Rajiv’s Assam Accord failed to deport one Bangladeshi.
It was as if they were waiting for something like the new citizenship law to take out their angry spleen against the Modi Sarkar. All the accumulated anger of the last five-plus years over the government’s acts of omission and commission, real or imaginary, seems to have boiled over, spilling on the streets, creating mayhem in vast swathes of the country. The largest minority, never reconciled to the BJP anyway, seems to have willingly lent itself for exploitation by an Opposition desperate to wreck the democratic order for regaining relevance.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act has served as the long-awaited trigger for those already dead-set against the government. The Gandhi family’s refusal to accept its vastly reduced circumstances has caused it to instigate the ghettoized minority to kick up a storm over a legislative measure which in no way seeks to harm its well-being. Ill-informed and ignorant lumpens unable to grasp the objective behind the new law have fallen in the Opposition trap. Notably, most of the ring leaders apprehended in Delhi following violent protests belonged to the Congress party.
How CAA dilutes the secular character of the Republic is unclear. All that it seeks to do is to offer accommodation on humanitarian grounds to the persecuted minorities in the neighbouring Islamic countries. India cannot abandon its obligation to those whose origins lie in its soil. People viscerally hostile to the current dispensation have come out on the streets, defying prohibitory orders and generally causing trouble in order to create a false impression as though there was chaos and anarchy in the country. The trouble in Old Delhi following the Friday prayers underlined the character of the protests. Some well-meaning individuals ideologically opposed to the Sangh Parivar joined the protests little realising that by so doing they only fuel the minorities’ already deeply ingrained sense of separateness.
The manner in which the Congress Party, feeling buoyed piggy-backing on the shoulders of a now secular Shiv Sena for a share in power in Maharashtra, fuelled the Muslim unrest over a legislative measure which in no way remotely seeks to alter the status of citizens, majority or minority, speaks of its readiness for confrontation with the government. Fear-mongering was the weapon deployed to instigate trouble among people of extremist religious persuasion who were always in search of an opportunity to challenge the democratically-elected government.
They were already seething with rage at the way Modi had criminalised triple talaq, had got Article 370 out of the way, cleared the way, thanks to the Apex Court order, for the erection of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. Then there was the bitter memory of the vastly exaggerated incidents of alleged lynchings over cow slaughter, the ghar wapsi propaganda, etc. In other words, the litany of grievances, genuine or imaginary, of the minority community was so long that it was willing to serve as cannon fodder for any political party ready to own its leadership. The Gandhis stepped forward to recycle their old appeasement policy in order to revert back to the politics of divide-and-rule.
It is another matter that no less than Manmohan Singh as the leader of the Congress Opposition in the Rajya Sabha in 2003 had sought an amendment to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in order to fast-track citizenship for persecuted minorities who had illegally migrated from Bangladesh, the same was later endorsed by the then CPI(M) Secretary-General Prakash Karat. Then senior Congress leader, Najma Heptullah, presiding over the Rajya Sabha as Deputy Chairperson, promptly endorsed Singh’s plea, adding that minorities from Pakistan too needed similar protection. What then explains the shrill noise emanating from the Congress quarters against a law which they themselves had publicly canvassed for not long ago?
So diabolic was the conspiracy that all the forces hitherto lying dormant seem to have got a second wind after the Modi 2.0 had the good sense to enact a law offering protection to the persecuted minorities in the neighbourhood. Persecution of minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, self-avowedly Islamic countries, had all along been religion-based. It is highly unfair to accuse the government of being communal simply because it offers hope to the repressed minorities in the three specific countries.
To suggest that the exclusion of Ahmadiyas and Shias, who too are persecuted by fellow-Muslims, hurts our secular faith is nit-picking. Why then exclude millions of Mohajirs who have been persecuted by successive Pakistan governments and denied an equitable share in power? Where will it end? Listing the six religious minorities routinely terrorised by the State authorities as well as ordinary people alike in the three neighbouring countries for quick relief, therefore, is the right thing to do. It should have in fact been done long ago when first batch of millions of Hindus and Sikhs were driven out of East and West Pakistan, drastically reducing their numbers in its population.
Such is the desperation of the Opposition that leaving aside CAA it has taken to painting other scary scenarios. Creating a fear psychosis over the National Register of Citizens is sought to cause panic among minorities. It is suggested that soon they might be either disenfranchised or even imprisoned in camps meant for illegal migrants. And such is the general lack of understanding and so deeply steeped is ignorance among ordinary Muslims that they are willing to believe the worst about the Modi government.
Of course, as yet there is no inkling available as to when NRC will be unveiled, if at all. But it is forgotten that NRC was actually a favourite project of the UPA. Home Minister P. Chidambaram had strongly opposed Nandan Nilekani’s nation-wide Aadhaar enlistment of citizens, arguing that there was no need to waste taxpayers’ money duplicating the effort, while NRC would accomplish far more than merely issuing ID cards to all those resident in India, whether legally or illegally. NRC, it was then suggested, would also help weed out illegal migrants. Public memory is short. The rare occasion that Manmohan Singh intervened was when he told Chidambaram to let Nilekani go ahead with the Aadhaar exercise. A cursory look at the newspaper headlines of the time would help to clarify the confusion.
Meanwhile, those fuelling disruption and spreading canards over NRC ought to remember that despite Rajiv Gandhi promising to weed out illegal Bangladeshis from Assam under the 1985 Assam Accord not one illegal citizen has been deported. Bangladesh simply refuses to acknowledge that any of its citizens is here without valid papers. Therefore, where is the question of ejecting out of the country 20 crore Muslims whose numbers, by the way, seem to grow in inverse proportion to those of the majority community, which seems to have accepted the “Hum Do, Hamare Do” message of the previous Congress governments.
Therefore, it is time sanity returned to the public street, and to our public discourse. And Sonia Gandhi and children stopped behaving as if they alone are entitled to rule this country. Indians have outgrown the Gandhis. Now they will have to work hard to win back their trust instead of dangling their tainted legacy—and still reading speeches in a shrill and shrieking manner from scripts, with suitable markers for pause, including those for hand-raising and finger-wagging gestures. Some things never change, it would seem.