The promulgation of the Citizenship Amendment Act and the proposed implementation of the NRC have resulted in massive protests across India. The country has never witnessed such a widespread and sustained resistance against the government in recent years.
Despite increased violent crackdowns by the police on peaceful protests, continuous internet shutdowns and a large number of detentions, there is a change emerging in the future of politics in India.
The acts of defiance and dissent against the government are not the result of opposition parties organizing large groups of people. Across the spectrum, there is something more than traditional party politics that is connecting people all over the country. This has primarily emerged due to the concerted efforts of women and the youth.
It is truly laudable how students and women have emerged as leaders within this movement. Thousands of people have continued to come out on the streets and reclaim public space despite the fear of State-sanctioned violence.
The Citizenship Act has been one of the major implementations that the BJP promised to bring into effect during the recent elections. It is closely related to its agenda of eventually declaring India as the natural home for all Hindus.
The Act along with the National Register for Citizens has grave consequences for families that belong to poorer socio-economic backgrounds. In addition to religion being a criterion for citizenship by the CAA, the NRC requires precise documentation of one’s life to show that a person has ties to the country.
However, women in India have long been denied access to the documents that are required to prove citizenship. Poorly kept birth certificates in rural parts of India, lack of marriage registrations in many cases, women lacking possession of immovable property in their names and the patriarchal nature of society are only some among the many reasons that women are adversely and unfairly affected by the new law.
Despite these apparent flaws in the law, there have been plans of continuing the implementation of the NRC. New detention centres have been built across the country and the Government is continuing to impose draconian policies to control massive opposition. Prominent activists who are a part of the opposition movement such as Akhil Gogoi in Assam and Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekar Azad have been detained and jailed.
In the wake of these ‘anti-national’ (as ever so overused by the national media) protests, the judiciary’s response to the situation at hand has been lukewarm. Courts in India have often had the tendency to defer to the Executive when faced with a powerful Government.
The Supreme Court has consistently refused to hear petitions regarding the Act and the state-sponsored violence in JNU, Jamia and Aligarh Muslim University. While the Delhi High Court postponed hearings related to the violence against the student protesters in public universities, the Guwahati High Court allowed a petition seeking to restore internet connectivity within the state.
However, the knee-jerk reactions of the State to peaceful student-led protests are indicative of how strong the voices of dissent are and how fearful the BJP is of the same. In light of the economy weakening, unemployment rates rising and a general discontent fostered by the youth against the authoritarian government, protesters continue to swell the streets. Lack of any institutional support from every quarter of the country has not deterred the movement. Despite the hard times ahead, the youth and women are thinking and dreaming of a newer order within the country that is hinged on a deeper understanding of community and love.
Views expressed are solely those of the author.
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About the Author
Akruti Chandrayya, completed her degree in BA LLB. (Hons.) at Jindal Global Law School and is now currently pursuing her Masters in Public Interest Law and Policy at University of California - Los Angeles. Her areas of interest include juvenile justice, labor law, immigration law and feminist legal literature.