Against fascism in India: in solidarity, through care

Enda Verde and Chandan Kumar write about how women are leading the resistance against the unconstitutional Citizenship Amendment Act in India. Enda Verde is a Ph.D. candidate working in both Europe and India. Chandan Kumar is a labor rights activist based in Pune, India, and part of a citizen’s movement against the Citizenship Amendment Act called “Hum Bharat Ke Log.” This article was originally published by OpenDemocracy under a creative commons license.

On the 4th of December 2019 the Hindu nationalist Bharatya Janata Party (BJP)-led government of India introduced the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in parliament. By the 11th of December the bill had been enacted into law after being pushed through parliamentary votes, and signed by the President. The rules of the law are still being written and yet Home Minister Amit Shah announced on the 10th of January 2020 that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is now in operation. By doing so, the BJP has chosen to ignore thousands of citizens who have been gathering on the streets to protest against the Act since the 4th of December, and who continue to do so in defiance of state and police violence across the country.

The protests have been fuelled by the controversial tenets of the act which effectively deny citizenship to Muslims, as well as the knowledge that this is part of a much longer agenda of the BJP to deepen state surveillance and turn India into a Hindu theocracy, or what some call a ‘Hindu Rashtra.’ The Act is complex as it cannot be seen as a stand-alone piece of legislation and the affects on people will be different depending on the state, due to historic migration patterns and the diversity of ethnicities across the country. Nevertheless, three core elements can be seen to directly compromise the democratic and secular Constitution of India, and have been the spark and fuel for protests across the country.

“The arbitrary classification of citizens and implementation processes they propose will be the beginning of a slow, structural violence targeting the poor, marginalised and Muslim sections of society – a majority of whom are informal workers, the backbone of India’s economy.”

Firstly, the Act directly contradicts the fundamental rights of the Constitution, specifically Article 14 and Article 21. Article 14 guarantees “Equality before the law”, and Article 21 the “Right to Life”.

Secondly, whilst it claims to grant citizenship to all minorities being persecuted in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, it outright excludes Muslims from these countries and does not provide citizenship to minority groups from countries such as Sri Lanka, Tibet, Myanmar and Nepal.

Thirdly, the entire exercise will be combined with the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the process will force existing citizens of a country of over 1.3 billion people to prove their citizenship through appropriate certification (birth, marriage, naturalisation), claiming that if you are truly ‘Indian,’ there is no need to worry.

In their disregard for the Constitution, the ethno-nationalism that lies at the root of the CAA and NRC is revealed. The arbitrary classification of citizens and implementation processes they propose will be the beginning of a slow, structural violence targeting the poor, marginalised and Muslim sections of society – a majority of whom are informal workers, the backbone of India’s economy. Indian citizens across the country can see through the claims of ‘humanitarianism’ and argue that the implications of this act bring the BJP a step closer towards making Muslims second-class citizens.

‘Citizens against CAA, citizens against fascism’

The citizen uprising against the CAA, that began in the north-eastern state of Assam (a state already familiar with the violence of the NRC), has spread across the country resulting in the government taking extreme measures to quell the dissent. Internet shutdowns happened in Assam, Uttar Pradesh and the capital of New Delhi, even as Prime Minister Modi called for ‘no violence’ via his twitter account. The Indian Police announced a ban on public gatherings of over five people on the 19th of December in most parts of country. Protests continued, resulting in thousands of arrests and violence against young people, mostly students.

Women participate in a candlelight protest march against the
Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019 and National Register of Citizens (NRC), in Bengaluru on Dec 24, 2019. Photo: IANS, CC license.

The police have used batons, tear gas and firing arms against protestors. Universities, where many of the protests began, have been violently raided by police and youth groups who appear to be associated with the BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – a right-wing, Hindu nationalist paramilitary organisation that supports, and is supported by, the BJP. BJP-dominated states observed the worst violence with 23 people killed, mostly daily wage young muslim workers, and over 1000 arrested in Uttar Pradesh, whilst states such as Maharashtra remained calm with police supporting the non-violent protests. As protests retain momentum, however, arrests across the country are continuing.

These forms of state oppression are nothing new in India and neither are the acts of dissent. What is different is that the seemingly unstoppable culture of violent Hindu supremacy has come face-to-face with voices, acts and displays of communal unity playing out across the country. This article offers a brief glimpse into that complex reality through the perspectives and embodied acts of the women who are leading the protests, with the aim to tell a larger story of collective Indian dissent against what is potentially becoming an emerging Hindu theocracy.

Solidarity against state violence

Across the country, women have been at the forefront of the protests, putting their bodies on the line in the face of state violence and oppression. The anger and fear in their voices and on their faces have echoed in the streets, flashed across TV screens and circulated the internet.

As protests moved into the capital of New Delhi, growing out of university campuses, police cracked down on the students of Jamia Millia Islamia University (JMU). A recent report compiled by the Independent Women’s Initiative titled ‘Unafraid: The day young women took the battle to the streets,’ gave voice to the experiences of 18 women who were part of the protests at JMU. The report illuminates the involvement of women across social strata who are coming out in solidarity with students and Muslim groups to oppose the CAA, NRC and the unfolding violence happening on their doorstep. However, their involvement, they said, was not only about the discriminatory Act but about fighting for the future they imagined for themselves, their children and India.

The state violence happening at different sites across India has been captured on video by citizens using mobile phones, with much of the footage going viral. One particular video from the JMU protests and violence shows five women shielding a man from the police, refusing their violence, denying their authority. The video quickly went viral and has become symbolic of the centrality of women in the resistance against police violence. However, their act of embodied protection is not just about bravery or love for another. It is about justice in a fragile democracy. When the police become your attackers, citizens, friends, family, strangers become the protectors of bodies and the rights (enshrined in the constitution) attributed to those bodies. In doing so, the citizens of India are becoming the upholders of the constitution.

“Muslim women from across class and caste backgrounds have come together in protest by holding a continuous sit in, defying patriarchal structures and norms that restrict their bodies, movement and time.”

Careful dissent

In Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu in southern India, women activists have appropriated the traditional, everyday decorative and artistic practice of Kolams (Rangolis) as an alternative method of expressing dissent against the CAA. Kolams are associated with Hinduism yet widely practiced and used in both private and public space. A gendered practice, Kolams are emblematic of celebration and community. Its appropriation as a political tool has therefore been impactful in raising awareness about the Act, demonstrable by its continued use as a method of peaceful protest across Chennai and surrounding cities.

In the capital city of New Delhi, the ‘Women of Shaheen Bagh’ have received wide attention, and are creating ripple effects across the country. Since 2014, the BJP government has generated a rhetoric of ‘saving’ the ‘Muslim woman’ through speeches, targeted policies, and by creating a larger public notion of the ‘dangerous Muslim man’ and an oppressive Muslim community. These same, apparently oppressed Muslim women, are now at the forefront of the protests against the BJP’s latest anti-Muslim political move, the CAA.

At Shaheen Bagh, Muslim women from across class and caste backgrounds have come together in protest by holding a continuous sit in, defying patriarchal structures and norms that restrict their bodies, movement and time. Continuing now for over a month, these women have redefined the very idea of a protest in the country. Shaheen Bagh is completely leaderless, free of any NGO-isation, and it is based entirely on a collective, shared solidarity. It has become a space of care, redefining how care is perceived, turning ‘care’ into a form of resistance. Babies and small children join women at the protest, where they have created a designated area for children. There is a community kitchen, art corners, and readings of the Indian Constitution preamble in several languages.

Locals in New Delhi protest against CAA CAB NRC. Photo: Sanjeev Yadav, CC license.

This phenomenon remains unparalleled in the country and in the last week, the idea of a peaceful sit in by mostly Muslim women, has gone viral. Now there is a ‘Shaheen Bagh’ in Allahabad, Kolkata and Hyderabad, amongst others. The police in many of these cities, who have been ordered to take violent action against protestors, have not been able to grasp what is happening. The very women that the upper caste Hindutva leaders wanted to ‘save’, and free from ‘oppression’ – are the very women who will keep India’s Constitution alive in defiance of Hindutva. The strength of this resistance is arguably in its multiplicity, in its resistance against three structures of oppression: patriarchy, Islamophobia, and most of all, Hindutva: Hindu ethno-nationalism.

These acts of resistance to the unconstitutional CAA and NRC only catch a glimpse of the fight for democracy happening across India. Arguably those we see and hear are the voices of the relatively privileged, those who have the possibility (and relative safety) to put their bodies on the line, be vocal against the government and are receiving press coverage because of their social capital and position. Nevertheless, the glimpse illuminates the possibilities of collective public action and civil disobedience in a fragile democracy, suffering fractures from the violence of a government intent on sowing seeds of division and hate. It also sheds light on the centrality of women in the protests, complicating the reductive stereotypes that try to define the reality of ‘Indian women.’ The involvement of women in this fight is not monolithic or romantic. It is as necessary and powerful as the participation of all socially marginalised groups and the privileged, and yet it is ‘India’s angry young women’ whose presence is being most felt. Together citizens across gender, age, class and caste are raising a fierce rallying cry for unity against fascism.

Details of acronyms for further reference

NRC- National register for citizens
NPR- National Population Register
CAA- Citizenship Amendment Act 2019

Featured image: Protesters participate in a candlelight protest march against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019 and National Register of Citizens (NRC), in Bengaluru on Dec 24, 2019. Image: IANS, CC license.

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3 Responses to “Against fascism in India: in solidarity, through care”
  1. Mary Sue Smiaroski

    I found this reflection deeply moving, based as it is on a profound sense of dignity and a liberating understanding of the human condition. To the writers: may a sense of quiet joy follow and sustain you and the other women carrying out these struggles.

  2. In the same way that deleterious Trumpism is creeping into neighbouring Canada, the unreasonable Hindu fanaticism is filtering into Nepali society which, even before becoming a secular state in 1990, had a peaceful influence under its Hinduism. We must acknowledge that when sociopolitical leaders, especially in influential countries, display antagonism and disrespect to others, such demeanour may be seen as legitimate by societal groups elsewhere and similar aggressiveness will progressively manifest. This is not good for the country in question; and not good for the world.

  3. samir sardana

    Y Muslims need to see CAB,UCC and NRC Together – like the Christian Trinity

    A lot of the Hindooo Dindoo Bania/Brahmin TV media try to delink the CAB and NRC,and try to make Muslims believe that CAB is not Anti-Muslim and NRC is far off..dindooohindoo

    This is again a strategem of the Fat Pancho Amit Shah and Dishwasher Chaiwala Modi diwmit duopoly.

    Phase 1

    In Phase 1 – the Bania/Brahmin company did cow lynching,love jehad lynchings,rama temple lynchings – to place the Muslims in the siege mentality syndrome.This is the Israeli Model – who first rape and kill the Palestinians – who look to the UN and the USA/EU – who do not do a thing.This starts the siege mentality when the legal system turns its back on the race,and the said race becomes a pawn in the hands of nations,and international organisations.

    Phase 2

    In Phase 2 – after making the Muslims physically insecure and helpless,the Bania/Brahmin company, deliver legal blows like the triple talaq bill,rama temple etc.This is also the Israeli Model – wherein the Jews have conned the USA to shift the embassy to Jerusalem,and reckon it as the capital of Israel.

    Phase 3

    In Phase 3 – which has now commenced you have the trinity of CAB/Uniform Civil Code(UCC) and NRC

    The target of the NRC and the UCC are the Muslims,per se.In CAB,it is an assymetric target – by specifying 3 Islamic nations – and their Hindooo,”so called oppressed minority”.

    The expectation is that Muslims become innured and oblivious of this destruction – just like the Dalits did for 5000 years.

    Phase 4

    In Phase 4 – like the Israelis split the Fatah/PLO etc., the Bania/Brahmin scum will give an OPTION to the minority sects of Muslims,to state in their identity documents their sects.This is the phase of casteing and classing the Muslims – who will ultimately declare,that they are “Hindoo Muslims”

    Minority sects of the Shia,Bohris,Ahmadiyas etc are declared as Non-Muslims in several Islamic nations.West Asian History also records that the Mongol invasions were assisted by these sects.Hence,these sects will in all
    probability toe the line of the Brahmin/Bania vermin – and start offering ritualistic tribute to Rama and the mad team of ape gods

    Phase 5

    In Phase 5 will come the quarantining and class-ing of Indian Muslims and Dalits in special zones and geographies with separate tranist id cards and restrictions on voting and mobility.

    Class is a natural corollary of the caste sanction in the Gita.The aim is to 1st use class to split the Muslim sects and then target the Hindoo castes – namely the Dalits.The Muslims are targetted with the pretext of National Sacurity and the Dalits will be targetted on the grounds of economic security – and then split based on Valmikis etc.

    The Problem of the Indian Muslims

    What is The Problem of the Indian Muslims ? The Gita is the only scripture which authorises caste discrimination before a man is born,and which lasts beyond the death of the person.

    It is only a naturally corollary and evolution that the Brahmin vermin will apply the same maxim to the Indian Muslims through the contorted and contrived convolutions of the NRC – under the garb of National Security – ostensibly to satisfy Article 14 of the Constitution.In reality the Brahmin/Bania vermin does not care for the Constitution – which is the antithesis of the Vedas and the Gita and the Ramayana.

    The Hindoos did the same thing to the Sikhs.Nanak did not use the word “Khalsa”.It was the Hindoo who conned the Sikhs,to become a race of mercenaries – and a sort of a mad suicide cult – which started worshipping vulgar and naked Hindoo Gods and Goddesses.The Sikh Gurus,Ranjit Singh,Khalsa Empire and Sikhism,were all destroyed due to the spiritual corruption by the Hindoos.Whoever supported the Hindoos was destroyed – that is the record of history (From the Sakas to the Huns/Mongols and the Mughals) and also recorded by Beruni.

    Now it is the turn of the Indian Muslims – it is they who voted for the BJP – just like Solomon who broke the Oral law and specific injunctions by Allah.Now it their turn to face doom.If a follower of Isaac or Ishmael cannot recognise Evil and explicitly supports Iblis or Evil – then it is clear than the man has been forsaken by Allah – and, in the opinion of this author,deserves doom.

    An “Indian” Muslim is not a Muslim who follows the Oral Law as re-revealed to the Prophet.To live as an “Indian” Muslim is a spiritual curse – which would definitely,not lead to paradise.

    The Hindoos of Pakistan and Afghanistan

    Not even 0.1% of the Pakistani and Afghan Hindoos will seek refuge in Hindoosthan.And those that are in Hindoosthan will realise very soon that they have no DNA link with Indians.

    They will cohabit and marry with their own and eventually shift to USA/EU – just like the Iraqi Shias in India,who only marry among their own.

    The Hindoos of Bangladesh

    Bangladesh has Gas.North East India has nothing.In the next 10 years,Indians will become economic refugees in Bangladesh – and many parts of North East India,will voluntarily secede from the Indian Union.In addition,like in Lanka,when a new political entity in Dhaka,kicks out the BJP and the Indian State and the PRC and PLA come in,the entire North East will be supplied from Bangladesh,at 20-35% cheaper items – for all purchases made by the North East Indians.They will be glad to secede from the Indian Union and form a trading block – with the PRC dam-ing the Brahmaputra,and wheeling the power right across India,to Myanmar and Dhaka.

    The Future of North East India lies in Myanmar,PRC and Bangladesh – and NOT with Eastern India or Central India

    Hindoosthan is doomed.


    The Solution is only the partition of Hindoosthan.Partition leads to evolution of the human race – when there is no 1 race,in a nation.PRC is one race – the Mongol and the Mongoloid.India has a million mongrelised races plagued by 2000 years of incestuous pullulation – and that is a sad historical and scientific fact and truth

    The suboptimal and retarded evolution of the Indian Mongrel races,is what is leading to the disaster of Hindoosthan,as it exists today.dindooohindoo