now clear that the motive for the violence had nothing to do with the letter of the CAA.
It was, in fact, an opportunity for the political has-beens to desperately plead for relevance.
But with the massive mandate given to Narendra Modi and Co., India has unequivocally declared that she will not be fooled by divisive politics anymore.
The recent passing of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), allowing for the naturalization of persecuted non-Muslim minorities from neighboring Islamic Republics — Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan — was followed, inter alia, by grisly protests in Assam, West Bengal and New Delhi.
All three turned violent. But there the similarities end — both with regard to causative factors, and to responses. And in such differences lies the point of this piece.
In Guwahati, the agitators were Assamese-speaking Hindus in a BJP-ruled state, protesting against the naturalization of Bengali-speaking Hindus from Bangladesh.
Curfew was imposed, but when things got out of hand, the police had to resort to firing, and four individuals were killed. Since then, the situation appears to have calmed down, and, in the words of state Home Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, the state is ‘limping back to normalcy’.
In West Bengal, wild mobs, in a fearsome madness reminiscent of ‘Direct Action Day’, 1946, set trains and government buildings alight.
Instead of sternly clamping down on such ghastly crimes and miscreants with a heavy hand, Chief Minister Banerjee’s most visible response was to take out a solidarity march.
Oddly, the only sane voice was the Mayor of Calcutta, who candidly told his co-religionists to cease and desist with their vandalism, lest their acts incense and galvanise Hindus into a counter-reaction. The appeal worked.
The strangest protest was in and around Jamia Millia University, New Delhi, where thugs armed with sticks and stones roamed the streets, vandalizing public transport buses.
Molotov cocktails, worthy of commendation by their Finnish inventors, were employed to torch vehicles.
On campus, students took the law into their own hands and threw stones at the police. Other large groups congregated for a round of choleric ‘Azadi’ chants — freedom from various evils.
The list included Prime Minister Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, and also, by some accounts, Hindus.
It made no sense. Why would Indian Muslims in the national capital descend into violent protests, against a Citizenship Act that had nothing to do with Indian Muslims?
West Bengal one could understand, at a pinch, because illegal Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, who formed a significant vote base for certain political parties, now ran the risk of being collectively disenfranchised. But Delhi locals smashing public property? Nuts!
Indeed, nothing made sense until the Communists, the Congress, and a few other opposition parties held a joint press conference on Monday afternoon.
Together, they gravely, solemnly and forcefully condemned police entry into the Jamia campus.
The perils of such a cardinal sin were reiterated by speaker after speaker, to such a high degree of moral superiority, that every sane citizen would have stood up to demand the immediate disbanding of the Delhi Police force.
It was a command performance meriting a standing ovation and an encore. Unfortunately, amidst their elaborately self-righteous proclamations, they had not one word of condemnation for the vandalism and the arson.
Only Delhi Police was at fault, no one else; the rest were victims of a macabre, fascist plot.
That was when the penny dropped!
Now everything made sense. No wonder the rumour bazaars went into clearance-sale mode, flooding social media with frightful fibs of two dead students on campus. No wonder reports of protests at IIM Ahmedabad were hyped up as a major agitation, even if a picket line of twenty five (yes, twenty five), does not much a grand protest make.
And equally, no wonder the Supreme Court was livid. When approached with pleas for inquiries into alleged police highhandedness, our judges bluntly said that suo moto cognizance would be taken only — repeat, only — after the rioting ended.
If only these Opposition politicians had kept their mouths shut. Perhaps then, the naïve natives might have believed that these acts of vandalism were noble manifestations of genuine outrage, against some terrible, horrible injustice.
But with their pontifications, the cat was out of the bag.
So, now that we know, here are three questions:
- When is vandalism not vandalism? Answer: when significant political gains stand to be made.
- What unhinged mentality would cheer violent campus agitations, when the legislation in question has no connection whatsoever with the citizenship status of Indian Muslims? Answer: see answer to question 1 above.
Evidently, the 2019 general election results formed a far more fundamental paradigm point than most realised. With a renewed, and enhanced, mandate for the BJP, hopes that Modi might have been a one-off flash-in-the-pan have evaporated. An India which rejects the evils of partition, of the division of this ancient land on lines of faith, is here to stay.
Thekedar-raj, the era of the contractor, is over. Minority appeasement is no longer in vogue. And to force the point home, India has witnessed a flurry of legislative acts, which seek to comprehensively undo two things: an idea of India bequeathed to us by dead white men, and the erasure of those terminological inexactitudes which gave us partition instead of Independence.
It is now an existential moment of doubtful survival for such political parties. Ergo: the self-righteous condonation of vandalism, almost to the self-destructive point of it being one’s birthright; anything to hold on to the old ways, and those generous profits which accrued.
Consequently, readers, observers, commentators and analysts must unequivocally appreciate, in conclusion, that the full and final dismantling of a two-nation theory, which once agonizingly partitioned our land into a period of repeated communal carnage, is now firmly underway.
This process cannot be stopped, no matter how loudly certain political parties stridulate their protests, and no matter what sophist’s spin they seek to impart.
But they will try, again, and again, and again, even if the truth is what we know: that vandalism is no one’s birthright.
Care then, to hold in mind this and other truths, as we transit through a confusing age, unto a fresh and hopeful plane. Care then.