Peoples' Unity Will Force Central Govt. To Withdraw Hostile CAA, Asserts Jamaat Vice-President Engineer Mohammed Salim
Syed Khalique Ahmed
NEW DELHI, FEBRUARY 10—The protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) that began from Shaheen Bagh in South Delhi 55 days ago, has inspired people all over the country. It has now become a powerful nationwide resistance movement of a scale not seen after the country achieved Independence from Britishers in 1947, with people at more than 150 places across the nation sitting on round the clock ‘dharna’ demanding repeal of the hostile CAA and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) that combined together make a very dangerous and explosive formula for hatred and division among the communities in India. Engineer Mohammed Salim, vice-president of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH), in an interview to Syed Khalique Ahmed, Chief Editor of India Tomorrow, observes that the Shaheen Bagh movement has united Indians of all hues and colour the same way they were united during the anti-British movement in the country. The people, he says, are united against CAA because the new law is against India’s Constitutional values and the very idea of India. He is hopeful that the unity of the people will force the BJP government at the Centre to withdraw the divisive CAA the same way the people’s unity drove the mighty Britishers out of India in 1947. However, he cautions people to remain peaceful and avoid violence even under grave provocations as was done by people during the freedom movement.
Here goes an excerpt of a lengthy interview.
Question: What is your comment on the anti-CAA protest that began from Shaheen Bagh and has now spread all over the country?
Answer: CAA was passed with an objective to divide people, particularly, to isolate Muslims from the rest of the Indian society and reduce them to the status of an outcast, with an intention to reap political benefits. But people have understood the game of BJP during its rule at the Centre in the last six years. They are no longer influenced by the policies of the BJP government. They feel that the divisive law has been brought to hide the all-round failures of its government and divert the attention of people from real issues of unemployment, economic crisis, industrial recession and rising inflation in the country. The CAA has, in fact, polarized the people against BJP itself. The Shaheen Bagh movement that has symbolized peaceful, united resistance against the BJP government’s fascist policies has shown a new direction to the entire nation, the path of unity and communal harmony for a just cause. When the BJP used CAA as its ‘brahmastra’ (a weapon to which there is no defence) with an aim to divide the people on extreme religious lines, the people belonging to different faiths stood with the women protesters of Shaheen Bagh to prove that no weapon can divide the Indian nation. Hindus and people of other faiths from different parts of Delhi and regions of India have been daily coming to Shaheen Bagh since the protest began, in a show of solidarity with them and with the cause for which they are fighting. A large number of Sikhs, men and women, came in buses from Bhatinda in Punjab, more than 300 kms away from Delhi, in this chilling winter and not only took part in the protest for several days but also arranged ‘langar” (community meal) for all those sitting at the protest site. In a sense, Shaheen Bagh has become a model of real Bharat, represented by people from various faiths, languages and region to face the threat to India’s Constitutional values from fascist policies of the BJP government as CAA was brought to promote BJP’s fascist agenda which is against the very soul and spirit of multi-cultural India. CAA strikes at the very foundation of Indian Constitution, taking country on the path of fascism and division, having potential to destroy India, India of the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Efforts are being made by BJP government at the Centre to take India on the wrong path, the path of hatred, the path of Godse. Against it is another path, the right or good path, the path of love, of communal harmony and brotherhood. And the people have to decide which path to travel on: the path of hatred or the path of love and harmony. But the Shaheen Bagh movement has shown that the people will not choose the path of hatred and division but the path of love, harmony and brotherhood. Today, they stand united the same way they did to attain freedom from mighty British. The same thing is visible in India today. People all over the country from different faiths have supported Shaheen Bagh, a visible symbol of resistance to BJP’s fascist policies, policy of hatred and division.
Question: Anti-CAA protest and resistance to BJP’s divisive and fascist policies emerged spontaneously after passage of the amended citizenship law. It is not directionless but certainly leaderless. Protesters at no place in the country are giving leading role to any political party or any particular leader in the protest movement. What do you have to say on it?
Answer: It is a natural movement. This shows that people in general have lost faith in political parties, leaders and the government and that is why they have themselves come out openly to fight for their rights in which there is no leader and no follower. If you analyse the situation properly, you will find that all political parties and leaders appear to be much dwarf before the people. In fact, people are not behind leaders. It is leaders who are going behind people. Shaheen Bagh has completely changed the political scene and discourse in the country. This is another positive political development of the Shaheen Bagh protest movement in the country.
One will be surprised to know that people from four generations-mother, daughter, grand-daughter, great-grand-daughter in a row are taking part in the protest. Youth, women, student and children, without any leadership, are all participating in the protest in the coldest winter of the century, by giving up the comfort of their homes. When people feel extreme cold inside their homes, women with their children are sitting under a makeshift tents on the road. A four month old daughter of a woman sitting daily in the protest died a few days ago due to cold. This shows the seriousness of these women protesters against a law that is intended to snatch the citizenship of a large mass of Indian population; poor, dalit, adivasis, minorities, landless people, agriculture workers and push them into detention centres by confiscating all their assets and properties and they will have to live in the detention centres till they die.
Question: Prime Minister Narendra Modi says that those who are protesting against CAA are misguided by opposition political parties. CAA protesters are also being dubbed as “anti-nationals”.
Answer: Dubbing women protesters as misguided is an insult to Indian womanhood. Women played a very important role in India’s freedom movement. They stood shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. Were freedom fighter women misguided? Like the women freedom fighters who inspired and helped in freedom movement and shaping the Independent India, the women protesters at more than 150 places all over the country inspired by the Shaheen Bagh movement have shown courage how to build a better India where the rights of all are protected, irrespective of caste, creed, religion, language and region. From their statements to the media and from their speeches, they appear to be politically highly mature and well-disciplined. They are also highly educated and articulate. They have shown they are highly talented and have the guts to talk at an equal level with anyone, be it media or the high level government functionaries. These women are completely determined, having the spirit of sacrifice. In response to divisive slogans and speeches of BJP leaders, they are talking of unity of people. They are avoiding violence despite grave provocation. Women protesters were attacked in Lucknow, Azamgarh and some other places but they remained totally peaceful. Efforts were also made to polarize communities through hate speeches and slogans by BJP leaders and Central ministers during the run-up to Delhi assembly elections. Two incidents of firing at Jamia Millia Islamia and one incident of firing at Shaheen Bagh were orchestrated to provoke protesters to violence. The ruling party at the Centre has crossed all limits. But the way our women have conducted themselves in such a grave situation, is a guide to the entire country. This is because Islam teaches us to behave with good conduct. These women deserve high appreciation.
Question: What is your suggestion to anti-CAA protesters because the government does not seem to be relenting as of now and the fight must get to be a prolonged one?
Answer: My only suggestion to them is to remain peaceful and not to take to violence under any circumstances. Violence will weaken our fight and defeat our purpose. But I am very happy that protests all over the country have been very peaceful. This shows the maturity of protesters, our women. Wherever any violence has taken place, it was not done by protesters, be it Jamia in Delhi or Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh.
Question: What is your reading from the current situation? Do you think that the government will relent and take back the law?
Answer: I am sure that the government would surrender before the people and repeal the anti-people law. The people will certainly win.
Question: What will happen if the government refuses to withdraw the CAA?
Answer: There is no question of government not rescinding the law. I am fully hopeful that the good sense would ultimately prevail on the government and it will abrogate the law which is against the Constitution, humanity and the very idea of India. If the government delays in overturning the law, the protest would widen further and more and more people all over the country would join themselves in the protest, creating a very difficult situation for the country already in a serious economic crisis. I pray to Almighty that the government revokes this derogatory and hostile law as early as possible.