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India Stands at a crossroads

This needs your attention.

My parents are worried sick.

They are convinced that my social media posts are an imminent threat to my safety and theirs. I know my silence is a threat to my conscience and my country.

The irony is that I even don’t live in India. Yet the fear of social media vigilantism, government watchdogs is just as real.

We are now officially a country that doesn’t tolerate dissent of any form.

When did this happen? Hard to say without mentioning the right-wing government which is currently in power- Bhartiya Janta Party or the BJP, led by our prime minister, Narendra Modi.

You may have come across the TIME magazine article calling Modi ‘India’s divider in Chief’. This article came out in May 2019. BJP was re-elected to a second term, now until 2024.


The article points to “religious nationalism, anti-Muslim sentiment, and deep-seated caste bigotry” as reasons for Modi to come to power.

Every word of this is like a bitter pill and a prophecy, the extent of which unfolds day by day in front of our eyes.

At first, it started with cow vigilantism -basically lynching people OVER THEIR CHOICE OF MEAT — Watch The Guardian documentary on the subjectThis Vox article says it right “Indian Muslims are killed over cows.” Truth.

But this was STILL far removed. Now, it is a full-fledged attack on democracy. Students across universities in the country are now a target — including the well known Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)and Jamia Univerisity in the capital, Aligarh Muslim University, to name a few attacks in the recent past.

On 15.12.2019 — the Delhi police fired tear gas inside the Jamia University library. Students were gravely injured. Protests erupted across the nation.

The demands of the students?

Rollback Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register for Citizens. (NRC). The Implementation of CAA +NRC can lead to witch-hunting Muslims who are not able to prove themselves as citizens of India. It has already begun via detention camps in the Eastern state of Assam. Death tolls in the Assam detention camp so far — 29, as on 4th January 2020.

On 22.12.2019, our PM calmly denied the existence of these camps in his speech addressing the capital, while protests in Assam continues to rage. Several lives are lost. National and international media have reported it widely. Here’s an Aljazeera Report on these camps. And he officially contradicted the Home Minister- Amit Shah, who gloated about removing “infiltrators” from the country.

On 5.01.2020, a group of goons barged in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) to beat up students and teachers. These goons were identified as ABVP members, the youth wing of BJP, and that evening there was of a mob of about 50–80 people armed with rods (allegedly even Acid).

Yet the popular word around has been left-wing students initiated violence on themselves to get their demands against the Vice-Chancellor and the proposed fee-hike. JNU has given India and the world, Nobel Laureates, state heads, political leaders world-class academicians. Yet, it continues to be scrutinized as if it harbors criminals, while criminals confessing torturing the Kashmiri Youth, go scot-free.


But there is a silver lining to this mass spread hysteria after all. The youth of the country is uniting like never before, as are women and men who believe that a robust pro-democracy message is the need of the hour.

India is above all a secular democracy.

Several pockets of resistance have sprung up. A popular one amongst all is Shaheen Bagh — a colony in the capital mobilized by women, mostly Muslim women who have been protesting there for over a month.

Read about Shaheen Bagh here

Women leading the protest in Shaheen Bagh Picture Courtesy Aljazeera

Joining them in camaraderie are artists, people from all walks of life, students, youth, men, and women from civil society, older women and men, and even children.

The movement is beautiful. Soulful and, to be honest, a breather to my cynicism. There was a time when, as a youth of my country, I believed that nothing could shake Indians out of our stupor. We are accustomed to so much worse — I won’t go into it.

Picture of a protestor in Delhi, PC textbubble

But today, I am delighted to be proven wrong. I am delighted to be crying tears on behalf of my country. I am delighted that we are now reading the constitution. Not just reading it out loud but also singing songs of resistance based on our constitution’s preamble — We the people of India having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens…to the Constitution of IndiaThe preamble to the Constitution of India is a brief introductory statement that sets out guidelines, which guide the…en.wikipedia.org


Incidentally, after calling Modi ‘India’s divider in chief’, The Time magazine did another article — Modi Unites India like No Prime Minister in decades

Ironically, this as well seems to be coming true. Some of us have genuinely united in action and in spirit to feel our Indianess- as we strive to defend our constitution and the secular fabric of our country.

For instance, as I write this article, I know millions like me are now profoundly conflicted by the inaction of middle-class India. Many of our elders fear to take a stand — publically or even broach politics on the dinner table. Things are polarised much more than ever. People are filtering Facebook friends based on their stance on CAA, NRC, the current right-wing government- daily. Intolerance abounds at large. As does fear.

But amidst this atmosphere of fear, there is a glimmer of hope. And, I know it because, for the first time, I see it taking shape in the form of people taking to the streets. This is unprecedented — at least in my lifespan of thirty-one years.

Moreover, as my country changes, I feel a deep shift inside me.

Many of us are waking up with chants and songs of Azaadi- Urdu/Hindi word, which means Freedom. I would have never believed this before, but now I know that I am patriotic. And I know, I am a proud Indian, the one who will defend her country and what it stands for.

Lastly, social media is simply a tool, a vehicle of the message of dissent. That our social media is so heavily monitored (many anti-government posts are now getting automatically declined on Facebook) — is an excellent way for us to express our dissent.

After all, that is what a democracy is for, no?

Tolerance of dissent.

PS. Sorry, mom, the social media posts won’t stop.

India Resists through art

The re-election of the rightwing, populist party, BJP in May 2019 and it’s pro-Hindutva agenda has been a nightmare for many secular Indians. The situation hit another low as students and universities came under fundamentalist attacks in December 2019 in the capital, Delhi.

Aishee Ghosh– the JNU student president painted on the wall of Jamia after the attack on JNU on 5.01.2020. PC- Facebook Post @OrijitSen

The current political situation in India has forced an average Indian youth to sit-up and take notice. Many are feeling helpless, angry, and disillusioned. Many of us find comfort in creating a community through peaceful protest on the streets, expressing ourselves in safe circles, and even through social media exchanges of similar ideologies.

Today we challenged and dejected, but also charged for creating a conversation and taking a stand- creatively.

Paintings now mark the walls of Jamia Milia Islamia- a university that was attacked on 15.12.2019. Shaheen Bagh an area marked with thousands of sit-in protestors in the capital is dotted with art and installations. The common theme? Anti Citizenship Amendment Act (2019) and the National Register of Citizens (CAA and NRC).

Here are some examples of art made by young professionals devoting their time to create anti CAA and NRC resistance.

Art by Anirban Ghosh. Instagram @Anirban_Ghosh

Common to these artworks is an unbroken thread of secularism that the current government under PM Narendra Modi is trying to undermine.

Art By @amoebak.de

The one below particularly moved me as it brings together the Hindu Goddess Saraswati and Urdu writing.

In this quest to create, no topic is off the table, including Censorship of the Government or Caste.

Picture of the Bhim Army and Dalit leader Chandrashekhar Azad, who is now an icon against Castetist, fundamentalist government.

What better way declare your dissent than making a mark with colors and visuals?

Many of these artists are active on Instagram. Follow them for more inspiration. Here’s a handle that has art collated from various artists against CAA and NRC. Find @creativesagainstcaa on Instagram for more. Bonus — For posters content or to make a contribution check the KadakCollective website here

Humour has also come as a reprieve in these dark times, as the movement has seen the rise of hilarious memes and Giphys. More on that soon! For questions and comments write to priya@sahiyo.com. I am friendly and try not to bite.