Listen to students
Paying heed to nationwide protests led by the youth and consequently withdrawing CAA & NRC would be a prudent move for the government of the day
We are living in interesting times; history is being made right in front of our eyes. Should we consider ourselves lucky? We do bear witness to how life and social mores are fast-changing in India and around the world. Seven years after the Nirbhaya rape case and three years after demonetisation, this week we once again saw the nation united against one issue — our right to dissent, to voice our protests against a divisive, political, draconian law called the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA). When combined with the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the CAA threatens to change the very ethos of India. But as many of us grumbled softly, it was students around the country who rose to show us the way.
Students of Jamia Milia Islamia in Delhi protested, were lathi-charged, tear-gassed, even shot…but the protests continued. Holding up roses to cops, the students endeared themselves to us as they sang songs and extended their understanding of the cops' dilemma — who is made to follow orders coming from the echelons of power. They even cleaned up roads after their protests were done!
The students stood steadfast in the bitter cold of the capital holding posters of Gandhi, Ambedkar and other Indian stalwarts. Their courage invited others around the country to join the protest as they urged the government to roll back CAA and NRC. The youth of India are peacefully protesting as is their right to do. They are remonstrating state administrations in Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka that have, in an oppressive move, banned protests. India is resisting and the movement is being led by students and the youth.
Make no mistake — the government is feeling the pressure of forcing through a legislation like CAA. At a recent event organised by a television news channel, Home Minister Amit Shah eloquently and patiently explained the government's standpoint and logic behind pushing both CAA and NRC. His shaking hands though divulged the enormous pressure that this government is under. The home ministry is definitely the best-performing government department as it gets results and fulfils the BJP's electoral promises one-by-one. As we inch closer to becoming a Hindu Rashtra, the development and economic plank seem to have receded into the background. Now completing Ram Temple in four months, NRC, CAA, etc., will divert our attention from the most important issue — getting the economy back on track.
If the government was serious about reversing the economic downturn, it should roll back contentious laws such as CAA and NRC, and focus on resuscitating consumer demand, improving liquidity and loan disbursement, and acting on the industry's grievances. The Indian government though is unmoved by the nationwide people's protests and continues to stay firm on the implementation of CAA and nationwide NRC.
Perhaps this would be the right time to remind the government that historically, student and youth movements around the world have changed laws and even toppled regimes. The Civil Rights Movement in the US, Vietnam War protests, the Velvet Revolution, the Tiananmen Square protests, Arab Spring, and more recently, in Hong Kong — students have breached the corridors of power, rudely awakening the powers that be from their self-induced reverie, forcing governments to pay heed. Not listening to the students and worse, trying to quell their voice, can have disastrous repercussions for the government of the day.
Because unlike the rest of the 'adult' world, students have little to lose. They don't care about profits and losses, vanishing government favour, petering of investments and funds — students have the purest intentions in a democracy, motivated as they are by their ideals. Think about it, when we were students, were we not keen to protect the damned and change the world? Today, we may be snoozing on those ideals, chained by our own worldly demands, responsibilities and expectations. But mostly, we are shackled by our fears. The youth tell us today that sometimes there are greater things at stake than just livelihood. As they are beaten black and blue, their bodies riddled with bullets, they beckon us to speak up and stand with them. What will you do?
Shutapa Paul is an author and media entrepreneur. Views expressed are strictly personal