Complete disarray in the opposition camp and absence of popular nationwide protest after a series of dramatic and divisive steps taken since our saviour – BJP’s second coming including the one on J&K and the court verdicts on Ayodhya and Sabarimala temples, virtually legitimised the majoritarian faith and allowed almost a hegemonic run for the Hindutva narrative. It emboldened the regime to thunder about nationwide NRC. Both Modi and Shah had touted their twin exclusion-inclusion projects since their 2014 campaign. They were emphatic that neighborhood Muslims, ‘infiltrators, termites and parasites sucking India’ would be weeded out of the country while the Hindus and people from other would be accepted as legitimate refugees.
However, the passage of CAA was fast forwarded following the exclusion of 12 lakhs Bengali Hindus as well as Gorkhas and Biharis in the final list of the Assam NRC. As the outcome of the INR 1600 crore witch hunt backfired, in Assam and triggered BJP defeats in Bengal bypolls following its Maharashtra fiasco, Modi- Shah duo hurried to pass CAA to assure its Hindu support base as well as checkmate Opposition including Mamata in Bengal.
But the anti-CAB unrest of indigenous people in Assam and other states of the north-east who had been on the same page with BJP on NRC, first derailed their game-plan. Shah tried to assuage local fears of more Bangladeshi Hindu influx by excluding tribal-dominated states and areas from the CAA gambit while announcing fresh NRC in Assam during the countrywide exercise. But it did not cut the ice. Instead, the protest travelled to Bengal, albeit for the opposite reasons and then fanned to Delhi, UP and the south.
Street protests showed the path for opposition
The extent of violent and non-violent protests that engulfed BJP-ruled UP, Karnataka and national capital region policed by the Centre apparently has caught Modi-Shah duo unprepared. The hitherto fractured opposition has got a shot in its arms following non- implementation announcements in Congress-ruled states and Left-ruled Kerala following Mamata-led Bengal. Fence-sitters like BJD-YSRC-TRS even former ally Shiv Sena followed the suit. The JD(U) chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar too said that he won’t give effect to NRC. All these regional parties had supported CAA in the parliament in one or other way. The chilly reaction of Dhaka after Shah’s blunt bracketing of Bangladesh with Pakistan and Afghanistan as Islamic states on minority persecution has dampened the bonhomie. The US, despite the ‘Howdi Modi’ jamboori months ago, has upped it ante on minority persecution in general and discriminatory CAA. Together with economic mess, the feel good factors for the regime is down.
The fault lines are still wide
However, Modi is still invincible. Any complacency will be suicidal for both the opposition as well as Citizen’s resistance as the Parivar enjoys a huge constituency among both upper castes and Dalit Hindus even beyond the Hindi heartland. The Saffron camp is hell-bent to exploit fault lines of acrimonious electoral politics of parliamentary rivals in the secular camp as well as identity politics in Bengal and other states even if loses in Jharkhand, the current lynching capital of the country.
While the Muslim parties and organisations have been in the forefront of all kinds of street mobilizations, their isolated outbursts of violence will only help the regime’s design for communal polarisation. Hindu-Muslim joint campus protests have spilled on roads reassuring us about the youth being the main repository of the best traditions of our freedom struggle. But it’s still limited to certain metropolitan universities which are otherwise known as the epicentres of anti-Hindutva urban radical resistance.
Notwithstanding small Dalit groups and young leaders like Bhim Army chief ‘Ravana’ Chandra Sekhar Azad, BSP leader Mayavati and others as well as OBC parties like SP are still watching at the wings.
Social fault lines are too wide to ignore. There was hardly any involvement of organised labour and farmers organisations despite some masses are hard-hit in the wake of the demonetisation/GST and resultant economic stagnation as well as bids for privatization of major state sector units, massive retrenchments and encroachments into labor rights. Although, the central TUs barring BJP labor wing have decided to oppose the CAA-NRC while calling for Bharat Bandh on January 8, they have been lukewarm in their response to communal campaigns over citizenship.
A Bengal-specific deficit was the near-total absence of Hindi-speaking Hindus from industrial areas as well as Dalits from bordering districts, both the main constituency for Hindutva politics. They have been pitted against Muslims in the communal clashes since last few years. While the closed and sick mills have rusted the workers industrial life and its ethos, bigoted north Indian politics have further corroded the idea of class unity. Both BJP and TMC have harvested the mutual hatred and fears at the cost of Bengal’s post-partition social fabric.
A huge chunk of Dalits, mainly Namoshudras had fled Bangladesh in between seventies and nineties during the military rule and BNP-Jamaat regime. They have warmed up to the BJP campaign for CAA that promises to fulfil their demands for hassle-free citizenship. The saffron camp has succeeded in dividing the presiding clan of the influential Matua sect of the ‘Nomos’, hitherto a TMC votebank and has won LS seats in aeeas dominated by the caste. It is now hell-bent to offset the defeats in the assembly bypolls following the Assam NRC fiasco by selling the CAA to refugees. Focused opposition and civil society initiatives are needed to address both the Hindutva targets.