Supreme Court Should Junk Shaheen Bagh Letter: Not All The Sanitisers Can Sweeten Their Hands Ever

Supreme Court Should Junk Shaheen Bagh Letter: Not All The Sanitisers Can Sweeten Their Hands EverProtesters at Shaheen Bagh.
Snapshot
  • It should now be clear to all authorities that mollycoddling illegitimate protests will only encourage more such actions.

    The Supreme Court, which has been pussy-footing around the issue, should send the letter to its legitimate place: the dustbin.

The evictees of Shaheen Bagh’s illegitimate protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 have sent a letter to the Supreme Court claiming that they faced “disproportionate action” by the Delhi Police in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Clearly, they believe that occupying public roads for over 100 days and inconveniencing the public was their birthright. Thus any action, even in the interests of public health, now seems disproportionate. It should now be clear to all authorities that mollycoddling illegitimate protests will only encourage more such actions. The Supreme Court, which has been pussy-footing around the issue, should send the letter to its legitimate place: the dustbin.

The protesters claimed that they had already taken precautions to ensure that there is no threat of spread of the virus, and “... we have endeavoured to be in compliance of the state directives issued, especially those pertaining to the call for a 'Janta ka Curfew' on 22 March 2020. By Sunday, 22 March 2020, the Shaheen Bagh gathering had been thoroughly sanitised and cleared of anything and anyone more than the symbolic protest of three to five women protesters seated at sufficient distance from each other.”

Not all the sanitisers in the world can sweeten the hands of these protesters, however few they are. They never had clean hands in this matter. It’s not as if they didn’t know what CAA was about — providing limited relief to minorities persecuted by the Islamist regimes of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. In the name of demanding equal treatment for Muslims to seek early citizenship under CAA, they were actually fighting for their Ummah, not for India or its Constitution.

If they really want CAA, or a future National Register of Citizens (NRC) to be abandoned, here is a challenge they can take up.

First, they should be protesting against their own Ummah in these three neighbouring states so that they stop the intimidation and persecution of Hindus and other minorities in their countries.

Except in the case of Pakistan, where the state actually persecutes its minorities, in both Afghanistan and Bangladesh the governments are friendly to India. It is elements in the Ummah that are driving Hindus out through intimidatory tactics, rape, kidnappings and forced conversions.

The terrorist attack on a Gurudwara in Kabul, Afghanistan, yesterday (25 March), which killed 25 people, is evidence that it is the Ummah that is the problem, and not necessarily the state in each case. However, it is also true that the constitutions of all these three states are Islamic, and that, by definition, amounts to reducing non-Muslims as second-class citizens.

The Shaheen Baghis know very well what the Ummah is upto and that CAA is something forced on India due to the actions of the co-religionists. This is where their protests must be targeted. Instead, they are targeting a secular state which is trying to do its best to give early citizenship to the persecuted. No stretch of imagination can convert this humane action as discrimination against Indian Muslims.

Second, it is a bit devious to claim that Muslims want secularism where they are in a minority, but will not insist that Islamic nations should offer the same kind of protections to their non-Muslim minorities. The two are interlinked, and in India’s case, there is even a pact — the Nehru-Liaquat pact — that specifically links the protection of minorities in both countries after Partition.

Pakistan, and its successor state in East Pakistan, broke that pact. This is why CAA is needed. Even NRC, which is about deciding who is a citizen and who is not, is a legitimate exercise. The only reason to oppose it is the poor capability of the Indian state to execute it flawlessly and without undue harshness. Assam is a telling example of how NRCs can be botched despite years of effort.

To put it simply, Shaheen Bagh has no legitimacy unless these protests are about ending the root cause, which is persecution of Hindus by the Ummah in the neighbourhood. When Indian Muslims protest for causes as distant as Palestine or Bosnia, and are willing to accept the killing of even fellow Indians for allegedly blaspheming against Islam, clearly the issue is the Ummah, not Hindutva or Indian secularism.

Let the persecuted Hindus feel safe enough to go back to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, and CAA can be repealed overnight. In the alternate, Shaheen Bagh should demand safe spaces for Hindus carved out of these three states.

Third, you can’t claim the protections of a secular state, and then demand separate laws for your own community. If you oppose a uniform civil code, impose halal food on all by being adamant about it, want Islamic banking, and insist on wearing a full-face veil in public, you are not secular by definition. The secular state can only protect the secular individual, not the communal.

The clinching evidence against allowing Muslims from the three states on the same basis as persecuted Hindus is this: they are unlikely to be secular by any stretch of imagination. The latest survey (from 2017) of Muslim attitudes to Sharia, by Pew Research Center, suggests that 84 per cent of the people in Pakistan and 82 per cent in Bangladesh want Sharia to be the governing law in their countries.

If Muslim illegal immigrants from these countries are to be given the same privileges of new citizenship as the people being persecuted by their civil societies, we are essentially saying that we will welcome people who want Sharia as their law. Why should a secular country, any secular country, want people who do not believe in secularism?

We are up against Karl Popper’s paradox: no tolerant society can be tolerant to the intolerant. Those who want Sharia should find countries that support their desire to be governed by this law. India isn’t for them. It is for their victims.

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