OUR IDEA OF INDIANNESS — AND DEMOCRACY IN DANGER

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at an anti-CAA Rally in Andhra Pradesh
COMMENT/CM/POLITICS/ ANTI-CAA PROTEST

By PINARAYI VIJAYAN; Chief Minister, KERALA.

IT WAS AN immense pleasure to visit Andhra Pradesh and address the people at Anantpur on Monday. Andhraites and Keralites have a special relationship. The links between our people and our culture are deep rooted. It was forged during our common struggle for Independence. I make special mention of our shared heritage because, what we see under the current ruling dispensation is an attempt to do away with the ideals which evolved as part of that heritage. And hence, it becomes the duty of all of us, to resist such moves.
We are living in difficult times. Our country is in a turmoil. A week back, the neighborhoods in our national capital were burning. In the India of present, mob lynchings are a commonplace, intellectuals are being shot, mob rule has replaced law in many areas, students and universities are under attack, dissenting voices are portrayed as antinationalists, Kashmir has been under lockdown for many months, the list goes on. The secular and democratic fabric of our country is under an unprecedented attack; unfortunately the attack is not from the outside but from the partisans of the incumbent government.
The tragedy we all witnessed in Delhi has brought shame to the country. As per the official count, 53 lives have been lost so far, and the numbers continue to grow. There have been reports that on some occasions the agencies that were responsible for law and order had instead abetted the rioters. The failure of the Parliament to address this important issue is nothing short of a scandal; that they are waiting for the Holi festival to be over is a new low, even by the standards of a BJP government. Slowly, our democratic institutions are being dismantled. The way they have transferred a right-minded judge is a telling example. Even journalists are not spared. Recently two Malayalam channels were banned for reporting Delhi riots. An atmosphere of fear is prevalent. There persists an undeclared emergency in this country. The onus is on every democratic soul in this country to arrest this erosion.
India is composed of people belonging to various cultures, languages, races, faiths and so on. Despite such vast diversities, we remain united. It was our freedom struggle which laid the foundations of modern India. Though our politics were articulated in different languages, the ultimate objective of that struggle was to have an India which was marked by secular and democratic values. Despite belonging to different faiths and cultures, our freedom fighters were all guided by the same emotion, that we are Indians. The Indian national movement had different strands, echoing the diversities throughout the land. Indian freedom struggle was a glorious people’s movement which imbibed the values of secularism, socialism and social justice. Such progressive, inclusive and democratic values put forth by our freedom struggle were encapsulated in the Indian Constitution. Now such values and our Constitution itself are under threat.
India is special because a person belonging to any religion and a person who belongs to no religion, can live here as equal citizens. Secularism is one of the basic tenets of our Constitution. This idea was not something which simply developed overnight. It evolved as a result of interactions and assimilations spanning several centuries. Our country has such a long history, throughout which we have absorbed various cultures and heritages and inculcated all those in our idea of Indianness.

AT THIS juncture, every Indian needs to reiterate that our country is marked by a unity that transcends differences, that our society is a confluence of diversities and that we will preserve it. We become Indian citizens in its true sense only when we imbibe the essence of our great ideal, unity in diversity.
I take this opportunity to make special note of the fact that the people of Andhra have resisted the arguments put forward by the proponents of Hindutva nationalism and stood in defense of the values of secularism. We do not see it as an issue of any particular religion, but, as an assault on the secular values put forth by our Constitution. Hence, what is required is a united struggle which encompasses all sections of the society. It is heartening that such a unity is being strengthened here. Let us remind ourselves that even when the British tried to weaken the people’s resistances by resorting to communal and divisive tactics, we were able to overcome them and march forward. This time too, we should be able to do the same.
The RSS, which had no part in our freedom struggle, is busy trying to undo the sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic of India, and replace it with a Hindu Rashtra. They are undermining the rights of the States and toppling our federal structure. Undoing the Planning Commission was part of this game plan. The fact that Hindi is sought to be imposed on us, instead of further developing our rich linguistic heritage, is also geared towards their ultimate goal. Slogans such as ‘one nation, one tax’, ‘one nation, one language’, ‘one nation, one law’, ‘one nation, one religion’ are all stepping stones to the idea of a Hindu Rashtra.
Instead of taking our country forward as a land in which all religions can co-exist, they are targeting the minorities and trying to treat them as second class citizens. The CAA is not to be seen as a standalone issue. Article 370 which was the basis on which Jammu and Kashmir became part of India has been abrogated. Triple Talaq is an issue which comes under civil law. Now, it has been brought under criminal law to create further discrimination. We need to understand that the CAA is part of an agenda, and a series of interventions mentioned above, which seeks to destroy our diversities.
It has been introduced with the argument that it seeks to provide shelter to those who have been excluded by their own countries. Tamil Nadu is a neighbour to both Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Tamils in Sri Lanka had been persecuted and made to flee. And, many of them have sought asylum in India. However, no effort has been made to protect them. When they say that those who are persecuted in our neighbouring countries need to be protected, they do not consider Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Bhutan as our neighbours. This exposes their real intentions.
The Honourable Supreme Court has clarified beyond doubt that the Constitution does not allow any discrimination on the basis of caste, religion, or sex. Hence, the differentiation introduced through the CAA on the basis of religion and nationality is unconstitutional. In the Kesavananda Bharati case, the Supreme Court’s constitution bench had decreed that the parliament has no authority to introduce laws in violation to the basic structure of the Constitution. Article 14 of the Constitution ensures equality to all those – citizens and non citizens alike – who reside in India. This is a fundamental tenet of the Indian Constitution. According to Article 13, any law that is opposed to the fundamental rights accorded in the Constitution becomes void. It is on the basis of all this, that the CAA becomes unconstitutional.
A country becomes a religious state when religion becomes a determinant in granting citizenship. It is when citizenship is granted to all without any consideration of their belief or lack thereof, that a country becomes a secular state. To protect secularism, it is imperative to not determine citizenship on the basis of religion. We also need to take note of the fact that it is the secular countries and not the religious states, which are leading the world in terms of providing the highest quality of life to its residents.
Kerala was able to take a strong stand in resisting the law introduced by the Centre which struck at the root of secularism as enshrined in our Constitution. A satyagraha was conducted under the leadership of the Chief Minister and the Leader of Opposition, in which representatives of secular political parties, cultural icons and leaders of socio-religious organisations participated.
The Kerala Legislative Assembly unanimously passed a resolution against the CAA. Under the leadership of the Left Democratic Front, a human chain was formed from one end of Kerala to the other, in which over 70 lakh people participated. Protests and meetings are happening all across the State, creating awareness on the dangers associated with the CAA, NPR and NRC.

KERALA HAS declared that the NRC exercise will not be conducted in the state. As the NPR would be the foundation on which the NRC would be prepared, we have decided that no enumeration will be conducted in Kerala for preparing the NPR either. However, we will co-operate fully with the usual census process, as census data is essential for planning developmental projects and welfare schemes.
While accepting all democratic protests, we have reiterated that no effort to create division on communal lines or resort to violence will be tolerated. This stance has resulted in Kerala emerging in the forefront of democratic protests against the CAA-NPR-NRC, which are marked by their peaceful nature and mass participation. Our centuries’ old tradition of renaissance and secularism has formed the basis on which these struggles have developed.
When the Sangh Parivar pushes the Hindu Rashtra argument forward, we need to have a clear idea on what the alternative is. The alternative should undoubtedly be on the basis of secularism. It cannot be another theocratic state. Protests to that effect will only help majoritarian communalism. We need to realise that the Sangh Parivar wants such communal polarisation to take place. Therefore, those who are trying to create communal polarisation of any shade and size, need to be sidelined. And, we need to take our struggles forward with a secular character.
We must also understand the circumstances in which the CAA has been enacted so as to achieve communal polarisation. India’s economy is in dire straits; GDP growth rate has plummeted despite efforts to meddle with its calculation, unemployment is at a 45 year high, consumer spending has fallen for the first time in 40 years. In spite of all this, the present government at the Centre has resorted to the politics of polarization.
OUR DEMOCRACY is in danger; but all is not lost. We must not succumb to fear or hopelessness. Brothers and sisters, this too shall pass. India is stronger than these forces that are trying to destroy it. We must rise in protest to defend the ideals on which our Constitution is built, a mass people’s struggle is the need of the hour. It should be founded on the values of secularism and equality. Let us recommit ourselves to this great struggle for India. Together, we shall overcome the challenges. 
Make no mistake, we are going to win in this struggle. 

INDIA HERE AND NOW http://www.indiahereandnow.com email:indianow999@gmail.com

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