Two steps forward, one backward

Is there an attempt to walk back from the harsh reality of the Citizens (Amendment) Act? If so, it is welcome. Given the utter confusion and misunderstanding it caused, leading to protests across the country, a wise administration would certainly try to cool tempers all around before revising the controversial law.

We think Prime Minister Modi was precisely trying to do that when speaking at a huge BJP rally in Delhi on Sunday he denied there was a) any threat whatsoever to anyone already resident in India, and, b) talk of a National Register of Citizens was premature because as of now, there was no proposal in this regard.

The skeptics, however, chose to take PM’s words with a pinch of salt. Though Modi blamed the Opposition parties, especially the Congress, for spreading lies and falsehoods on CAA and NRC, the fact is that the ruling party itself spoke in many voices, with some clearly disproving the veracity of the PM’s ringing assurance from the Ramlila Maidan last Sunday.

No less than Union Home Minister Amit Shah had most forthrightly announced in Parliament that soon CAA would be followed by nation-wide NRC. Shah had actually threatened to deport every infiltrator ‘from our motherland’ while replying to the heated debate on CAB in the Lok Sabha.

He had gone on to say that the NRC exercise hitherto done in Assam would now be expanded to cover the entire country, whereas the Assam NRC would be done all over again following widespread complaints of discrepancies in the compiled list of illegals/infiltrators by it.

There was not an iota of confusion in what Shah told Parliament, and is his wont he was straightforward and candid in giving notice of a country-wide NRC.

Also, other ministerial colleagues of Shah too had spoken of a move to prepare the NRC. The proposal for NRC was also a major promise made by the BJP in its Lok Sabha manifesto.

In short, was the PM being deliberatively oblivious of the loud and clear commitment his senior ministers had given in Parliament to undertake the NRC exercise nation-wide? We think so.

But don’t hold it against him. As a wise administrator whose first priority must always be to cool tempers, to return protesting students away from streets and back to classrooms, he owed it to the people to step back from confrontation.

It would have served no purpose had he too, chosen to pour oil on the burning ambers of nation-wide stir, fanned no doubt by mischievous elements among the minority community aided and abetted by the Congress leadership which seeks to ride back to relevance on the shoulders of minority upsurge against CAA/NRC.

For, the truth is that contrary to the impression given by the urban-centric English media, the CAB is not without its takers. If the Muslims seem to have taken it upon themselves to oppose it tooth and nail, even without comprehending its purport and actual outcome, vast sections of the majority community have openly supported it, finding Muslims protests unreal since the law excludes the persecuted Muslims for fast-track citizenship from the three neighbouring countries but affects none of those already living in India.

Reports of large processions and demonstrations in support of CAA from various parts of the country have not received the media attention which the anti-CAA protests in major urban centers have received from the national media, thus distorting the real picture.

Undeniably, in the battle of public perceptions the naysayers seem to have stolen a march over ayes, one possible reason why even those chief ministers who supported the CAB in Parliament are now keen to distance themselves from the proposed NRC.

Whether it is within the legal ambit of CMs to refuse to implement a central law over which they have little say once it has received the approval of the Parliament and received President’s assent is open to question.

If those supporting CAA and NRC are playing to the communal Hindu gallery, it is without doubt those supporting the protests against are inciting Muslim communalism.

Caught in this two rival versions of communalism are well-meaning individuals, idealistic students and civil society activists who find in CAA yet another reason to rail against the Modi-Shah duo, the front-most torch-bearers of Hindutva.

Politics, or, for that matter life, is rarely liner. It will help to calmly consider why the agitation against CAA has spread like it has despite the fact that it affects no one residing in India.

Cannot be that overnight the milk of kindness for the persecuted Muslims, assuming they are there in the three specific countries to want to migrate to India, has begun to flow so strong in the hearts of Indians that it has taken to disrupting our national life.

There is more than meets the eye in the anti-CAA protests. We must however welcome the Prime Minister’s effort to allay fears all around.

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Free Press Journal