Netagiri vs Gandhigiri

By Vijaya Pushkarna

Far away from the protest grounds and the women and students,
India saw  two totally different takes on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019, on Friday.

A  10-member delegation under the aegis of the Indraprastha Vishwa Samwad Kendra(IVKS), an RSS affiliate, met President Ram Nath Kovind  , saying they suspected “an external dimension to the disturbances being created” and urged the Government to look into this matter “with all seriousness and safeguard the democratic institutions of the country and take stern action against such forces”.

 The  representation that the 154 signatories gave the President, says, among other things, “The fear mongering which is being spread across the length and breadth of India appears to be motivated and with a sinister design to harm the nation. The coordinated manner in which this campaign is being carried out and the violent nature of protests in which public and private property has been destroyed, has grave security implications and does not bode well for our motherland. These protests, while ostensibly claiming to oppose the policies of the government of India, are in effect designed to destroy the very fabric of this country and harm the nation’s unity and integrity."

The IVSK and the BJP expect this concern to be taken seriously because among the signatories are 11 former judges, 72 retired bureaucrats, 56 retired officers from the defence forces and 15 intellectuals.

They  claimed to be independent and concerned citizens, and  lauded the government’s “remarkable work in spreading the ancient message of India across the world”. They also count the abrogation of the special status to J&K and maintaining goodwill in society after the Ayodhya verdict in favour of the Ram temple, among  the government’s steps towards “putting the nation on the path to becoming a global power”.

 In the representation, they argued that the CAA did not violate Art 15 of the Constitution which states that the State shall not discriminate against citizens on grounds of religion, race, case, sex, place of birth or any of them, saying that the new law was not applicable to Indian citizens.

When they were briefing the media outside the Rashtrapati Bhavan, another  group of citizens going by the name of “We The People of India”, made a public call for activities including an all-India human chain on  Jan 30 --Mahatma Gandhi’s martyrdom anniversary . Calling the programme collectively “Bharat Jodo” (Unite India ) the broad idea is to uphold the Preamble of the Constitution of India.

Among those who have coordinated under the “We The People of India” are Rajmohan Gandhi, Medha Patkar, Harsh Mander, Prashant Bhushan, Dr S Y. Quraishi, Wajahat Habibulla, Syeda Hameed, and Dr Dharamvir Singh.

The call  was endorsed by the working group members of the All-India Coordination of over a 100 organisations for National Action Against Citizenship Amendment through CAA-NRC-NPR. They have urged the associations to ensure no flags other than the National flag, and no speeches or slogans or negative or aggressive banners and placards. 

The narrative around the discriminatory Citizenship (Amendment) Act , the National Population Register and the proposed National Register of Citizens has largely been from the way the women and students on the streets, notably Shaheen Bagh in the national capital, saw it. 

The  Modi government’s  response so far has been in characteristic BJP’s style.  First, assert the party's  position loudly as to drown out other voices, as their representatives do on TV channels. Second, deflect everything  and point to the nefarious designs of the  opposition that has been rejected by the people. And  thirdly, say nothing that enlightens people. Not surprising because the  threat from the  opposition is more now. Opposition today  comprises nameless, faceless leaders in the making. It is no longer  a Rahul Gandhi who they can laugh at, or a Mayawati whom they can threaten with notices from the Enforcement Directorate.

To ensure things do not really slip out of their hands, the BJP has also sent its ministers, MPs, state level leaders, as well as the RSS cadres, to explain their side of the story. But that is again being done the BJP way. The speeches enthuse their supporters, 37 % of the country's voters. But  they do not cut ice with their detractors, who these leaders are meant to persuade, convince and woo.


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