Friday Links + One year after CAA: A Scroll.in series on the impact of the remarkable nation-wide protest movement
Plus links on the BJP's spread in West Bengal and the South.
On December 11, 2019, the Indian Parliament passed amendments to the Citizenship Act that introduced a religious test for those hoping to become Indian citizens for the very first time. The ostensible aim of the law was to make it easier for undocumented migrants – who are minorities in neighbouring countries – to get Indian citizenship, on the assumption that they have been persecuted in their countries.
But by only including Muslim nations, and leaving out Sri Lanka (where both Hindu and Muslim Tamils could claim to be persecuted), as well as Myanmar and China (where Muslim minorities have been oppressed by their respective states), the actual intent of the law became clear.
While defending the Citizenship Act amendments, Shah sought to claim that they were meant to correct the mistake of Partition, which he attributed to the Congress. In reality, the logic of the CAA actually upholds the idea of Partition, because it sees India as a natural home of Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists versus the Islamic Pakistan.
This ignores what actually actually happened after 1947, when Pakistan became an Islamic Republic, while India resolved to be secular, treating all religions equally.
Indeed, the government’s true intentions became even more apparent in the rhetoric being spouted by the Bharatiya Janata Party, with Home Minister Amit Shah repeatedly linking the Citizenship Act amendments to a proposed National Register of Citizens. Shah’s comments made it evident that the BJP would use an NRC to harass Indian Muslims around the country and pursue his party’s majoritarian Hindu nationalist agenda.
The laws initially sparked off agitation in the North East, where several communities believed they would lead to significant demographic changes.
This would be followed by lakhs of protesters taking to the streets all over India between December 2019 and March 2020, to defend the rights of Indian Muslims to retain their citizenship, before the Covid-19 lockdown sent everyone indoors.
The protests were remarkable in their articulation of Constitutional principles and by the fact that many were led by Muslim women, including the iconic Delhi sit-in at Shaheen Bagh.
For more on this read our issues from last year:
Communal riots in Delhi are now part of Modi’s legacy as Prime Minister
The protesters faced demonisation and vilification from the mainstream media, and outright violence from the state and pro-government mobs in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere, with tensions culminating in religious violence in North East Delhi in February, leaving more than 50 dead and leading to a crackdown on dissent by the police.
In many ways, the issue still remains unresolved. The CAA rules have yet to be notified by the government. And the protests, most prominently in Shaheen Bagh, only wound up because of the national Covid-19 lockdown.
A year later, a new series from Scroll.in looks back at this remarkable moment – and what it tells us about India and the future:
Anti-CAA protests vs farmers’ stir: BJP’s differing reactions betray its view of India’s Muslims
In the North East, the Citizenship Amendment Act has activated a fresh wave of nativist sentiment
‘We’ve become like beggars’: UP accused pay price for CAA protests without being convicted in court
A year later, where are the Jamia women in the viral video protecting their friend from police?
A year ago, the BJP focussed its politics on the CAA. So why hasn’t it been implemented yet?
‘We were here’: What the anti-CAA protests meant to this law student
‘I felt like I found my identity’: What the Mumbai Bagh protests meant to Muslim women
Quality journalism isn’t cheap! To see more original reporting and series from Scroll.in, you can support us by contributing to the Scroll Reporting Fund or, if you’re not in India, subscribing to Scroll+.
“Caste is at the centre of the BJP’s southern strategy and reading the progress that the BJP makes in the South through a purely communal lens is insufficient,” write Gilles Verniers, Kiran Kumar Gowd and Surya Rao Sangem, after analysing results from Hyderabad municipal elections. “Obviously, folding backward identities into the Hindutva mould is part of the story. But the BJP also develops a language of caste-based mobilisation that imitates the forms of mobilisation that regional parties used to perform in the early 1990s.”
With Home Minister Amit Shah set to to visit West Bengal this weekend, expectations are high that a number of Trinamool Congress politicians will switch over to the BJP ahead of elections next year, writes Monideepa Banerjee.
“The government has the right long-term transformation in mind, but it has no good theory of transition,” writes Ashutosh Varshney, regarding the farm bills that have sparked protests. “The latter is necessary for success.”
“While the government has limited its support to the domestic economy, it has, via the RBI, invested almost 3 per cent of GDP in foreign assets just in the first half of this fiscal year!” writes Jahangir Aziz. “[India] requires extensive income support now. It is not so much that it will help support demand this year, but that it will protect balance sheets from the extensive damage the pandemic has already signalled it will likely leave in its wake.”
How did slums survive during the pandemic? Based on a phone survey with 321 slum leaders across 79 slums in Jaipur and Bhopal, at the height of the lockdown in April and May 2020, Adam Auerbach and Tariq Thachil have some answers.
Neelanjan Sircar’s notes from Hisar while his team researched the pandemic offer some interesting insights into how small-town India is changing.
A New York Times team has a special report on how “it has become clear that the special trains operated by the government to ease suffering — and to counteract a disastrous lack of lockdown planning — instead played a significant role in spreading the coronavirus into almost every corner of the country.”
Thanks for reading. The Political Fix will be back with more analysis and links on Monday.