A clever approach would be to allow them to carry on undisturbed for as long as they don’t pack up and go back to their dreary daily routines as before.

 

What struck the eye was the unusual. In all of 40 years or more one has lived in the vicinity of the well-known Nizamuddin Aulia dargah not once had one seen the national flag atop the temporary shed under which lie a row of “graves” covered with green and other coloured chadors. Anyone with a keen eye passing through the busy road linking central and south Delhi and beyond could not have missed this extraordinary sight. Tricolour seemed to have been belatedly discovered by the keepers of the roadside “shrine”. To that extent, Shaheen Bagh may have certainly done some good.

Each year hundreds of buses jam-packed with dirt-poor pilgrims from Bihar, UP, West Bengal etc., clog the thoroughfare. They cook, defecate and sleep on the roads all around the dargah, and after prayers head for Ajmer Sharif. Believing that iconic religious figures buried in those graves, some of them offer chadors or make small cash donations. Caretakers of the shrine, who have built a semi-pucca structure abutting the graves, can have no complaints. In fact, till some years ago before the High Court ordered the removal of billboards from all thoroughfares, a huge advertising hoarding was an additional source of revenue.

Of course, it is a pretend-shrine of pretend-graves. Not unlike several roadside temples all over the capital, this fake shrine too is meant to hoodwink the innocent believer. Mud mounds are made to look like graves of holy figures. Just as the orchestrators of the anti-CAA protests have gotten hold of the evocative symbols of Indian nationalism, the shrine hoaxers exploit the blind faith of the devout Muslims.

Why the national flag was tied to the shrine for a day, only to be soon taken off, is unclear but one is told the idea was to stage another Shaheen Bagh-type sit-out on a road which serves as a key artery for this part of the city. Earlier, the authorities had foiled a similar attempt on the adjoining Lodhi Road, which carries still heavier traffic.

The pretend-shrine of pretend-graves has been in business for over 50 years. The pretend-Shaheen Bagh protest is only 50-day-old. And since those baying for Narendra Modi’s blood are looking for an excuse to end the charade, and are outraged that neither the courts nor the police have shown an inclination to clear them out, they now hope there may be relief in sight. With the voting for the Delhi Assembly out of the way, both sides will run out of patience. The authorities will now feel free to use force if persuasion does not work. And the organisers of the protest will heave a sigh of relief for not having to underwrite any longer considerable expenses of a 24×7 tamasha gotten up, no doubt, with a generous help from the elite media.

Given that they are desperately looking for a face-saver to end the farce, a clever approach would be to allow them to carry on undisturbed for as long as they don’t pack up and go back to their dreary daily routines as before. Maybe a group of retired civil servants, academics and others who go under the rubric of concerned citizens, and issue weekly warnings of the mounting threat to the Republic, will come to the rescue with an appeal. Since the government refuses to yield an inch, any decision to call off the Shaheen Bagh charade would be an admission of failure.

A democratically-elected government enjoying an overwhelming majority in Parliament and outside cannot be bullied into submission by the extremist elements even if they have the implicit support of the Opposition. The highest court in the land remains the only valid forum for testing the constitutionality of CAA.

Meanwhile, protests in and by the Muslim ghettos become further suspect following reports of the Islamic funding under the aegis of a banned organisation. It is another matter that despite the vital role played by the network of mullah-masjid in Shaheen Bagh and other such shows, sensibilities of the secularist-liberal remain unhurt. Maybe because visceral opposition to the Modi government cancels out all other considerations for a genuinely liberal order.

Meanwhile, it is not the first time the ISI has succeeded in spreading complete falsehood to poison the mind of the Indian Muslim. After a series of rebuffs on Kashmir, it needed to get back against the Indian government. CAA came in handy. Thirty years ago, when lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits were driven out of their homes, with mosques blaring out threats of rape of their women and murder of the men through the loudspeakers meant to call the faithful for prayers, a complete lie went around that the real culprit was the then Governor Jagmohan. Then, as now, a lot of seemingly liberal-secularist elements fell victim to the malign propaganda.

The falsehood unleashed by the extremist Islamic elements would have you believe that Modi would put tens of crores of Muslims in detention camps before throwing them out of the country. Can there be anything more absurd than this lie? Despite multiple assurances in Parliament and outside that the new citizenship law is meant to grant a handful of persecuted minorities from the three Islamic countries a web of lies is created by the anti-Modi elements. The only way to fight this untruth is to leave the purveyors of untruths to keep stirring the Shaheeen Bagh pot for as long as they can. There is no need to give them the fig-leaf of a face-saver.

 

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THE 10 JANPATH MOUTHPIECE

Whether or not Modi has succeeded in bringing back acchhe din for anyone else, these seem to be back for a New Delhi-based television group. The return to power of the Congress in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, etc., has ensured oodles of advertising cash. Despite being firmly tied politically to 10 Janpath, and financially to a big Mumbai moneybag, it brazenly claims to follow an independent editorial policy. Besides, of late some of its anchors have assumed the role of political activists, addressing public events to abuse the government. Real independence, indeed.

 

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