Kabeer Katlat

Kabeer Katlat

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Word ‘anti-National’ has been more in vogue form last few years. Simply put all those who are criticizing the RSS and its progeny are labeled as anti-National. As fountainhead of Hindu Nationalism RSS is becoming stronger, it has been trying to link patriotism and religion. While hailing Hindus for their loyalty to this nation, the subtle hints are being circulated about Muslims in particular that they are more loyal to Pakistan.

In cleverly worded articulation, (Hindustan Times, Jan 02, 2020) the chief of RSS, Mohan Bhagwat said that Hindus are patriotic by nature due to their religion.  He also twists a sentence of Gandhi to state that Gandhi’s patriotism had its origin in Hindu religion, “All Indians worship motherland. But Gandhi said my patriotism comes from my religion. So if you are a Hindu then you will be an automatic patriot. You may be an unconscious Hindu, you may need awakening, but a Hindu will never be anti-India.”

Before analyzing the subtle hints hidden in this formulation let’s understand that when RSS began, its major ideologue M.S. Golwalkar was forthright in praising the Nazis and recommended the treatment for Muslims and Christians (Foreign religions, according to RSS) on the lines which were used by Nazis for Jews. Now from last few decades as RSS is becoming more powerful through it multiple organizations like BJP, VHP, ABVP, Vanvasis Kalyan Ashram, and through its infiltration into different wings of state, media and education, it is using more subtle language, while communicating the same  Hindu nationalist ideology. The meaning and content remains the same, which Golwalkar had outlined in ‘We or Our Nationhood Defined’, but the presentation is well decorated, subtle to the extent of confusing many in the society.

As far as Gandhi is concerned, for him religion was a personal matter. He did call himself as sanatani Hindu, but his Hinduism was liberal and inclusive. His religion had more to do with moral values. He derived his spiritual strength from all the religions, “I consider myself as good a Muslim as I am a Hindu and for that matter, I regard myself as equally good a Christian or a Parsi”. (Harijan, May 25 197, page 164).

There is respect and inclusivity for people of other religions in his practice of Hinduism. This is in total contrast to exclusivist, narrow understanding and practice of Hinduism of RSS, which is continuously raking up issues to frighten and intimidate people of other religions.  As Gandhi’s practice of his religion was liberal and inclusive he could lead the people of different religions in the struggle against British rule.

He also did not connect up religion and nationality or for that matter to patriotism. In that sense patriotism, love for one’s country and countrymen, is not rooted in the religion but in the ‘Nationhood’ which is not an outcome of religion for that matter. His use of word religion has two levels. One is the popular notion of customs, identity, faith etc. and second the morality inherent in the teachings of religion. Though he is very clear that morality is the core of religions, the likes of RSS or for that matter even the Muslim communalists (Muslim League etc.) take his use of the word purely at the level of rituals, holy places etc. only.

The ideologues, who are a part of Hindu nationalist outlook, close to RSS mindset, are burning the midnight oil to dig fragments of sentences, not only from Gandhi and other national icons to present as if the values of these makers of ‘India as a nation’ had ideas similar to that of RSS. In the process they retain the RSS ideology while trying to get more legitimacy by showing their similarity to the great icons of India’s freedom movement and the process of ‘India as a nation in the making’.

So now the formulation is that Hindus are naturally patriots, they can’t be anti national. The other side of this is that the nationalism and patriotism of those belonging to other religions is suspect, subject to certification by those who have a monopoly of being patriots and nationalists, those claiming to represent Hindus.

This totally bypasses the great contributions of Muslims and Christians in making of modern India. Where do you place the millions of Muslims who followed Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad who stood not only against British rule but also against the concept of partition of India? Where do you place the likes of Shibli Nomani, Hasrat Mohani, and Ashfaqullah Khan? How do you value the contribution of Allahbaksh who was instrumental in organizing the conference of Muslims to oppose the resolution for separate Pakistan by Mohammad Ali Jinnah? There were innumerable organizations formed by Muslims who rubbed shoulders with participants in the struggle for freedom movement.

In Independent India people of all religions have contributed with equal zeal in making of modern India, in all the fields of industry, education, sports, culture and what have you. Are they not patriots or nationalists?

On the other side this formulation of Mr. Bhagwat is a clever defense of the one trained in its shakhas who murdered Gandhi, Nathuram Godse. How do we label those who participated and led in demolition of Babri Mosque, which was called as a crime by the Supreme Court? As per Bhagwat do acts of killing of Gandhi, Kalburgi, Dabholkar, Gauri Lankesh and Govind Pansare fall in the category of patriotic acts? Where do so many Hindus involved in spying, smuggling, black marketing etc. are to be placed?

Interestingly as RSS is making a show of paying respect to Gandhi, at the same time its trained pracharaks and fellow ideologues and many of its affiliated organizations are openly paying respect to Nathuram Godse. This Gandhi anniversary tweets praising Godse were aplenty, mostly from Hindus. That just shows the ideological manipulation capability of the multithreaded hydra, RSS. Only such an organization can simultaneously make the show of paying obeisance to Gandhi while quietly enhancing the ideology which led to his murder. n


The state of UP is in the grips of the draconian law called Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020. This ordinance is essentially based on the conspiracy theory of the Hindu nationalists that Hindu women are seduced or lured by Muslim men in order to covert them to Islam under the pretext of marriage. While the claim is not supported by even a shred of evidence in terms of official data about such conversions, the UP government has been relentless in its propagation of falsehood. The ordinance attracts imprisonment of upto 10 years and is a non-bailable offence. Under the ordinance, any inter-faith couple has to apply to the District Magistrate two months prior to marriage in case the woman wants to convert before the wedding. This ordinance is draconian because ever since it came into effect from 28th November, 2020, it is used as a weapon to target Muslim men and their families and the Hindu women who have exercised their agency and fundamental right to marry out of their own choice. Thus, that apart from being primarily anti-Muslim, this law is detrimental to the agency of women in general is a mute point.

The UP government has sufficiently demonstrated that this law is used arbitrarily to violate the fundamental rights of inter-faith couples. 11 cases have been made out under this law up to 21st December and 34 persons arrested so far- all telling a tale of discrimination, misery of ordinary citizens who dared to live and love on their own terms and blatant acts which undermine constitutional values (The Wire, 2020). Marriages between consenting adults have been stopped, couples separated and one such victim even lost her unborn child to this politics of hatred. Let us go through some of these cases to understand how this law is implemented and affected the lives of the couples which fall prey to it. These cases are compiled from different media reports that appeared in newspapers and alternate media.

Stopping Marriages Between Consenting Adults

The Uttar Pradesh police, on December 2, stopped a wedding between a 24-year-old Muslim man and a 22-year-old Hindu woman in Lucknow’s Duda Colony. The ceremony was to be solemnised as per Hindu rituals and had the consent of both families. The police, who were acting on a complaint by a vigilante group, Rashtriya Yuva Vahini asked the couple to seek the district magistrate’s nod for their marriage. The couple didn’t intend to convert. The mother of the woman said, “It is no one’s business whom my daughter gets married to. We have lived in a mixed colony all our lives and have been friends with Muslims. Then, why can’t my daughter get married to a Muslim? He does not want her to convert either… I don’t know who complained to the police or if they acted on their own”. (Rehman, 2020)”

In another incident, on receiving a phone call that a Muslim man was marrying a Hindu woman after converting her, police stopped a marriage in Kushinagar and questioned the groom and the bride, both Muslims. The allegation turned out to be false and the couple got married the next day. The man, 39-year-old Haider Ali, has alleged that the police personnel beat him up with a leather belt and tortured him for hours at the Kasya Police Station.

On Tuesday afternoon, Shabeela and I got married. After the ceremony, a small party was on when a police team arrived and said there had been no nikaah. They wouldn’t listen to anything and took us to the police station around 7.30 pm. There they let the cleric go after he changed his statement and said the nikaah wasn’t final yet”, said Ali. While the watchman of Ali’s village Gurmiya in Kushinagar, Mushtaqeem Ali, admitted making the call on a tip-off by some Hindu youths, a local social activist who facilitated the wedding, Arman Khan, claimed a few Hindu Yuva Vahini members had “interrogated” the couple before the police arrived (Mishra, 2020).

Applying the Law in Retrospect

Any law is applied to the crimes which take place after the law comes into effect. A law can’t be applicable to the incidents that took place before the law came into force. Such application is against the spirit of law and justice. However, in the case of this ordinance, it is observed that the ordinance was applied to the marriages that took place even before the ordinance came into effect.

On 5th December, the police arrested seven persons under the anti-conversion law in Sitapur for allegedly abducting a 19-year-old woman. However, the case was filed on 26th November, two days after the alleged crime and two days before the law was notified, on a complaint by the girl’s father. On November 26th, the woman’s father got an FIR registered against seven people, including his neighbour Jibrail, on the charge of kidnapping his daughter. Citing some local residents, the father told the police that she had been converted to Islam (Sahu, 2020).

In the infamous Moradabad incident, 22 years old Rashid and his 25 years old brother, Saleem were arrested and released only after two weeks when Rashid’s wife, Pinki gave testimony that she had married him willingly without any force. Rashid and Pinki were on their way to have their marriage registered on December 5 when they were accosted by alleged Bajrang Dal men, who accused Rashid of “love jihad”, and took them to the police. Saleem was with them at the time. While Rashid and Saleem were arrested, Pinki was sent to a shelter home. Pinki repeatedly told the media, the police and the court that she had married Rashid willingly and wanted to live with Rashid family. Ironically, the couple had got married in July, well before the law came into force but were only registering their marriage in December. They were apprehended by Bajrang Dal vigilantes. The vigilantes brought Pinki’s family to the police station. While the police remained mute spectators, the vigilantes harassed the couple and questioned them. Pinki suffered a miscarriage in this incident. Rashid reported, “I told the Bajrang Dal men my wife is pregnant, but they hurled abuses at us. They dragged us to a police station and called my in-laws. We were then locked up and sent to a quarantine centre. I wasn’t able to meet my wife.” (Rehman & Sinha, The Indian Express, 2020).

Witch-hunting of the Muslims

In Etah, the UP police have booked Mohammad Javed and his entire family of 11 members including three women. Javed’s wife was a Hindu and had converted over a month back and married Javed. The FIR was based on the complaint filed by the father of the woman who received a letter from Javed’s lawyer informing him their marriage and the wife’s conversion. Six family members of Javed have been arrested and five are “absconding”. A reward of INR 25,000 has been announced on each of the 5 accused (Lavania, 2020).

This law has the potential to be misused to implicate Muslim youth under questionable circumstances or for vested interests.

In a separate incident, the superintendent of police in Shahjahanpur said that a Muslim youth identified as Mohammad Saeed, was arrested on charges of allegedly sexually exploiting a woman after concealing his religion. The police said that the man, who was booked for rape and extortion, was also accused of taking intimate pictures of the woman and blackmailing her. In addition to forcing her to give him money, he had recently also started threatening her to marry him by forcibly trying to convert her, the police said. Vishwa Hindu Parishad office bearer Rajesh Awasthi went to the police station along with the woman to lodge a complaint against 12 people, including the qazi who solemnised the marriage, police said.

In Kannuaj too, a case was registered against a Muslim man for marrying a Hindu girl allegedly through a fraudulent Hindu identity. A complaint was registered after a man alleged that his daughter was married through fraud using a fake name. A group of BJP leaders reportedly also accompanied the complainant to the police station and assured to help the father (The Wire, 2020).

Blatant Discrimination

The UP police are seen to be implementing the law selectively. In Bareilly, police did not entertain the complaint of a father that his daughter had married a Hindu man after conversion. Police said they went by the woman’s testimony that she got married in September before the law came into force. Here in contrast to the Moradabad incident where the husband, Rashid was Muslim, in Bareilly, the husband was a Hindu. Thus the police didn’t press charges whereas in the Moradabad case, Rashid and his brother Saleem were arrested. Shahid Mian, the father of 22-year-old Alisha, lodged an FIR at Prem Nagar police station in Bareilly stating that his daughter had been kidnapped by three persons, including the owner of a firm where she had worked. Besides Siddharth Saxena alias Aman (24), who married Alisha, the FIR named his sister Chanchal, who was her colleague at a private firm, and the firm’s owner Manoj Kumar Saxena. In the FIR, the father claimed that on December 1st, his daughter left home “to collect pending dues from her office” and did not return. Finding her phone switched off, Mian said, he went to the office and met Saxena who did not provide any information. Mian claimed that Aman used to pressure his daughter for marriage, which led to her stop going to work. He accused Manoj Kumar and Anchal of putting pressure on Alisha to marry Aman. While in Bareilly, the policemen dropped Alisha back at Saxena’s house, in the case of Moradabad, Pinki was sent in a remand home where she suffered a miscarriage (Sahu, Indian Express, 2020).

Nexus Between Police and Vigilantes

In most of the cases, the role of the Hindu nationalists and vigilantes is very prominent. They are giving tip offs to the families or police or fearlessly apprehending the couples as seen in the above cases. They are also in some cases instigating the parents of the Hindu women or even forcing them to lodge complaints against the Muslim family. What is appalling but predictable is that the police have given the vigilantes a free hand to intimidate the couples and the families with complete impunity. While the vigilantes openly indulge in violence against the couples in the presence of the police, the police remain mute spectators leaving the couples at the mercy of the vigilantes. This is an alarming precedent or trend given that the police are vested with the duty to maintain law and order and protect innocent citizens. But in this case, it is operating hand in gloves with the ruling dispensation and the non-state actors enjoying political patronage.


The anti-conversion ordinance is a beating stick in the hands of the ruling dispensation in Uttar Pradesh to target the Muslims and women who dare to exercise their agency. While the various high courts have ruled that choosing one’s life partner is a fundamental right guaranteed under the constitution, the state of UP is relentless in destroying constitutional propriety. The vigilantes are powerful in intimidating the innocent couples. Other BJP ruled states are bringing in similar laws which are institutionalizing discrimination and violation of fundamental rights including freedom of religion and right to life.

(Secular Perspective December 16-31, 2020)


The workers’ issues are widely discussed in India before many years. , we are not noticing the widespread unrest among the workers for their rights and needs. This does not mean that the workers are getting their wages and are assured of their rights. But in contradiction, the exploitation is increasing day by day. It is due to the overexploitation and coercion going on in the industries that prevents the voices of the workers frombeing  heard outside. But these issues are getting unnoticed by the people.

Even in the year of 2021, when the modernization is claimed to have reached its zenith, the workers and women are getting exploited and abused in factories. Recently, we were able to notice the arrest of NodeepKaur, a workers’ activist charging non-cognizable offence. She was sent to judicial custody for 14 days. That is why, we, the members of AIRSO and AIRWO, headed for a fact study of the issue to recognize the rights violations that occurred in the issue.

We are acknowledging the efforts of NCHRO in creating a fact-finding report, which helped us to get a lot of information. It also served as a source of reference.

Background of Kundli

Kundli is an industrial block of Sonepat, Haryana, in which, there are more than 2 lakh workers, who are working in almost 1,800 industries. These industries produce a wide variety of products ranging from food products to steel. It is a site of Haryana from which, a lot of export takes place. Most of the workers in Kundli Industrial Area are migrant laborers from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha. Most of those migrant laborers are from minority communities or from dalits and backward communities.

During this COVID-19 period, the closure of these industries led to a mass movement of workers back to their hometowns and villages. It was a condition of mass unemployment for these workers. But after some months, when the industries opened most of them came back and started working.

We have already seen the background from which workers come. They are really poor and landless in their homelands. The caste and class barriers forced them to migrate to find a good living. Beyond the unjust wages, they also face health problems, working in the industry. Due to lack of rest intervals and long working hours, many of the workers have problem in vision. There are a lot of women too, who are unduly treated and discriminated in the industry. They are also not provided a hygienic living environment. They are paid less wages and are forced to work for hours than others. Even they were abused, sexually and mentally by the company management.

Their wages are lower than 6,000/ month even though the minimum wages fixed by Haryana state is 9,458/ month (as on 01/07/2020) for the unskilled laborers. Even they don’t receive there is a huge delay in the payment of the wages. These issues occur on a regular basis in the industrial area.

The workers are not allowed to form unions by the management and owners. They try their maximum to stop any kind of unionization. There is an organization of the owners and managers, namely, KIA (Kundli Industrial Association), which acts as a barrier for them to form unions. This organization is registered under HSDIIC for maintaining the issues of the factory workers. They proclaim themselves to be one of the most progressive industrial associations. But the reality is different. When they use security team/bouncers for suppressing any kind of struggle in the industry, the workers find themselves in a situation of insecurity. Even before a year, there was an allegation that the response of the team, when contacted for any problem resolution is really bad. They mistreat the people who contact them for resolving issues. KIA has a Quick Response Team (QRT), which responds to the stress calls made by the company management. A report from Groundxero says “The sole purpose of the QRT is to intimidate workers and quash any attempts at building unions, a constitutionally guaranteed right of every worker, through brute force and violence.”

In this situation, Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan that was established in 2016 strives to unite the workers in Kundli for their rights. MAS was active from 2018. This is the base of the class relations between the workers and the owners and management in the Kundli industrial area.

Struggle for Due Wages and Suppression

The struggle for getting the unpaid wages to be paid began a month ago. They didn’t go for protest, in the beginning. But later, they started organizing and striking for their wages. It was done in a peaceful manner. Till date, a sum total of 5 lakh rupees were given to 250 workers as a result of their continuous struggle. But it was not sufficient for all. They went on with their struggle. The QRT reacted to this issue. On 22nd December, 2020, the workers organized under the leadership of MAS and protested at a steel factory. That day, the bouncers came to suppress the struggle. But they failed due to the support from the struggling farmers. The MAS sent letters to the company regularly on their wage issue and also demanded their wages to be paid. At that time only, the company paid them the above mentioned 5 lakh rupees.

On 28th December, 2020, the bouncers from QRT attacked the workers, who marched for their wages. They abused the workers who took part in the march. Later, on 12th January, 2021, a fight took place between the QRT members and the workers at Company Address, M/S Elc mech Pvt. Ltd. Plot N0.349 PH-4, Sector-57 HSIDC, KUNDLI. There was gunfire by the QRT bouncers against the workers. The KIA argues that the QRT members fired in self defence against the sticks and lathis used against them. The FIR is silent about this fact. The police, without enquiring about these matters, charged Section 148, i.e., Rioting with deadly weapon against NodeepKaur, who was a leader of the protest. The FIR states that, on 12th January, 2021, 11:00AM, the workers peeped into the factory and demanded wages. The accountant, Mr. LalitKhurana stated that they were taken away from the factory by the guards. They called the police and the police came immediately. As per the FIRs, there were around 50 people, of which, 2-3 women also were present. The report also says that the workers also injured the police. But the FIR is silent about the people who got injured.

Reading the FIR, what we felt was that it was just one-sided. It doesn’t account the arguments or allegations of any of the workers’ representatives. The wokers lament fully says that NodeepKaur was forcefully taken away from the mass that got dispersed to save themselves from the police violence. She was presented before the magistrate and was remanded for 14 days. She was charged Sections 148(Rioting with deadly weapons), 149 (Unlawful Assembly), 186 (Obstructing Public Servant), 307 (Attempt to Murder), 323 (Voluntarily Causing Hurt), 332, 353(Assault on Public Servant), 379B (Theft), 384 (Extortion), 452(House Trespass), 506(Criminal Intimidation).

It is really shocking that Nodeepkaur is facing violence in the jail. As per the statement of RajveerKaur, Nodeep’s elder sister, given to us, Nodeep’s shoulders were injured, blood was coming from her feet and also there is suspicion that she was sexually assaulted. Even the FIRs of this case are not published in the website. These issues pose a big challenge to the common people in accessing these resources.

That is why we went to the police station on 22nd January, 2021, 3:07PM and enquired about the issue. There were three people, of which, two were in police uniform and one was in civil dress. We went to get detailed information on the issue. We demanded to talk with SHO but they refused. With the two policemen, we spoke the matters, but in between, the man in civil dress, spontaneously, jumped towards our team member, Mr. ShishuRanjan and suddenly, rebuked him and told him to leave. Even he was to apply force. That time, our team member, Mrs. Urmila stood in between and he stopped his attempt. We were not given any information on this and were asked to go.

We took the SHO’s mobile number and called him. He was busy and told us to call later. Then we tried many times, but there was no response. Then we talked with the workers at Kundli. They told us that, we could not rescue our leader from getting arrested.

The Payment of wages Act of Haryana govt. is inadequate in protecting these workers. There is law to protect only the workers who are paid under Rs. 1600 per month. The law provides that all the wages should be paid within a week after the expiry of the period. Therefore, the erroneous laws are also to be changed so that the workers’ justice can be ensured.

Conclusion and Demands

What we understand from this issue is that this is a reckless assault on womanhood, workers and entire humanity. That is why; we have to resist this move with full strength as soon as possible. These issues clearly reveal the corrupt and prejudiced nature of the Haryana Police. What happened in Kundli was a clear expression of misogynistic brutality. So we want all kinds of exploitation of workers and women to be ceased. Even the Supreme Court remarks on women in the farmers’ issue was also extremely patriarchic. The new amended labour codes are also exploitative. That is why; it is an urgent need to curb all kinds of assaults that take place against the workers and women. We are placing in front of you the following demands:

a         Release NodeepKaur and take back all the false charges against her immediately.

a         Take legal action against the members of KIA, who took part in the violence.

a         Immediately make adequate legislations for ensuring the workers’ rights.

a         Repeal all the anti-worker labour codes.

Members of the Team : ShishuRanjan, Member, AIRSO, New Delhi, Niranjan K S, Member, AIRSO, New Delhi,,Urmila, All India Vice President, AIRWO, Pramod Kumar, Member, AIRSO, Chhattisgarh

Last year, around this time, I was travelling to New Delhi. I had woken up to visuals of my university being completely vandalised and destroyed by men in khaki. These visuals replayed itself in my nightmares. It was December 15th and Jamia Millia Islamia had turned into a war-zone overnight. India saw the biggest movement it has witnessed in the recent times when the Indian Parliament passed the Constitutional Amendment Act on December 11, 2019. The protests initially erupted in Assam and West Bengal and later spread itself to minority universities of Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University. The state, through its little brainwashed, khaki puppets, responded in the most barbaric fashion— lathi charging and assault, tear gas shells, gunshots and what not. This brutal crackdown by the Delhi Police on University students further pushed the people of Jamia Nagar to erupt into the biggest movement India had seen since its “Independence”— the rise of Shaheen Bagh, with their women at the forefront.

One year later, on the anniversary of Shaheen Bagh and the Jamia movement, the national capital is witnessing another major protest against the proposed three anti-farmer bills, making it the largest protest in history of mankind, with over 25 million protestors and farmers replicating the Shaheen Bagh model, blocking major highways, bringing the capital city of Delhi into a standstill. These three laws, claimed by the government to be a historic gift for farmers, are aimed at sabotaging their decent livelihoods for the benefit of big corporates. “Just like how the big fish eat the small fish, big businesses will eat us up,” a farmer summed it up in simple words. The scenario of farmers is worsening year by year. The rate of farmers suicides, according to stats from 2017 and 2018, mention an average of 10 cases per day. They have become common in almost all the states but are only addressed by the power houses during convenient electioneering periods. The mass mobilisation of farmers, many of them Sikhs, from north Indian states of Punjab and Haryana, has been one of the most sustained citizen-driven protest movements against the all-powerful Bharatiya Janata Party until now.

During the brutal crackdown on the university students of Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University, not only were they beaten, abused and shot at, but were called “pimp, jihadi, mulla” and the like while being intimidated by the Delhi Police. Over 20 protestors lost their lives, most of them belonging to Uttar Pradesh. Several Muslim students were imprisoned under the draconian UAPA, including Sharjeel Imam, who is spending has spent over 330 days in jail, for having suggested holding a chakka jam at the Siliguri Corridor in order to get the government to listen to Assam. This was the same kind of chakka jam that the farmers are holding today as part of their protests at the border. Mainstream media unsurprisingly portrayed Sharjeel and other imprisoners as terrorists, Islamists and extremists, a behaviour whose genealogy can be traced back to a long time ago when the age-old islamophobia had started to gain momentum in the state. The anti-muslimness that exist in the Indian air can be seen from not just in the police, but also in how the general public respond to these movements or incidents. The protests only erupted from Muslim and other Bahujan ghettos, which were located in the periphery of the cities, and under no circumstances were they allowed (despite numerous attempts to pass through barricades) to spread out into the city. Instead, many “secular” voices made their way to Shaheen Bagh to dictate the language of the protest and to debar slogans like “La Ilaaha Illalah” and other “communal” usages.

Unlike Shaheen Bagh, the farmers protest gained emotional support from the majority of the Indian citizens including pro-BJP members who can be sighted at the protest-site. The protestors are ‘farmers’, a neutral term free from a specific social identity, only related to occupation, an occupation that is evidently “the hands that feed us”. This statement gives the public a “good enough” reason to think from the side of the protestors, as long as they’re reminded that they’re on the consuming end. Otherwise, the legitimacy for a protest or a movement is always questioned by the general public who mostly belong to the upper-caste, upper class crust of society. One can see Punjabi actors, singers, and athletes rallying behind the farmers in the protest. Prominent Punjabi writers like Swarajbir Singh, Jaswinder Singh and a few noted athletes even returned awards and medals they received from the Indian state. Army veterans also intend to return 5000 gallantry medals back to the state in solidarity with the farmers. Bollywood actors like Diljit Dosanjh publicly called out the Modi government on social media platforms. While institutions like the mainstream media, or the judiciary or even the opposition seem unable or unwilling to take on the enormous electoral clout of Modi, the real significance of the farmer’s agitation is that it exists at all.

A “Muslim” is a socially and politically “otherised” category. To be associated with a Muslim or a Muslim movement is difficult for many liberals as it becomes a burden upon them to closely keep an eye on these Muslim protestors. The anxiety of  them crossing that (entirely built upon state-conditioning) line from ‘good muslim’ to ‘bad muslim’ lurks in the air, and they usually wait for a signal to cut of their allyship. Be it the chants of ‘La Ilaha Illallah’ or the wearing of a skull cap or a hijab, or simply a Muslim who is ‘too Muslim’. To undermine and even negate the rights of such a category is not difficult at all. The haunting numbers that rise up on the death stats do not haunt the minds that inherently believe that ‘with Muslimness, comes a certain price’, and choosing to be a part of that very faith will cost them their life. Hence, a collective responsibility that falls on society for a Muslim’s well-being here, comes down to nil. Horrific incidents like the North-East Delhi Pogrom, extra judicial killings, mob lynchings, arrests under UAPA and brutal police crackdowns raised no cries from the mainstream. I remember six years ago when an old Brahmin friend of mine had told me, “but Gujarat 2002 never happened, it was a hoax”. This is Savarna-selective amnesia at it’s best, the same fate which awaited Delhi’s North-East Pogrom of February 2020.

This analysis of both protests does not mean to imply that the farmers here are more privileged than the Muslims, but tries to depict how challenging it will be for the BJP to suppress the current farmers’ movement and not listen to them. Even within the farmers’ protests, there lies internal problems, like the landlessness of Dalit farmers which was never spoken of or discussed before. The invisibility and rigidity of the caste structure, along with the stigma attached to it, makes it all the more difficult to bring it out into the open, thereby leaving them under the shadow term of “farmers protest”. It blurs the problem of an age-old hierarchy of a caste-based power structure that affects, dominates and decides almost every aspect of an individual’s life in the Indian nation-state.

Shaheen Bagh was portrayed as a site funded by anti-India, anti-national forces last year. Similarly, some media houses have already begun to depict the farmers’ agitation as pro-Khalistan. This is simply the continuation of RSS’s efforts to delegitimise every form of dissent as associated with frivolously nonsensical terms like ‘Tukde Tukde Gang’, ‘Urban Naxals’, ‘Pro-Pakistani’ and so on. Yet, the emergence and growth of movements like these remind us that it is not easy to crush the spirit of a billion people with false propaganda and muscle power. The way the farmers protest is gaining momentum, both quantity and quality-wise, is the much needed reminder that a Hindu Rasthra would not be allowed to construct itself on the shoulders of the impoverished and marginalised communities of India.

(Authors are students at Jamia Milia Islamia)

As 2019 ended, millions across the country joined protests against the recently passed Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which premises citizenship on religion, and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), which would require every resident of India to prove their citizenship. The new year dawned in Kochi, Kerala with an estimated 500,000 taking to the streets on 1 January 2020. “This is a law that divides people on communal lines,” declared one organizer. “The CAA and the NRC discriminate against Muslims, and we will not take it lying down,” said another. “We must not allow that.”

Within days, however, the year took a vicious turn.

On 5 January, dozens of members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) — the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) paramilitary — swarmed across the campus of Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). Wearing helmets or masks and armed with iron rods, batons, even acid, they rampaged for hours, attacking security guards, students, and professors while raising Hindu nationalist slogans. The attack, claimed participants, was enabled by police collaboration and was perceived by some as retaliation for students protesting against CAA/NRC.

The movement against CAA/NRC, nevertheless, continued to expand across India. On 6 January, an estimated 50,000 women gathered in Malegaon. At a 15 January protest in Mangaluru that reportedly attracted up to 200,000, one organizer declared: “Our message was clear. We are all against the CAA and believe it is against the Constitution. This does not involve only Muslims but concerns all communities.”

Unity across communities became a theme of the movement. On 17 January, Dalit activist Chandrashekar Azad — who was arrested in December 2019 for leading an anti-CAA/NRC march at Delhi’s historic Jama Masjid — was released. He promptly returned to the masjid, where, standing on its steps, he read out the preamble to the Indian Constitution, announcing: “People from all religions, who support us, should join us in great numbers to prove it to the government that these protests are not led by Muslims alone.”The movement mushroomed As 26 January marked India’s 70th Republic Day (the day that the Constitution was adopted), protests continued across the country. One of the most notable was in Kerala, where up to 7 million people — including the state’s Chief Minister — joined a 650-kilometer long human chain to stand against the controversial legislation. Meanwhile, an already growing international solidarity movement exploded into a massive coordinated effort. In the US, thousands joined protests — often outside of Indian consulates — in 30 different cities. In Canada and Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom, South Africa, and even Finland, protestors turned out to raise their voices in support of the millions taking to the streets in India.

I joined a protest of hundreds outside the San Francisco Indian Consulate. Taking the megaphone, I spoke, stating: “Modi has plunged India into chaos. “There is no peace in India today. There is no justice because there is no liberty.” But, I haven’t even given you the bad news yet!” The bad news is that here in America, a country where we as citizens pledge to uphold liberty and justice for all, we have politicianas who are licking the boots of the tyrants in India.”

Then things took an even darker downward turn in India. “Shoot the traitors,” shouted Union Cabinet Minister Anurag Thakur at a BJP campaign rally on 27 January. The crowd echoed his call, chanting a slogan that was earlier raised by the ABVP mob who invaded the JNU campus — and, before that, by BJP politician Kapil Mishra in December 2019.Pro-BJP forces soon attempted to put the call into actionOn 30 January, in full view of a passive police force, a 17-year-old pulled out a pistol and shot at a crowd of protestors, injuring a Kashmiri student. As he was led away, he shouted, “Long live Delhi Police.” Two days later, at Shaheen Bagh — the site of a sit-in, women-led protest that began in mid-December 2019 — another man opened fire. No one was injured, but as police led him away, he declared, “In this country, no one but Hindus can have their say.” First shooting, 30 January, at anti-CAA/NRC protestors.

Yet, on the other side of the world, a glimmer of hope emerged. On 3 February, the Seattle City Council became the first legislative body in the United States to pass a resolution denouncing the CAA/NRC. Spearheaded by Indian-American Councillor Kshama Sawant, the resolution described Modi as having “earned the nickname ‘the Butcher of Gujarat’” for his role in the 2002 Gujarat Pogrom, explained that “CAA is the first instance of religion being used as a criterion for Indian citizenship,” and warned that “NRC could strip hundreds of millions of people (disproportionately Muslim, oppressed castes, women, indigenous, and LGBT communities) left out of the CAA of their citizenship rights.” As the council voted unanimously to pass the resolution, the chambers erupted in chaos when a pro-BJP crowd who had gathered to oppose it jumped to their feet to voice their outrage. It was, as I said while addressing supporters of the resolution immediately after its passage, “a great defeat for the RSS” — and it set a precedent, as several other cities, including San Francisco, passed similar resolutions throughout the year.

However, as the first American city spoke out against legislation which has been called the “culmination” of the “RSS’s vision,” an American diplomat in India paid homage to the paramilitary. On 6 February, US Consul General to Mumbai David Ranz — following in the footsteps of German Ambassador Walter Lindner — visited RSS headquarters in Nagpur, Maharashtra to lay flowers at the feet of a statue of the group’s first leader. “Meeting the RSS is questionable enough, but what disturbs me is that the nature of his meeting was a photo-op where he literally paid tribute to Hedgewar,” I said at the time. “That is not diplomacy. It’s a capitulation.”US Consul General David Ranz pays homage to RSS leader.

On the same day, reports emerged that a mother and her 11-year-old daughter were arrested for sedition after the child appeared in a school play where she criticized CAA; multiple other students involved were also repeatedly interrogated by police.Another spark of hope came on 21 February, however, in California. Speaking to constituents at a town hall meeting, US Congressman Ro Khanna — who, the year before, took a courageous stance against Hindu nationalism — spoke out against CAA/NRC, stating: “The National Registry is abused. No country should have a national registry where they’re asking for people to give documentation and prove that they’re part of the country. I fear any kind of national registry could lead to extraordinary discrimination against Muslims in India. I’ve spoken out against the Citizenship Act, just like I’ve spoken out against the ban in our country, and I said, ‘You can’t discriminate people coming into our country based on their religious faith.’ I don’t think India should be discriminating who they’re going to give expedited citizenship (to) based on faith. I think both of those policies are wrong.”

Then Delhi was plunged into a nightmare. US President Donald Trump was scheduled to visit India on 24 February. Modi, who had de facto endorsed Trump for re-election during a mega-reception in Texas in 2019, organized a massive rally for him in Ahmadabad, Gujarat which was dubbed ”Namaste Trump.” A day before his looming visit, the nightmare began. Trump and Modi in Ahmadabad at “Namaste Trump” On 23 February, Kapil Mishra issued a “three days ultimatum” to Delhi Police, threatening that, if they refused to break up sit-in protests in Delhi within that timeframe, “we would not even listen to you.” That same day, speaking at a rally in the presence of a senior police officer, he announced that, as long as Trump was in India, “we are leaving the area peacefully,” but declared, “After that, we won’t listen to you (police) if the roads are not vacated by then…. We will have to take to the streets.”But the violence was not held back until Trump’s departure.

Hours before “Namaste Trump” began in Ahmadabad, mobs laid siege to an anti-CAA protest site. “There is all the difference in the world between a nation that seeks power through coercion, intimidation, and aggression, and a nation that rises by setting its people free and unleashing them to chase their dreams,” said Trump in his speech that afternoon. “And that is India.” Meanwhile, in Delhi, media reported that “police appeared to be supporting the Hindu mobs.” By the end of the day, several lay dead and a Muslim-dominated market was on fire.

The following day, Trump arrived in Delhi to pay his respects at Raj Ghat, the memorial that marks the site of Mohandas Gandhi’s assassination by a former RSS member. As violence continued to rage in the streets of India’s capital, he made no mention of it, merely noting in the visitor’s book that the American people “stand strongly with a sovereign and wonderful India.” As he departed India later that day, the bloodshed continued unabated.

By the time the bloodlust was quenched and the smoke had cleared on 29 February, 53 — a majority of them Muslims — lay dead. “The property destruction has also been lopsidedly anti-Muslim, with many Muslim-owned motorcycles, cars, houses, shops and factories reduced to ashes,” reported The New York Times. “At least four mosques were set on fire.” And, as later reported by Amnesty International India, “Delhi police personnel were complicit and an active participant in the violence.””Police did not respond to the multiple calls that were made to 100 — police’s emergency helpline number — leaving the survivors to fend for themselves over the period of six days of violence in Delhi,” reported Amnesty. Instead, they often stood “shoulder to shoulder with rioters.” In fact, according to The Guardian, on at least one occasion, they even broke down the doors of a mosque, dragged out an imam, and handed him over to the mob to be brutally beaten. One rioter described how he and others had seized a Muslim man, “beaten him with wooden sticks and metal rods until he appeared dead, and then threw him in an open drain while police stood by.” Evidence collected by Amnesty showed a subsequent “disturbing pattern of torture and other ill-treatment meted out on riot survivors and detainees in police custody by the Delhi police.”

As the human rights group’s executive director, Avinash Kumar, later stated, “Ongoing state-sponsored impunity that the Delhi police enjoy sends across the message that the police can commit grave human rights violations and evade accountability.”As a number of US lawmakers and governmental bodies expressed concern about the carnage, none provoked a harsher reply from the Modi regime than US Senator Bernie Sanders. After Trump, when asked about the violence, said he would ”leave it to India to make the right decisions for their people,” Sanders denounced the response as ”a failure of leadership on human rights.” BJP National General Secretary BL Santosh — the party’s second-in-command — swiftly replied, “How much ever neutral we wish to be, you compel us to play a role in Presidential elections.” Despite the tragedy in Delhi and the BJP’s threat to interfere in US elections, however, there were still some small rays of hope.

On 2 March, Albany — the capital of New York — became the third US city to pass an anti-CAA/NRC resolution. Urging the US Congress to “support legislation censuring the Republic of India for adopting these policies,” the resolution described them as “the Modi regime’s racist and repressive policies.”Then, on 19 March, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard ended her campaign for the US presidency. It was always a long shot, but the presidential aspirant had received heavy funding from leaders of Hindu nationalist groups in the US, including Ramesh Bhutada — Vice-President of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA (HSS-USA), RSS’s American wing — and his family. As she campaigned in January 2020, she had faced criticism for wearing the BJP scarf at a 2014 banquet hosted by the Overseas Friends of the BJP (OFBJP) — the party’s international wing. Months earlier, a DC-based media watchdog warned that she had a “documented connection to the far-right Hindu nationalist, or Hindutva, movement known as” the RSS. As the outlet explained, “Gabbard has been crucial to revamping the image of the Hindu nationalist in the United States, and has in turn received crucial financial support from the Indian-American far right.”Sanders was raising his voice against the Delhi pogrom, another major American city was speaking out against the CAA/NRC, and the Hindutva-aligned Gabbard — who had already announced she wouldn’t run for re-election to US Congress — was out of the running for president, but the state of affairs in India once again took a turn for the worse as the entire country was locked down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Modi was facing mounting pressure both within and without India,” I later said. “Then his regime was able to position itself as caring and concerned with the preservation of human life. In the name of fighting an invisible enemy, it was able to get away with doing what it probably wanted to do years ago: lock down the entire country.”On 24 March, giving just four hours’ notice, Modi imposed a nationwide ban on people leaving their homes. The total lockdown continued, more or less, for over two months before a phased re-opening began. The swift action sparked an immediate crisis as many of India’s nearly 140 million internal migrants — daily wagers who have often travelled from rural regions to urban centres for increased opportunities — suddenly found themselves unemployed and rushed to return to their villages.”Since the end of March, when the government closed borders and halted public transportation, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers have left cities despite fears that they’d encounter the police, run out of food or water, or succumb to the searing heat,” reported Indian journalist Nilanjan Bhowmick in May 2020. “They walked, cycled, and hitchhiked, often along the only route they knew: train tracks. Fathers carried children on their shoulders, women balanced belongings on their heads, people squatted atop crowded trucks — all determined to find a way home.”

 “Migrants journey on foot to return to villages after India’s lockdown “If you are, say, a freelance designer with a nice home, and you can work from there in between some reading and net surfing, with the added thrill of watching the crisis unfold on TV, the lockdown is not very different from a holiday,” explained economist Jean Dreze. “But for most people, the lockdown is an economic disaster, the more so the poorer you are. For those who were living from hand to mouth to start with, the lockdown is almost a death sentence.” Indeed, many migrants never found their way home.

A study released in September 2020 reported nearly 1,000 migrant deaths as a result of the crisis — including from starvation, exhaustion, and road accidents such as when a freight train ran over 16 sleeping migrants.”The policies are made or influenced by a class of people who pay little attention to the consequences for the underprivileged,” continued Dreze. “For good measure, the policies are often enforced in an authoritarian manner.”  “Authoritarian enforcement manifested in brutal — sometimes fatal — police beatings of people caught breaking the curfew. “In the name of enforcing the lockdown, policemen are behaving like goons and harassing citizens who are going out to buy essential items,” said one Delhi resident shortly after the lockdown was imposed. Another concurred: “The cops are terrorizing people rather than helping them in the crisis and not allowing them to buy essential items.” A teenage boy was beaten to death for stepping out to buy biscuits, a family man was beaten to death on his way to buy milk, an elderly tribal man was beaten to death while buying groceries. In one of the worst cases, a father and son were arrested for allegedly keeping their shop open past curfew, taken to a police station, and tortured to death. Amidst the chaos and violence, the only true beneficiary was the RSS.

By mid-April, the RSS itself boasted that it had mobilized hundreds of thousands of its members to assist in “managing the lockdown” across 25 of India’s 28 states. Its cadres reported The Caravan, “supplemented the efforts of local administration and police forces across states to implement the lockdown” and “played a role in relief distribution often with the support of local administrations.” As the magazine concluded, “COVID-19 has become the latest instance of the RSS’s long-term strategy to gain societal acceptance and influence by helping with disaster relief.””Police and district administrations gave the RSS easy operational access and logistical help to carry out the Sangh’s relief operations while simultaneously taking swayamsevaks’ [members] help in implementing state-mandated relief interventions,” continued Caravan. In Delhi, within the first few days, they were even summoned by Delhi Police — the same force accused of joining hands with Hindu nationalist mobs during the anti-Muslim pogrom the month before — to help control crowds of migrants. While the entire citizenry was banned from exiting their homes, RSS members reportedly received special passes allowing them free transit and empowering them to monitor government ration distribution sites.

Nearly 1,000 groups affiliated with the RSS qualified for both government funding for relief work as well as access to purchase subsidized foodstuffs which, in some cases, they were accused of repackaging as coming from the RSS itself — rather than the government — and discriminatorily distributing solely to BJP members.

There was, suggested Caravan, “a political motive behind its philanthropy” as the RSS sought “political ingratiation” using aid as “political tool” which helps “establish contacts with the communities” and increases “acceptance among these communities” as the paramilitary pursues its agenda of declaring India to be a Hindu Rashtra (nation).This was nowhere more vividly illustrated than near the city of Hyderabad. In early April 2020, photos emerged of RSS members — clad in the group’s official uniform and armed with its standard-issue lathi (an iron-clad bamboo pole) — staffing a police checkpoint and allegedly stopping travelers to check their documents. The incident seemed to symbolize the truth of Indian author Arundhati Roy’s claim, made just a few months earlier: “The RSS has stepped up its game. No longer a shadow state or a parallel state, it is the state.”RSS members staff police checkpoint near Hyderabad.

Meanwhile, the Modi regime used the pandemic as an opportunity to expand its targeted harassment of its most notorious critics. On 14 April, it arrested Dalit academic Anand Teltumbde, the grandson-in-law of the late civil rights champion Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. The date marked Ambedkar’s 129th birth anniversary. Teltumbde, as reported by The Wire, is known for having “continuously highlighted the need to fight Hindutva on both the social and economic front” as well as being a figure “who stands like a progressive intellectual wall against the neoliberal Hindutva of the RSS-BJP.”In 2019, writing as a Dalit to Dalits — who make up at least 200 million of India’s population — he pleaded, ”I hope no Dalit will have any reason left to see the RSS and its Parivar as anything other than anti-Dalit and anti-people.” In 2018, he argued that “the current repression… only reminds one of the fascist formations in Italy in the 1930s and Nazi ones in Germany in the 1940s.” In 2017, he warned that the Indian State had “raised jingoist nationalism above people and unleashed the Hindutva gangs to carry out its writ reminiscent of the Black-shirts of Mussolini and Brown-shirts of Hitler,” concluding that the country was being “transformed into an organised, centralised, authoritarian democracy, which is what fascism is.”

By June 2020, the Modi regime began its gradual “unlocking” process. Yet, as restrictions were slowly eased, the damage was already done. The anti- CAA/NRC protests had been squashed, internal migrants were impoverished or lay dead, the general populace had endured the unhinged brutality of the police as they enforced the lockdown, the jailing of dissidents had expanded, and the already ascendant RSS had entrenched itself far deeper into society than ever before.”The RSS/BJP’s vision is a regimented society where everyone is the same religion, speaks the same language, and exists for no other purpose than to serve the Hindu Rashtra,” I said in an interview shortly before the “unlocking” began. “That requires control of the state machinery, mass surveillance, and ruthless policing. Lockdown gave them all of that.”As six months of horror in India drew to a close, some tiny bits of hope continued to shine from abroad.

On June 4, representatives of the United Nations declared, “We are appalled at the disregard shown by the Indian Government towards internal migrant labourers, especially those who belong to marginalized minorities and lower castes.” On 26 June, UN experts again voiced their concerns, this time over the arrest of anti-CAA/NRC protestors. Stating that they “appear to have been arrested simply because they exercised their right to denounce and protest” the legislation, they called for their immediate release — noting as “one of the most alarming cases” the arrest of pregnant Muslim activist Safoora Zargar, who had just been released after over two months behind bars. And, once more, US Congressman Khanna raised his voice. Asked about the situation in India, he declared, ”American foreign policy has to have human rights at the top of its agenda.”The next six months of 2020 in “New India” brought symbolic milestones for the RSS-BJP’s march towards establishing a Hindu Rashtra, new arrests of major dissident figures, atrocious new legislation that served as an all-out assault on religious freedom, and more — but they also continued to bring hope as the RSS-BJP lost ground in India and abroad.

(Eastern Herald. This is part one of a two-part series on the good mixed with the awful in a year’s struggle for human rights in “New India.”)

When Modi- Shah are repeating that the farmers struggle is only of Punab and Haryana farmers, and majority of farmers all over the country support the farm acts, around 10,000 people marched towards Azad Maidan in Mumbai on January 16, 2021 in support of India’s farmers battling the three agriculture laws forcibly passed by the central government. A mammoth number of supporters walked from Islam Gym to the protest point at the call of a coalition of people’s and peasant’s organisations such as Mumbai Aman Committee, All India Ulema Council, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP,) the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS,) the National Alliance of People’s Movements, Hum Bharat ke Log, the All India Banjara Samaj, the Chhatrapati Sambhaji Brigade and many others.CJP Secretary and renowned journalist Teesta Setalvad congratulated the farmers near Delhi for awakening the people of India. She reminded attendees at Azad Maidan every Indian citizen needs to stand united in this struggle for food security and people’s rights because farmers.

“Farmers, who put all their efforts in the land are all too aware of what happens when agriculture is corporatized. Our farmers are adivasis (indigenous people,) Dalits, OBCs, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians. And so, we need to stand together,” said Setalvad.She added that the farmers protests on the “borders” of the capital, Delhi was historic as it poses a political challenge to the policies of the regime. Punjab farmers who challenged the British with the Pagdi Sambhal Jatha in the late 1800s are today challenging the 21st century version of neo colonisation. Similarly, SSS Founder Raju Shetti applauded the assembled Mumbaikars for promising their solidarity with farmers.”They call us Annadaatas. But these annadaatas have been forced at the border of Delhi like beggars for near two months now. India’s farmer cannot enter the national capital to assert his own right. What Independence is this? For whom is it?” said Shetti.

Page 9 of 101

The Communist movement in India has a history of almost a century after the salvos of October Revolution in Russia brought Marxism-Leninism to the people of India who were engaged in the national liberation struggle against the British colonialists. It is a complex and chequered history.