I was on way to start-up as an entrepreneur…

I was on way to start-up as an entrepreneur…

"Since the beginning of this millennium, India has been on course to become a major world power, with the economy growing at a fast clip," says Bhavya Narasimhamurthy.

I returned from America with an Ivy League education and was on my way to start up as an entrepreneur. Then, on the morning of December 19, I saw Ramachandra Guha, the historian and biographer of Mahatma Gandhi, being dragged away by the police for nothing more than standing outside Town Hall in Bengaluru with a photograph of Babasaheb Ambedkar and the pre-amble of the Constitution, in protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act, an Act that I, as a policy analyst, know to be a threat to the very foundation of our Constitution and to the beautiful fabric of this nation. I left home quietly to join thousands of others who were already protesting. If I hadn’t, there would be no meaning to having studied at the same university that Ambedkar did exactly 100 years before and where, each day, I had proudly stood looking at his statue, and at the copy of our Constitution that is displayed in Columbia University’s library.

Seven months earlier, the BJP had won a landslide mandate to continue in power. Liittle did we know then that a large part of India would be on the streets so soon after that, protesting against the very ones we had voted to power. Why have things changed so fast?

Since the beginning of this millennium, India has been on course to become a major world power, with the economy growing at a fast clip. And there were visions then, such as APJ Abdul Kalam’s Vision 2020 of an inclusive, developed India, based on an aware citizenry and the core values of free thought, liberty, dignity and fraternity, and no discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, caste or colour. Yet, here we are in 2020, and the news is that our economic growth has declined for the sixth quarter in a row and unemployment is at its highest in five decades.

We can easily identify three reasons that have surfaced since 2014 for this, despite the hopes that were raised in all of us that year:

1. Citizens have lost confidence in the independent institutions set up under the Constitution to maintain checks and balances between Legislature, Judiciary and the Executive. Much of the media, too, has lost its credibility.

2. Expert advice has been ignored on all major decisions, resulting in end-to-end failure of the Modi government’s policies. The portfolio of such policies and actions include demonetisation, GST design and implementation, Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, Namami Gange, and so on. Each of them have cost the country in terms of the current economic slowdown and unemployment.

3. Abuse of power through all sorts of means – from using central agencies to social media -- to silence dissenting voices, and the selective outrage of the Prime Minister, which is divisive and directs violence against individuals or groups opposed to or critical of his government.

The unrest against the government kept growing as it failed. Instead of addressing those issues, the government has continuously sought to divert public attention. With the CAA-NRC/NPR, it reached a tipping point. The CAA is the first time that religion has been made the basis for obtaining Indian citizenship. The CAA and NRC together will prove to be a draconian combination that threatens to render millions of people stateless. Recall the demonetisation chaos. That was merely the delegitimization of currency notes (which the government itself had issued), and we are still recovering from the damage it caused to the economy. Now consider what will happen when people – millions of human beings, with whom we have lived for years and decades – who cannot produce documents to prove their citizenship are delegitimised!

The CAA will not prove detrimental only to people of one religion. Its victims will be from all marginalised sections of society irrespective of their religion – women, children, the differently-abled, victims of natural calamities who would have lost all documents. Now, the dividing line is religion. Soon, that line will go deeper into caste, sub-caste, language, tradition, culture.

Even before the implementation of the CAA, the government is not transparent and accountable for the mishaps and violence against dissenting voices. Some 20 people have lost their lives while exercising their constitutional right to protest. Many of them are clear cases of police brutality and abuse of power. Imagine what will happen when the government exercises its full force to implement it without popular support!

Yet, I’m hopeful that things will turn out better, now that we the youth of this country have stepped up and taken charge. It is a moment of pride for us all to learn that with all its flaws, the education system in schools and colleges as well as the values we were brought up with have succeeded in inculcating in us the core values of the idea of India.

We have understood the need and importance of questioning authority and exercising our rights to the fullest. Sensible, aware youth are coming together for the right cause. For all those who have not yet joined us, this is the right time to consider which side of history you would like to end up on.

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