It’s time to ask where the current protests – a burst of youthful passion, bravery and creativity – will lead us.
By Partha Chatterjee – January 18, 2020
Students and young people in India have, in the last few weeks, launched a countrywide protest movement with a spontaneous energy not seen since the days of the freedom movement. Without mobilisation by political parties and organised mainly through the informal networks of social media, the protests have drawn in people from big and small cities, including huge numbers of women, who have no prior experience of joining political rallies.
The pall of fear that hung over the public space in the wake of the crackdown in Kashmir and the incredible police brutality in Uttar Pradesh has lifted. Muslims who had become the most prominent targets of the campaign of violence and hatred launched by Hindutva agents both inside and outside the government have suddenly found friends among non-Muslim students and neighbours to march with them in demonstrations and sit with them in dharnas.
Even the mainstream print and television media, cowed down for so long, have gathered up the courage to hold the government accountable for its egregious misdeeds. The regime’s litany of half-truths and lies is at last being met with some investigative reporting and the assertion of facts. For this, the students of this country must be congratulated.
Yet, as the protests continue into their fifth week, the government seems to have decided to brazen it out, at least for now. Regardless of the scale of the agitation, the Bharatiya Janata Party has mobilised its troops to explain to the public the merits of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and condemn what it regards as the devious attempts by the opposition to mislead the people.
The prime minister, deterred by the massive protests in Kolkata, even used the cloistered precincts of the Ramakrishna Mission at Belur Math to deliver this message. Preparations are on to begin compiling the National Population Register. On the National Register of Citizens, senior spokespersons for the government continue to contradict one another on whether and when the exercise will start. There is no visible sign that the ongoing protests have pushed the Modi government to retreat from or even reconsider the controversial steps it has taken in the last few months.
Originally published by The Wire. Read the entire story here.