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Seeking an end to polarisation

Seeking an end to polarisation

In a tough week, Delhi limped towards relative calm as police and paramilitary scooped the Northeast Delhi, conducting flag marches and interactions with locals in a much needed confidence-building measure as urged by the Delhi chief minister. Some alleys and bylanes saw shops opening on Friday after abject disharmony prevailed since Sunday in several neighbourhoods of Northeast Delhi. Individual accounts of clashes from reporters, locals, victims and their kin provides for chilling account of a horrific week in the part of the city. Several accounts cited the absence of police, especially towards the beginning of the clashes i.e., Sunday and Monday. More than a failing social order is the reality of a careless law enforcement machinery. Somewhere between those nasty tales of public violence that escalated along communal lines hid some diminished but not eroded instances of brotherhood. While mass communal violence took shape, fuelled by political rhetorics, tales of Muslims and Hindus looking out for each other also surfaced. It is that very understanding which everyone eventually looks up to in search for tranquillity. The ill-fated political rhetorics perpetuated by leaders served to instigate the crowd even as peaceful protests outlived the entire winters. While the nationwide anti-CAA protests reflect the country's democratic strength, the impediments to the same have underlined its weaknesses. If on one hand, we had the Preamble recited in public gatherings, then on the other, there was a spike in the number of sedition cases, with almost all of them having some part to play in the agitation against the new citizenship law. In the modern democratic society that India is, or at least aims to become, strict deliberation on the presence of draconian laws such as sedition is not unheard of. The protests, and the subsequent roadblocks, are what matter in this case. The controversial speech by Kapil Mishra immediately precedes the violence in Delhi but the cause for the same cannot be just him. The citizenship (amendment) act is the bridge that connects it all. The rift created between people hailing the amendment and criticising it has widened courtesy of political influence. Pro- and anti-CAA groups, which clashed to spark violence in the capital, find their source in the citizenship law, currently in contention. The controversial speeches by BJP leaders and a delayed judicial review by the Supreme Court have not really prevented the matter to escalate till a flashpoint. Adding to the visible disharmony has been a poor police response that got underlined by Delhi High Court's grilling of the Delhi Police. The questions asked and arguments raised by Justice Muralidhar exposed lapses in our law enforcement machinery. Credentials of Delhi Police were already under scrutiny with the police brutality at Jamia Milia Islamia on December 15, 2019, and poor response at the JNU violence by masked miscreants. Lapses in the law enforcement machinery weaken the democratic structure of our country. Further, the question of Justice Muralidhar's transfer immediately after his criticism of the Delhi Police, despite being in line with the due procedure, only produces a sceptical outlook. A look at the devastation caused and the lives lost in the violence, knowing the factors that may have led to it, in hindsight, does not portray a very progressive or healthy society. The polarisation due to CAA, that has reached dinner tables, is a matter of urgency and must be dealt with in perhaps a most democratic manner: a judicial review of the law.

Dissent in a democracy is common. The government and the opposition are inseparable in a democracy. But dissent needs to be addressed. While the government has not paid heed to the anti-CAA protests, a judicial review of the law takes precedence. Supreme Court's assertion of the law's constitutional validity is perhaps the last mile till which dissent in the form of a visible sit-in ideally lasts. If a probable end to the entire controversy that started with the enactment of the law is available, we should be motivated to achieve that. While the law takes its course, matters of urgency have been dealt with expeditiously. With society inherently at loggerheads, sub-divided into two groups on either side of the law, the matter is a siting feast for ill political ambitions or mischief that may result in serious repercussions. As protests continue, and a much-needed calm prevails in areas of unrest, it is time for the custodian of the Constitution of India to rise and extinguish the polarisation that has spread like wildfire. And, for the simplest of reasons: It is Constitution itself that has empowered the Judiciary to review the laws enacted by Parliament.

(Image from indiatoday.com)

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