Just when you think that things within our country cannot get any worse, the newspaper headlines – like the one we saw today about a young boy from Phulwari Sharif in Patna getting killed for allegedly protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – prove you wrong.
Reading a newspaper like The Telegraph can be both enlightening and heartbreaking at the same time. Enlightening because it makes a sincere and honest effort to tell you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth at a time when many other papers TV channels have shamelessly become the PR wing of the central government. And heartbreaking because it tells you how bad things really are and that is is impossible to ignore the reality of how Islamophobia has gripped a huge section of our population.
What actually happened?
The front page of Telegraph carried a story of how Amir Hanjla, an 18-year-old boy, participated in a protest – with the National Flag in hand – against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Phulwari Sharif, Patna on the 21st of December. He believed that he was only exercising his democratic right of dissent. But fate had something more sinister in store for him.
As the protests were going on, a group of people who were supporting CAA clashed with the protestors and amidst the violence, Amir tried to make an escape but unfortunately landed in a place that is seen as a hub for organizations affiliated with the Hindu Right-wing groups.
10 days later, his body was found near a water tank, badly decomposed and with multiple wounds. The local police has carried out an investigation – which may not be as foolproof as they may have you believe – and arrested a few people with known criminal backgrounds. It is alleged that the killers (both the ones who were arrested and the ones who are yet to be put behind bars) are possibly linked to right-wing organizations like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or Bajrang Dal. However, we would need to wait for court verdict to verify this link.
Are we beyond redemption?
We as a nation have come to a stage where an 18-year-old may have been beaten and stabbed to death belonging to a particular religion and for protesting against an act that violates the very spirit of our constitution. We dismiss anything that does not corroborate our viewpoint as fake news. Our intolerance knows no limits and all that we need now to express our violence (both in thoughts and actions) is the mere presence of someone who does not agree with our worldviews. We have already started seeing them as anti-national and a part of the infamous yet non-existent tukde tukde gang and we are inhuman enough to condone any sort of violence against them. We are quick to justify the brutality against the protestors that have been the modus operandi of a large part of our police force. We do not even wait for a moment before demonizing the protesters and calling them names that no civilized person would want to be associated with.
There will come a time (or maybe it already has) when we will start apportioning the blame of violence against the protesters on the dissenters themselves. Like that police officer who was insensitive enough to attribute Amir’s murder to mental instability when that was simply not true.
The powerful and their nefarious agenda
The CAA is a precursor to an extremely flawed exercise that goes by the name of the National Register of Citizens (NRC). This is an act that, if implemented in its entirety, will disenfranchise millions of citizens (most of them Muslims, Dalits, poor and other minorities based on their gender, religion or sexual orientation) and end up in creating a vote bank that is favorable to the current dispensation and their policies.
So it is but natural for the well-meaning citizens for our country to come out on the streets or make their voices heard on social media to create pressure on the government to back down.
But backing down is something that our politicians (especially our Home Minister) do not like because in their view any sort of rethinking on legislation passed by them would show indecisiveness and that is something the core supporters of Bharatiya Janata Party and the Prime Minister would not approve.
To summarise, we are possibly involved in the fight of our lives where on one side there is an unrelenting group of saffron tinged politicians (and their supporters) who want to create a nation that swears by a particular ideology (something that they want to achieve with legislations like CAA and NRC) and on the other side we have people who still believe in the idea of a peace-loving, secular, diverse and a vibrant form of democracy where people have a right to their own way of life and where they are not compelled to follow any particular ideology. It is upon us to choose which side do we want to be a part of.
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