As protests over Citizenship Amendment Act assume increased political undertones with the BJP and the Congress-led Opposition espousing opposite stands, the challenge before the latter ensures that anti-CAA protests do not assume an ‘all Muslim affair’ while the BJP is making serious attempts to de-link Dalits from the protests, insisting most of the refugees that come from Pakistan belong to Scheduled Castes.
In the last few days, the spectacle of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra hopping on to a scooty to visit family members of retired IPS officer Sarwan Ram Darapuri (72), who has been arrested for anti-CAA violence, did help the Congress in de-hyphenating the Muslim angle from the protest to some extent.
That the anti-CAA protest in the national capital Delhi was mainly recorded in two Muslim dominated areas of Seelampur and Jamianagar and in mainly Muslim localities of Lucknow of Uttar Pradesh, which sends maximum number of Lok Sabha seats, is not heartwarming for Congress, which has tried hard to shed its ‘Muslim party’ tag after 2014 Lok Sabha debacle which led to a brainstorming by A K Antony Committee.
For a party, whose leaders went to temple-hopping spree in post-2014 elections (particularly visible in Gujarat in 2017) and carrying out yajnyas ( in Madhya Pradesh) in 2018, the return of appeasement charges at a time when it has just marginally improved its Lok Sabha show from 44 to 52 in 2019 general elections, could only be suicidal, its leaders realize. So their attempt will be to ensure that the anti-CAA protest does not assume a Hindu-Muslim paradigm.
The challenge will be bigger in rural India or smaller cities. Indications emanating from Western UP, the hotbed of communal conflagrations in 2011, suggests that the violence over CAA protests is, being seen largely as a Hindu Muslim issue unlike in cities and Universities in urban India, whose protest the BJP has dismissed as protests instigated by Congress, Communists and Jehadi elements.
For BJP the challenge will be to ensure that the protest does not assume an all-encompassing entity and particularly a Dalit-Muslim shape.
The protest has got the backing young Dalit leaders Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’, who joined protestors at Jama Maszid and Jignesh Mevani.
BSP chief Mayawati, who is opposed to CAA this week, suspended a party MLA for backing the law, while NDA ally Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP said protests show Government “failed” in convincing people on the law. The Dalit leaders linking CAA with NRC are projecting the step as Consitution framed by Dalit icon Baba Saheb Ambedkar, which gave them rights and also working on a fear that CAA will be followed by NRC during which documentation will be a dread not only for Muslims but event Dalits. This is beside the large theme of 'discrimination' they are trying to build.
It is not that the BJP is unmindful of it. While making a strong defence of CAA, BJP Working President J P Nadda on Sunday linked it with the welfare of Dalits attacking Congress and its allies for shedding crocodile tears in the name of Dalits but having done nothing for the welfare of Dalit refugee. He stressed that the majority of refugees that were persecuted in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are ‘Dalit brothers” including people from Matua, Rajvanshi and Namashudra communities.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier addressing a rally in Ramlila ground last week went ballistic against “those doing Dalit politics” raising question marks on CAA and asked why they never raised the issue of Dalits facing persecution in those countries. Modi wondered why Dalit leaders are “upset” when his government is working to address the sufferings of those Dalits.
BJP’s attempt to take the issue beyond the Hindu Muslim ambit comes after a number of Dalit organisations have lent their support to the anti CAA protests across the country. Attempts to forge a Dalit-Muslim axis around the protest is the last thing the ruling combine would like to see shaping up, something which leaders like Kanshi Ram had attempted in past with some success.