Students are out on the streets and elders are huddled in their rooms in the aftermath of the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA) being ratified by Parliament. Students are on the streets protesting police action against Jamia Milia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) students. Students of more than 20 universities are protesting both against Delhi Police and UP Police brutality and the new citizenship law.
CAA has worried the Muslim community in India. Every member of the community is discussing their future in India and the worrying part is this that youths of the community have overshadowed the elders of the community and they are not ready to take any advice from the elders. “You will not see any old or regular faces of the community on the streets, the younger generation is on the streets as they see their future in danger,” says Farhat Husain, retired Principal of a Degree College in Uttar Pradesh.
Young boys and girls are vocal against CAA and they just want it to be scrapped. They feel cheated by the government for not doing anything for them, either for education or for employment, and instead killing the spirit of the Constitution and Idea of India. They feel that with CAA becoming law, the country is moving back towards the days of Partition when the country was divided on religious lines.
It is not only the younger generation but the elders are also frightened of CAA. Former parliamentarian and editor of popular Urdu weekly, Nai Duniya, Shahid Siddiqui, minces no word in saying that CAA is the most dangerous step of the current regime. “This is the most dangerous step of independent India as we accepted Partition with a heavy heart, whether it was Maulana Azad, Maulana Husain Ahmed Madni, Sardar Patel or Mahatma Gandhi. We (Indians) rejected the Two-Nation Theory of Jinnah. We need to keep in mind that two people who advocated the Two-Nation Theory were VD Savarkar, the ideologue of RSS, who coined the term ‘Hindutva’ and Mohammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan. These were the two people who said that Hindus and Muslims are two different nations but people like us categorically said that Hinduism and Islam can be two religions, but Hindus and Muslims cannot be two nations. Now, today when the government has come with CAA, it is basically advocating the Two-Nation Theory of Jinnah and Savarkar. Today, BJP is implementing the theory of Jinnah. BJP is building an India with Savarkar’s cap and Jinnah’s sherwani,” he says.
In an engagement ceremony in the trans-Yamuna area of Delhi, people were having food but not enjoying as everyone was worried about his future. In this atmosphere, a local middle-class businessman, Zameer Ahmed, comes near the table and without any provocation says, “Muslims should now sell their properties and should have cash with them as property will not help them but cash will help them.” This one statement was enough for people to air their concerns and worries about the new law, CAA, enacted by the Modi-Shah regime. Actually, after hearing their concerns, it appeared that Muslims are a demoralised lot. “The whole effort of the present regime is to demoralise Indian Muslims and fool Hindus of India. The Modi-Shah duo wants to send a message to the majority community that they have made Muslims second class citizens. Till now, they have been successful in fooling the majority community,” says Khalid Alvi, lecturer in Delhi University.
CAA has just acted as a catalyst. Muslims were tense about the NRC process for long. During last Eid, around 80 per cent of the male members residing in Delhi went to their hometowns to collect information as to where they could get documentary evidences like land documents and education certificates. Majority of the Muslims are not in government jobs. So, they have their lost their educational certificates or have misplaced while moving to cities from villages. The Muslims are worried that if they fail the NRC test, then not only will they lose voting rights but that they will be thrown into detention centres. “Basically they (the present regime) want to snatch the voting right of the Muslims because they are afraid of Muslim Votes as they have a perception that they lose elections because of Muslim votes but the Hindus of this country who are large-hearted will reject these draconian moves of the government. This kind of thinking has ruined countries like Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. Any country which will practise politics in the name of religion can never progress and only that country progress which takes along everyone,” further says Shahid Siddiqui.
There is worry and fear among every class of Indian Muslims. “At this very moment, honestly, I don’t care whether this Act is against Gandhi’s India, threat to secularism, democracy or whatever. All I can see is that crores of Muslims in India are facing genocide. There is no other way to look at it,” says Afreen Fatima, president of Abdullah Girls College, AMU.
There is a pan India restlessness among Indian Muslims. “After the passage of CAA in Lok Sabha, the feeling of insecurity has gripped Muslims in Kerala. They are frightened. The Muslims families are discussing what all documents they need for NRC,” says senior journalist M.Hasanul Banna of Kerala. The reason why Hasanul Banna is worried is because he had been witness to the NRC process in Assam. “The question is how they will implement the NRC. To implement NRC, there will be a software and that software will not accept any spelling mistake in the name of a person or a place. If software does not accept any document with any spelling mistake, he will not be registered. No one can prove anything after that because the software is doing all this. For example, some people write Mohammed with éd’ and some write Mohammad with ád’. Assam has proved that it cannot be rectified.
He further says, “The sad and dangerous part is this that non-Muslims show no panic or worry. The same feeling was visible in Kerala during Demonetisation. There was a feeling at the time of Demonetisation that the black money of Muslims will be unearthed.”
Senior journalist in Mumbai, Danish Reyaz, says, “There is no doubt that CAA is to promote the communal agenda of BJP.”
Khalid Nadeem, social activist, who hails from Uttar Pradesh, says, “There is fear among Muslims and many of my relatives. They are busy arranging their documentary proofs. Muslims are so frightened that instead of opposing the Act, they are busy in arranging documents. They can’t afford to sit on a hunger strike for five days or regularly participate in protest rallies as they lead a hand-to-mouth existence. They can go for a day but this is a long struggle.”
From discussions in every home to social media, people are writing their views and sharing posts on this issue. A former parliamentarian wrote on his Facebook page, “In 1906, when in Africa Indian were being removed from the rolls by registration done by the British, we found Gandhi ji raising his voice against it. Gandhi ji started a movement that ultimately gave shape to the Indian freedom struggle. It’s our country’s misfortune that Gandhi was killed soon after independence. Today, 72 years later, sharing the same philosophy (of Gandhijis Killers), we have 2 people, acting as Rulers and trying to hurt his spirit also. NRC and citizenship bill have only one basis- to discriminate against Muslims and remove them from this country. The whole ideology of oneness is being demolished in Gandhi’s own country.”
“The first target of the CAB are Muslims and the second target are Dalits. Their plan is to make this country a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu State),” says Zahid Ali Khan, editor in chief of prominent Urdu newspaper of Hyderabad, Siasat.
While expressing concern, Mohd Naeem, president of Delhi Youth Welfare Association, says, “The CAA would serve nothing except dividing the society. The government is diverting the mind from other pressing issues. The purpose of this may be to create fear and panic among Muslims so that their children can not study and they can not concentrate on their daily issues. After lynching, they are doing this just to stop Muslims from making progress.”
The Chief Editor of famous Urdu Daily, Siasat, Zahid Ali Khan, says the country cannot progress when common men face problems. “Whatever the present government has done, be it an economic or a social measure, it is anti-people. They are taking the country to that stage where people will not get any justice. When common men will not progress, how can the nation progress? I will rather say that now there are no possibilities of the country making any progress.
One ideology is being promoted at the cost of the nation,” he says.
Shahid Siddiqui says, “We need to see this CAA with NRC. The Union Home Minister is regularly stating that NRC will be implemented. After this, when non-Muslims will not be able to prove their citizenship, they will be granted citizenship but what about Indian Muslims who will not be able to prove their citizenship? What will happen to them? Will they be thrown into the sea? The purpose of all this exercise is to harass Muslims to such an extent that they forget about everything and concentrate on this only, their children can not study or do anything in life and make them second-class citizens of India. I don’t see any bright future for India now because the society will remain disturbed. We were hoping that India will be economically strong by 2020 but now we can see where we stand just a month before 2020. Whatever progress the country had made had been undone and now becoming a superpower will just remain a dream.”
An optimistic Zahid Ali says, “Muslims should prepare themselves and should collect all documents required for NRC. They (BJP) can’t pull down Muslims from the track with such policies because Muslims have made good progress in field of education and other spheres of life. We should do our preparations and should not lose hope.”
Danish also feels that though there is restlessness among Muslim community but they need not worry. “I feel that it is an issue for Muslims residing in border states but Muslims residing in other parts of the country have nothing to worry because they have documentary evidences of their residence. The people having family system or community system will not have any problem, though in urban cities, people with no ancestral background or cut off from the family system, could have issues.”
Lecturer of Delhi University, Khalid Alvi, has full faith in the judiciary of the country. “My gut feeling is this that the court will not allow this Act. Muslims and liberals should be hopeful,” he says, adding, “I don’t feel that Muslims should panic and it is too premature for Muslims to concentrate on collecting documentary proofs.”
The community which appears leaderless at this crucial time and the regular political and religious faces have no answers for the current attack on the very existence of the community. Some people see the solution in Muslims and liberals boycotting the NRC process across the country. Some feel that this is high time when all like-minded people should take to the streets. People are also talking of starting a civil disobedience movement. Whatever happens, the country is moving backwards in every way as even the state of the economy suggests.