Can we keep on sitting on the fence?

Can we keep on sitting on the fence?

No, people who protest aren’t anti-national. Citizens in a democracy elect a government, and the elected government has a ‘dharma’ to safeguard the rights and protect all its citizens, regardless of whether they voted for them or not.

One may say that citizens have a right to protest peacefully, and violence will be answered with force. But what about those in power who instigate violence through words, insults,and by ignoring the acts of their own violence prone supporters?

(You may say that the question above is an example of whataboutry. Violent protests, burning public property and stone-pelting is really bad strategy, and should be condemned and so must police brutality, bullying, physical intimidation by political goons,and mob lynching.)

It is difficult to sit on the sidelines and watch an entire country slowly go up in flames even as the Prime Minister, Home Minister and his coterie keep on singing the ‘anyone who is against us is anti-national’ tune as they fiddle.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill is no longer a mere bill. It has become a law.

Many political and social observers have pointed out that this Act  is in fact a blatant political appeasement that to cover up the embarrassment of the BJP government, when it was revealed that a substantial number of  illegal immigrants in the northeast are Hindu Bangladeshis, who are in fact upsetting the ethnic mix in many border districts. Turning these people overnight into citizens would ensure their loyalty to the BJP, expand the so-called ‘Hindu’ vote-bank and ensure a political foothold in the northeast, especially Assam. Fact: the vast majority of Noetheastern people don’t really care for the ‘mainstream’ political parties and are more concerned about issues nearer home.

The new law is short-sighted and unconstitutional. While there are perhaps legitimate concerns about certain security issues, one can’t deny political refuge on grounds of religion alone.

Citizens have a right to protest, and the recent racist remarks by the prime minister of the country at an election rally referring to the clothes worn by the protesters, or the Home minister referring to Muslim refugees as termites in another speech are unacceptable.

One is stunned that the Ministry of Information and broadcasting is trying to muzzle TV channels through an advisory asking them not to cover the protests that are slowly spreading throughout the country. The question is : Has the government now openly begun to threaten independence of the press? Is censorship and forcible shutting down of media the next step?

Students have woken up and are asserting their right to dissent. Now the police force has been directed to deal with them in the harshest manner. If this was not the case, then the cops wouldn’t  be entering university campuses and thrashing  the students with such impunity.

One hopes that better sense prevails and that the government sits down with the opposition and  civil society organisations, community leaders from the northeast –‘community’ doesn’t mean religious affiliation, it means people from various communities regardless of caste and religion- and workout a solution in the best interests of India.

In the meanwhile, peace loving citizens can’t keep sitting on the fence. The least we can do is to express our opinions, write some letters, begin discussions with our friends and neighbours and exchange our various viewpoints. We have to break the silence. Let a thousand different shades of opinions be heard.

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