The mayhem in Delhi streets has calmed down and the metropolis is limping back to normalcy. Amidst this eerie normalcy it’s time for some serious soul searching about the real reasons of communal riots in India’s capital. As videos, photographs and heart-wrenching stories continue to flash across the mainstream media and on various social media platforms the naïve Indians and blockbuster opinion makers from across the world are busy peddling the narrative that India is hell bent upon antagonizing the 25 crore (250 million) Muslims residing peacefully in the country. What was the need to introduce this contentious CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act-2019) that has triggered these communal riots, massive unrest and suspicion amongst this huge Muslim population of India, they ask.
Well, first things first. Nationwide protests followed by the Delhi riots after CAA was passed by the Indian Parliament on 11th December 2019 has nothing do with the CAA per se. Yes you read it right. These nationwide protests and, of course, the Delhi riots have nothing do with the new Citizenship Act. Protesters in the streets against CAA and those shouting their lungs out at public forums know it very well that the CAA has got nothing to do with Indian Muslims. It’s just a one-time provision that will directly affect religiously persecuted Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsi and Christians who had escaped from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The CAA grants Indian citizenship to around 15 lakh people who are already living in India. It does have a cut-off date of December 31, 2014.
All these film actors, comedians, 5-star journalists and shrewd politicians –the Lutyen’s coterie, know these facts quite well. It would be naïve to think that the likes of Mamata Banerjee, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Pinarayi Vijayan, Kanhaiya Kumar, Swara Bhaskar, Sharjeel Imam, Shehla Rashid, etc. etc. would not have read the finer provisions of CAA. And yet they went around the world spreading falsities that the Narendra Modi government is planning to put Muslims in detention centres and would strip them off their citizenship. Blatant lie. Yet this Lutyen’s coterie continues to shamelessly peddle this lie. The big question is why?
In fact, all this is a well-planned strategy. This rage is not about the CAA, rather it’s the pent-up anger about abolition of Art 370 in Kashmir and the Supreme Court’s unanimous judgement in favour of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Temple at Ayodhya. In order to understand the heartburn we need to step back and look at the turn of events over the last year.
This Lutyen’s coterie has a penchant for fancy names such as “civil society members”, “liberals”, “seculars”, “free speech champions” etc. due to which they are darlings of international media and self-proclaimed custodians of Indian democracy and also the self-appointed spokesperson for Indians. However, despite their high decibel campaign to oust Narendra Modi during the 2019 General Elections he was voted back, this time with a larger majority. Modi getting back to the driving seat in New Delhi upset the plans of this conniving coterie who had been relegated to the sidelines during Modi’s first term. So dubious government funding for superfluous projects had stopped and illegal foreign grants put under scrutiny. They had hoped for the old order to come back if Modi was unseated. This did not happen and Narendra Modi took oath as India’s Prime Minister on May 30th 2019. This was the first shock. With a massive mandate there was no chance to topple the government at New Delhi and so this coterie was left licking its wounds.
And to make matters worse, Modi 2.0 hit the ground running. The lighting struck on August 5th 2019. The contentious and controversial Art 370 & Art 35A were revoked, Jammu & Kashmir was bifurcated and downgraded into two separate union territories Jammu-Kashmir and Laddakh. This meant another stream of dubious funds dried up. Mind you this was August 2019, barely two months after Modi had returned at the hot seat in New Delhi. The gang got down to the drawing board to think of their future strategies. It was a question of survival for them. Falsities about Kashmir under lockdown and fake stories of human rights violations were doled out. But these conniving stratagems were exposed with equal zeal by the new age reporters, digital media organizations and social media warriors. The agenda of yesteryears did not work this time in Kashmir.
And then came November 9th 2019. Five-judge bench of the Supreme Court passed a unanimous judgement in favour of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Temple at Ayodhya. All the arguments put forward by the coterie’s “eminent historians” were summarily rejected. Historical arguments (read pulp-fiction) that had been used to build false narratives over last several decades in favour of the Babri Mosque were dismissed in toto. The Lutyen’s gang was exposed in full public view. It hurt them that it was archaeologist KK Muhammed (a Muslim) who gave clinching evidence in favour of Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Temple at Ayodhya. Hindu nationalists and Muslim rationalists were having a field day. They were thinking of building a new India where Muslims and Hindus could live in peace and harmony. KK Muhammed was seen as the new role model of Indian Muslims. The Muslim-as-a-victim narrative was fading away, or so it seemed.
How naïve are we? We just could not fathom the strike capabilities of this Lutyen’s coterie. After all they had to fight for their survival! It was in this backdrop that when the Narendra Modi government announced the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), they sniffed an opportunity for themselves. The botched up NRC (National Register of Citizens) in Assam had already sowed seeds of mistrust in the minds of Muslims. Rumours had begun floating around in Muslim ghettoes across the country, and almost immediately this peep-hole was turned into a large window by the Lutyen’s brigade. They now began using this window to gleefully spread the vicious propaganda.
Even a cursory look at the statements emanating from a few 5-star journalists, film actors, comedians and, of course, the shrewd politicians will reveal that this malicious propaganda was started simultaneously by all and sundry in the coterie. Each one talked about how CAA has been brought in to strip the Muslims of their Indian citizenship rights that they will be asked to provide documents of their ancestors, failing which they would be “expelled” from India. Yes all of this is untrue and factually incorrect. But when did Lutyen’s coterie bother for facts?
As the Parliament passed the Citizenship Bill and it became an Act this hysteria of disinformation campaign reached a crescendo. Almost everybody questioned CAA and started talking of the CAA and NRC in the same breath. Rumours started flying thick and fast. With insecurity in the mind of a large section of Muslims strengthened, the fear psychosis was accentuated. Modi government was left grappling for answers, it was clearly on the back foot.
Dirty money running into hundreds of crore rupees was distributed to foster unrest on the CAA. Enforcement Directorate revealed that radical Islamic organisation Popular Front of India (PFI) received around Rs 120 crore that was used to fuel rumours and discontent. In a well thought out strategy Muslim women were brought to the forefront. Shaheen Bagh in East Delhi became the new flashpoint. All this while, ministers in the Modi government, politicians and foot soldiers from the ruling BJP were busy dispelling myths about CAA while the Lutyen’s coterie was busy fanning rumours about imaginary atrocities on Muslims. Slowly but steadily the coterie became successful in painting all previous decisions as discriminatory to Muslims, so by the dawn of New Year 2020 questions were being raised over revocation of Art 370 and fictitious stories about the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Temple at Ayodhya started floating around.
In this saga, the Modi government made a strategic mistake of thinking that this nationwide agitation was against some imaginary provisions of the CAA. The government thought that as people will get to know about the true picture about provisions in the CAA, these protests would die a natural death. This was their biggest mistake. It was due to this strategic mistake that protests in Shaheen Bagh was allowed to fester, which was ably used by vested international media groups to paint India as prejudiced against its vast Muslim population. The inaction at Shaheen Bagh also emboldened the radical Muslim groups and the Lutyen’s coterie who were waiting for an opportune time to strike back. Together they planned the Delhi pogrom to coincide with US President Donald Trump’s visit. The arms, ammunition and Molotov cocktails (petrol bombs) widely available with the rioters point to the fact that the widespread Delhi riots were not spontaneous rather they had been planned to the last minute.
Postscript– Narendra Modi government has made tremendous gains in international diplomacy and on defence and security related matters, which no doubt is lot more than any previous governments. But Modi must realise that his government has no voice in the soft power centres such as the media, art, culture, academia, films and entertainment. Delhi riots are a proof that the Lutyen’s coterie is still a superpower in these realms. And soft power is as important as defence and security. Narendra Modi needs to address these soft power centres lest it becomes the Achilles’ heel for his government.