This is a season of lots of fun amidst animal passion working overtime. It has left many muddle-headed, unsure of whether to laugh or to cry. New Delhi brought the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) hoping to end the untold miseries of Hindu refugees and earn some brawny points from compassionate Indians but its assessment went awry. The Act caused a neurological disorder, leading people to react in weird ways. Of course, goondas and politicians did not get affected, for their brains had no cerebrum. They went on doing their job efficiently – burning vehicles, destroying property, attacking policemen and inciting criminals to resort to mindless violence.
For once, in independent India, an Act specifically mentioned about Hindus. It was too much for the ‘sickular’ conscience of misguided Indians to digest. So, they began talking and behaving awkwardly. Students who were supposed to study fought guerilla war with stones and petrol bombs. Young girls in teens shrieked while boys indulged in arson and looted shops. They wouldn’t care whether they would die because there was always a beautiful life after death. Actually, most of them did not know why they were hurling stones when they had been asked to join a fair or ‘some’ gathering. The reaction of boys during Bihar Bandh organized by Tejashwi Yadav was of course the ultimate. They said they had joined the Bandh to get Laloo Yadav released.
Those who had enrolled in the IIMs and IITs to prepare themselves for heading companies, managing startups and joining industry hit the streets like trade union workers. Far away, in Boston and Chicago, Indian Americans – mostly Muslim students, doctors, computer professionals etc. marched denouncing the Act but they were careful not to raise slogans that would prompt the US police to deport them back to India, ending their American dream.
What struck as hilarious was Ramchandra Guha’s antics. Instead of writing history which he is extremely ‘good’ at, he stood at a road crossing attempting to explain to the media why he was there. The reason certainly couldn’t be the Act because he is educated and must have read its provisions. Maybe, it was the awful civic conditions in Bangalore that he was upset with. A couple of policemen on duty in the area shoved him away, thinking he was probably a vagabond. This hugely upset Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, MD of Biocon Limited. She was furious how Gandhi’s biographer could be manhandled in this manner. Have a heart, Ms. Shaw. Most policemen can’t even recognize Yeddyurappa, their chief minister. Surely Guha does not figure in the rogues’ gallery hanging in police stations for policemen to know his eminence. William Dalrymple, the ‘famous author’, stretched his literary creativity a bit too far. He discovered straws of the ‘beginning of emergency’ in Guha’s 30 minutes’ detention. Generally, Dalrymple is credited with writing after “enormous, painstaking research”. He should have also tried to excavate facts and circumstances that had led to emergency in 1975. By not doing so, he has let down his fans including me. In pre-emergency swoop by the police, leaders were not detained for 30 minutes nor chief ministers felt apologetic.
Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan also fell a victim to insidious spell cast by the CAA. He had a strange vibe that the Act would make 200 million Muslims feel unsafe. Borrowing an expression from his kitchen, he warned ‘the Act was not a good recipe for harmony’. Wish, he had concentrated more on research in chemistry and made us feel proud by getting one more Nobel Prize rather than commenting on a subject that he was obviously not familiar with. Arundhati Roy, the Booker Prize winning author, lived upto her reputation of always putting her foot in her mouth but this time this foot was a bit heavier. She asked, “Are we going to stand in line to comply with NRC?”. One doesn’t know whether she jumps the queue while checking in and passing through the immigration at the airports. Priyanka Gandhi, the poster girl of the Congress, echoed similar angst while speaking in her protest rallies. One can understand Priyanka’s reaction. She may not be familiar with standing in line for ration, water etc. because of her royal lineage.
It was a mystery why the ‘Award Wapsi Gang’ was not active again on the CAA. On checking the list, I realized that Modi had intentionally excluded likely withdraw-ees since May 2014. But he made one mistake. He awarded Padma Shri to Urdu writer Mujtaba Hussain who has decided to return the honour but who knows? He writes comics and maybe, he is playing a prank. The most sidesplitting comment came from the Progressive Urdu Writers’ Association of Hyderabad. It accused that ‘killers of Gandhi yesterday are killing youth today’. But you thought Nathuram Godse was long dead and policemen involved in allegedly firing at students were yet to pass out from their new training centre at Nagpur run by Mohan Bhagwat!
Illiteracy is not all bad. Sample these examples. Kamal Hassan, Kollywood’s rejected scion, thought the CAA is a ‘new law to check the infiltration’. Actor Siddharth said he would pay any price to prevent Modi from placing ‘Indian democracy’ under Sotheby’s hammer as ‘it was not for sale’. Very patriotic of the actor. TM Krishna, the Carnatic music vocalist, asked Bangaloreans to ‘hit the street screaming against the Act … to keep our society alive’. Must admire his out-of-the-box suggestion. One hopes, he knows the limits of hitting streets in protests. They can easily turn streets into battle fields. Actor Farhan Akhtar opined that the Act was discriminatory and justified it by saying ‘if everything is ok with it, why would so many people turn up not just in Mumbai but also in Delhi, Assam and Bangalore.’ Directors Anurag Kashyap and Anubhav Sinha thought CAA was ‘fascist’ and ‘divisive’– very difficult expressions to be correctly understood by babies in law who are capable of mounting only churlish fair on a 70 mm screen. Md. Zakariya, director of Malayam Movie “Sudani from Nigeria’ and his co-writer Muhsin Purari boycotted the national film award ceremony to protest against the alleged police violence in Jamia Milia Islamia University. Maybe they mistook Jamia students for ‘Sudani’.
But they are artists — impressionable and emotional. What about the sun-dried, street obsessed West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee? Like Jawaharlal Nehru who had taken Kashmir issue to the UN in 1948 and agreed to hold referendum to decide J&K’s final status, she has also given a call for UN-monitored referendum on CAA. Birds of the same feather flock together. Her opposition has taken a viral shape, affecting many people of healthy minds. Father Dominic Gomes, vicar general of archdiocese of Kolkata and the teachers and Dean of Humanity of Presidency University are the worst hit as they are unable to read CAA clearly. Uddhav Thackeray, Maharashtra’s green horn chief minister, created a new version of history. He saw a repeat of Jallianwala Bagh massacre in the police action at Jamia Milia. It is not his fault. He is a professional photographer. In his preoccupation with learning his new job he may have picked a wrong lens that showed policemen as General Dyer and Muslim students pelting students as Sikhs and Hindus dying in heaps!
Alas! If the agitation is petering out. All this fun will be gone.