What makes the protestors invincible

ByVijaya Pushkarna

The women, youth and students who are  out on the streets , in Shaheen Bagh ,Delhi or  Hazratganj in Lucknow, or elsewhere in the country exude  an invincibility about them. They appear unfazed by the  assertive voice of power  as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah  thunder that they will not step back an inch from implementing the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act 219.

The women were  disappointed but not deterred when  the Supreme Court  did not stay the implementation of the CAA as a three-member bench that included Chief Justice S A Bobde, took up the 140 petitions challenging the new law on Wednesday.

There is a convergence of causes in these protests. Quite a few women point to the children they have brought with them, and worry about their future—education, opportunities, employment and so on. Women’s safety was also mentioned.

The Prime Minister has charged those “who have been rejected by the people of India” with fanning the protests. If that had been true, the protests would have long fizzled out.

One of the best things about  this popular, leaderless  uprising  is that there is no one the government can silence  by using the Enforcement agencies. That is an advantage that most politicians do not have. And possibly the reason they have kept off.

And the inability to use the machinery at its command has  in a sense disarmed the government. Though there have been efforts to clear the protestors  on the pretext of  traffic  blockade etc, the court has made it clear that peaceful protests are perfectly legal.

Flashpoints  of a political nature cannot be ruled out, particularly when state governments refuse to implement the CAA or cooperate with the ground work for the NPR. The Centre can dismiss state governments, and add to the complex situation that is emerging. 

The  Supreme Court has given  the government  a month  to file its counter petitions, and  hinted that the petitions may be referred to a larger Constitution Bench . It is quite possible that the apex court ---almost the last straw now --will also uphold this law. The Modi-Shah confidence, assertions, indicate that they sense a favourable verdict from the apex court.

What then?

The mood at Shaheen Bagh suggests the protests would go on till the CAA is rolled back. The government can have them cleared out with the help of police lathis and tear gas shells. But will they ?

Does it come as a surprise then, that India has dropped 10 places to be ranked 51st of 165 nations and two territories in the Democracy Index 2019 ? It is a report on the most and least democratic countries in the world  published annually by  The Economist Intelligence Unit, a news and general affairs publication, in its annual report.
The Economist cited "democratic regression (in) erosion of civil liberties" as a major reason in awarding a score of 6.9 on 10 - its lowest since the index was first published in 2006.

The  "discriminatory Citizenship (Amendment) Act", the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the controversial NRC (national register of citizens)  were mentioned.

While that may be yet another global reaction to the new law, the spirit of democracy is what made one woman  at Shaheen Bagh say that they will protest for the next four of five years if necessary. They have the option of waiting for Lok Sabha 2024, in protest mode or otherwise.

It may sound distant,but a new leadership is emerging—not just in the form of Kanhaiya Kumar, Chandrashekhar Azad or even former IAS officer Kannan Gopinathan, but many as of now unknown young people. The women there were all enthusiastically waiting for Azad to arrive and address them.


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