Anti-CAA protests have hit a wall. Here’s why: analysis
The widespread and sustained protests against the discriminatory Citizenship (Amendment) Law (CAA) have altered the political landscape in multiple ways, at least dissipating the sadness that had fallen on the opposition (political and civil society) after the elections of Lok Sabha . The thousands of protesters, greeting the Tricolor and reciting the preamble of the Constitution, have been able to instill a sense of freshness and idealism in a fundamental value, secularism, which apparently had lost all resonance in our politics. And in protests after protests, we have witnessed the potential for new leadership, both energetic and articulate.
However, we are in a stalemate. The logic of the protests requires a receptive government that recognizes dissent and an open dialogue to build a new consensus. However, the government has not only chosen to ignore the protests; He has also chosen to use them as a counterpoint to consolidate the majority. During the last month, there was a sense of accumulation for the Supreme Court (SC) hearing, but those hopes were denied, for now, with the court refusing to suspend the CAA law in the interim. Procedural delays in key cases, either demonetization, habeas corpus and communications closed petitions in Kashmir, and now the CAA – ended up helping the executive, leaving protesters with limited options.
Hence the question, which was repeated at the bottom of the protests, what follows, has become urgent. Protests have some key characteristics that should be discussed. First, the protests have been declared without leaders. The protests used social networks to “announce” places where people presented themselves spontaneously. In places where protests have been ongoing, such as Shaheen Bagh in Delhi, a local organizing committee has been responsible for managing logistics. However, if the crowds do not appear tomorrow in response to calls to social networks, there is no organizational structure to mobilize them.
Second, while the language and form of protests across the country may be similar, the protests themselves are separate and autonomous. Over time, a collective platform has been tried, but this has not resulted in leadership or organization. This “strategy” without leaders and without organization may have been necessary in the early days because there are no leaders who have the capacity or legitimacy to exercise authority over the extent of the protests, partly because most of the numbers come from Muslims , while the narrative has been directed by leftist liberals.
Third, now that the protests are completing two months, there is a feeling that the positive reach has not been able to go beyond its initial constituency.
It would be presumptuous for anyone who has not faced the worst part of hate and mainstream intolerance to push protesters in any direction, but it may be time to ask if the protests will continue to be an expression of citizens’ dissent or will evolve into A political movement While both options are valid, the way forward is different for both.
The protests have achieved considerable regulatory success; but without a change of direction, it is difficult to see that this translates into a political victory, because the constituency of supporters remains limited, the government remains firm and the compensatory institutional forces are ambivalent. There are also signs of countermobilization and consolidation.
In order for protests to become a viable political movement, open creative anarchy will have to be forged into something more durable and expansive, but also a routine organization, decision-making structures, alliances and commitments. There should be clarity about the purpose of the movement: if it is to preserve the secular liberal nature of our country, if it is to expel the government of the Bharatiya Janata Party from the Center or, in this case, limit itself to the repeal of the CAA and stop the National Registry of Population and the National Registry of Citizens.
The three objectives are connected but different and involve different methods and strategies. If the purpose is to preserve the secular and liberal bases of our country, then attempts should be made to convert much more public opinion in favor of secularism and pluralism. It will be necessary to incorporate democratic customs into our society so that exclusive and authoritarian forces cannot use democratic processes to come to power.
Overthrowing the BJP requires something more tactical and short-term, where provisional normative victories can be subsumed in favor of electoral victory.
The last option is important, but perhaps you can find greater political traction by changing the approach of religion (CAA) to the broader exclusion of citizenship documentation (NRC) process of the general population.
The second open question is about the methods: the protests are an affirmation of the strength of those who are already on our side in the debate, but it is not clear that the current balance of power leans favorably towards the protesters. Clarity is required on the methods to change this balance of power. Protesters have to decide how they want to participate in the political process. The protests are democratic and constitutional, and for the average citizens, who may have felt besieged, they empower. At the same time, normative certainty, detached from political results, can lead to alienation from the democratic process itself. Ultimately, in a democracy, in order to maintain normative victories it is also necessary to commit to institutional processes.
Ruchi Gupta is joint secretary of the Congress Committee of all India.
The opinions expressed are personal.