This year has seen two protests – Shaheen Bagh and now at the Delhi border of the farmers. Both the protests have a lot in common and a few differences which need to be analysed as they reflect the way we as a society and our politicians think about ourselves as a nation.
The first protest was against the draconian and discriminatory CAA which laid foundation of insecurity in the Muslim population of the country. It started with the NRC being tabulated in Assam and created ripples in the country’s capital. With police lathicharge in Jamia and then leading to the East Delhi riots, the situation turned from bad to worse. It took a pandemic to disperse the people from Shaheen Bagh.
In the second protest of the year, farmers agitating in the state of Punjab, moved to Delhi and were joined by others from Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. On their way, they braved water cannons, police barricades and lathi charge. Finally being stopped at the Delhi border at various locations, they have refused the Government’s allotted place of protest at Burari and have trenched in at the border locations only.
They are opposing the three laws passed by the central government which affect the farming and selling of agri produce in the country. These laws have divided the opinion of the people and experts alike but one thing is clear that there has been a communication gap from the government.
The central government has had a panache for showing its numerical strength in the parliament. It has bludgeoned the laws without ample amount of debates on them and has reduced parliamentary democracy to majoritarianism. We saw this is the case of CAA as well as the three Farm bills. Not giving space to the opposition in the Parliament will always make way to the streets being filled up with protests.
The government has acted with certain impunity, going ahead and demeaning the opposition on the crude basis of its strength in the lower house. The opposition, in retaliation, led by the Congress, has tried to make life as hard as possible in the upper house. So the Parliament has seen some very unruly scenes and debates which do not behoove a developed democracy.
This has further led to recalcitrant mood amongst the public and that gets displayed in various bodies going on strikes, or groups rising in opposition to the governments’ orders and the opposition ruled states riling up the issue of federalism to stall any scheme of the central government.
Both the protests are against laws passed by the Parliament without due diligence. The government was able to get through the procedure only on the basis of its superior strength whereas democracy means inclusion. This inclusion gets displayed through listening and following the demands of the members of the Parliament and taking them together. When we do things simply on numerical basis then a friction creeps in the functioning of the institution.
The people protesting against these laws are fighting to get their voice heard which ideally should have happened within the walls of the Parliament. It is their representation which gets quashed when debates don’t happen or due diligence in the process is not followed.
In the Shaheen Bagh protest against the CAA, the protestors were termed anti nationals, Pakistanis or the famous tukde-tukde gang. Muslim women camped on the street to raise their voice against their treatment as the “others”. The government was slowly getting cornered when the pandemic happened and the protestors had to disperse. There were allegations that the protests were sponsored by international agencies which did not want India to prosper. Whoever, the civil society, intellectuals, common citizens, supported the movement was termed anti national and strict measures were used by the police to quell the protests. And this was throughout the country, in all its expanse.
This time, when the farmers are protesting, the government has realised its fallacies and is dealing patiently with them. It understands that terming the protesting farmers anti nationals will hurt it badly in the coming state elections of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry and Assam. The protesters are also expressing themselves freely as they are not pushed to the wall as was the case with Shaheen Bagh protestors.
How can the government discriminate against the people of a nation on the basis of religion. Even with the protesting farmers, it has been alleged that they are being sponsored by foreign money. The grievances of the people are genuine and must be addressed by the ruling dispensation.
If we look at the protestors, both the set belong to the minority communities of India. To segregate one with the other is not a wise thing. The government needs to tone down its divisive tone and realise that it is the secular fabric that binds the country together. Using communal overtones, reducing democracy to mobocracy, will eventually give rise to a Frankenstein which will be very difficult to handle. It cannot be just about winning the elections, one state after another.
The sooner the BJP realises this, the better it will be for India.