“We are going to drain the pond; the fishes need not be afraid,” the shrewd toads tell the unsuspecting fishes in a south-Indian folk tale. The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), coupled with the National Register of Citizens (NRC), meant the same test for Indian Muslims. To be impassive in the face of an existential crisis.
But this Act was a test that went beyond a crisis of existence for the largest minority of the country. It threatened the very foundation of the constitution by dividing citizens along the lines of religion. In moments that would have made Ambedkar proud, many people cutting across religion, including the old, the women and their children, raised their voice against this discriminatory law.
Yet, even after months of protests, public pressure and international condemnation, it seems the CAA is here to stay. Passed by an unforgiving majority in the Parliament, the act came effective on 10 Jan 2020. Even when the country was reeling in a pandemic, the central government arrested the act’s dissenters, who were mainly students, its work-from-home priority. Addressing the NRC, forced eviction has already started even amidst explicit UN body recommendations to postpone these procedures during the pandemic on humanitarian considerations. If everything goes as per the central government’s whim, millions of Muslims face the threat of eviction.
By seeking to give refuge to the minority communities of neighbouring countries from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, the government is defying its own logic. For instance, Afghanistan is the latest country to prove that one extremist ideology (Taliban) is fed up with an even more extremist ideology (ISKP), both of which are adherents of the Islamic faith trying to rule over an overwhelmingly Muslim population. Also, by ignoring the plight of Srilankan Hindus (and Christians) and the Rohingyan Muslims, it is clear that the CAA has agendas, which includes intimidating the Muslim population of India and stepping closer to the BJP government’s goal of realising a Hindu Rashtra.
The photo was taken by the author during an all women’s protest gathering against CAA and NRC held at Marine Drive, Ernakulam, in Jan 2020.