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View: Lift Shaheen Bagh now, carry on with the protest in other forms

Protesters at Shaheen Bagh should suspend their agitation for the time being. A sit-in is only one form of protest. There are others and these must be pursued, perhaps more imaginative ones. To continue with a form of protest that plays into the hands of those who wish to spread communal violence is not in the interest of either the protesters or of democracy.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Feb 25, 2020, 05.20 PM IST
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A Muslim-centric protest also gives an opportunity for extremist elements of jihadi ideologies to foment trouble.
The violence in Delhi is not a clash between supporters and opponents of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) but communal violence. It must be shut down, with force, to prevent it from spreading to other parts of the city and the country.

A BJP leader who lost the election to the Delhi assembly and was criticised by state BJP president Manoj Tiwari for using violent speech, Kapil Mishra, made public statements about not leaving law and order to the police and removing protesters directly. The violence in northeast Delhi broke out in the wake of such provocative statements.

It is unlikely that the BJP leadership would have wanted to precipitate violence in the national Capital during President Trump’s visit. But now that it has taken place and a police officer has been killed and another injured, the casualties including eight civilians killed in the violence besides, it is likely to use the violence to crack down on anti-CAA protests not just in northeast Delhi where the violence took place but in Shaheen Bagh as well.

The anti-CAA agitation ran the risk, from the very beginning, of becoming a Muslim protest against a law that sought to threaten, in combination with the proposed National Register of Citizens, their citizenship rights. That makes it easy for vested interests to create a Hindu backlash. This helps neither Muslims nor democracy.

The only viable agitation against CAA is a broadbased democratic movement against it. The idea of India as an inclusive, rather than a denominational state, is a core principle of the liberal democratic vision of India that infuses the Constitution and the nation-building project initiated during the Freedom Movement and in its wake. The CAA-NRC project undermines this vision of India and it affects every opponent of the two-nation theory that created Pakistan and animates the proponents of Hindu Rashtra.

A Muslim-centric protest also gives an opportunity for extremist elements of jihadi ideologies to foment trouble. Communalists love other communalists, for they feed on the handiwork of one another.

Protesters at Shaheen Bagh should suspend their agitation for the time being. A sit-in is only one form of protest. There are others and these must be pursued, perhaps more imaginative ones. To continue with a form of protest that plays into the hands of those who wish to spread communal violence is not in the interest of either the protesters or of democracy.

Political leaders of all parties must come forward to calm passions down and halt the violence. It is not enough for them to issue statements and call upon the police to do their job. Those who command support in the affected areas must show up and lead peace initiatives. This is the occasion that separates chaff from grain, real champions of democracy from successful poseurs.

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