Violence, Dissent and Political Resistance in Times when Democracy is in Danger
Democracy gives its citizens the right to dissent and voice their concerns, a trend of suppressing people’s voices goes against the very fabric of a democratic order.
The modern nation state came about as a civil contract converging the interest of diverse groups to coexist in harmony. From historicity to essence was stressed by Rousseau and often modernization and violence of the nation state covered by Anthony Giddens. However an attempt to contextualise theories to understand the contemporary political scenario, remains a conundrum.
A series of political developments rather vendetta in the last five months have altered the nature of tension in the Indian polity, as GDP continues to slumps faster than ever and bigotry reaching its record high. The subcontinent reeks with smell of violence against its minority and in the past quarter may as well be called a humanitarian crisis of the Indian nation in the 21st century. Rise of fundamentalist forces has dawned a new era of hate in the nation and the execution of such hate politics by the leviathan is no less than a monstrous act. The trail of rampage begun with the pretext of undoing a historical wrong by scrapping Art 370 and 35 A from the Indian constitution reducing the state of J&K to a military base and its people as mere coincidences. Thereafter realization of a premediate poll promise of Ayodhya judgement to avenge a historical wrong followed by yet another unleash the Citizenship Amendment Act. An attempt to reconfigure the demography of the nation envisioning a Hindu Rashtra. Each of these steps has a fundamentalist Hindutva dimension of targeting the ‘Musalmaans of hindustan’ as the only enemy of the Indian Nation State. Each step jeopardizing the minority depriving them of their constitutional rights and restricting their entitlements as citizens. However, the worse unfolded only yesterday in form of police brutality against the unarmed sloganeering protesters at the Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi. The use of brute physical force to cull simple students exercising their democratic right to dissent opens a new chapter into understanding the modern nation state to discipline the minority.
Ironically the Jamia Millia Islamia is one of the most obedient universities in the country, being a minority institution, only occasionally stating a thing or two but almost always being stereotyped as bastion of skullcaps and hijabs. The recent Citizenship Amendment Act brought about a major ideological stir across universities and states in India and so did it bring a wave in Jamia. The university stood firmly dissented against the communal character of the law categorically omitting the Muslims from gaining citizenship. The lack of secular character in the Act is the primary reason for contention for the religious minority as well as ethnic minority of the nation. To reject the unconstitutional nature of the Act, students, teachers and the Jamia neighbourhood as a cohesive unit began protesting on 13th of December.
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Jamia materialized out of Maulana Azad’s dream and thereby maintains a holistic character having staff and students across identities but Hindutva minds continue to label Jamia in a particular way, possibly a historical stain to be erased from emerging Hindutva. Therefore on the day of the protest the Delhi Police aided by CRPF acted as a flawless agency of the Indian State razing to ground the protesters and brutally assaulting the unarmed protestors, molesting the female students and even storming inside the library firing tear gas and blasting glass. The attack was beyond physical, an attack on the very idea of Jamia. As people and structure bore brunt of forces even on the 15th of December the Jamia administration remained a mere bystander thereby leaving one to wander upon levels of seepage of Hindutva agenda.
In this age of social media, one is also a helpless witness to violence often circulated in form of videos on social networking sites. One such video is of the Jamia reading hall where the security forces poured in, indiscriminately lathi-charging upon students simply studying, categorically speaking ‘not protesting’. The natural reaction to it lead to a stampede and vandalism. The civil society and Human Rights Commission has raised a hue and cry but the deeper question continues to lurk ‘is the India becoming a Nazi Nation’?
CAA is being rejected and burnt across length and breath of the nation but why such violence upon a particular University? The answer is simple, even to the mind of a school goer ‘capsize the minority’! In this wake, the minority reels, refuses and rises yet is repressed brutally.
Today when exams are due in Jamia, the halls echo of missing students as they lie in hospital beds. Ambulances ply freely around the campus and unabated terror profiling of Muslim students make rounds of the internet. The cafeterias are devoid of clamour, the lawns empty and the winter sun basks by itself. Jamia is at a standstill!
Yet again, the Tricolour stands undaunted, deployment of security forces has thickened with the setting in of darkness, peace is restored on campus yet pain prevails among the students of Jamia. In this frenzy of undoing historical wrongs the nation state is experiencing a new low as wounds of the minority continue to pile up, fears continue to grow, so does the fury!
Dr. Chinmayi Sarma teaches at the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research at Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi.
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