The Resonance of Jamia and Shaheen Bagh – Salman Khurshid

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Senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid – File photo

These women have repudiated stereotypes imposed on them by cynical political commentators as indeed the popular media. Having claimed the public space these women are unlikely to retreat into the comfort of their homes and forsake the public leadership they have assumed with ease and determination.

SALMAN KHURSHID | Caravan Daily

By all standards and past precedents the CAA-NRC-NPR protests across the country are unique. Whilst years of experience and characteristic style of hardened youth protesters is conspicuous, there is a fresh dimension of women and little children adding to the visual impact and quality of the protests.

These women have repudiated stereotypes imposed on them by cynical political commentators as indeed the popular media. Having claimed the public space these women are unlikely to retreat into the comfort of their homes and forsake the public leadership they have assumed with ease and determination.

Interestingly the participants are not all Muslims but those who are do not show self consciousness of being Muslim despite some people having flagged certain expressions uniquely associated with Muslims as detracting from the secular character of the movement.

The form and content, not to mention the symbols displayed, are wholesome in substance and have convincingly defeated attempts of the opponents to smear communal colour across the face of the movement. Essentially it is a movement for the Constitution, of the Constitution and by the spirit of the Constitution; all denominational and political factions flags have vacated space for the tricolour.

Given that the movement comes fortified by constitutional morality, it is surprising that some exceptional odd characters are accused of instigating violence in isolated cases (with the police having resorted to state violence in a brutal and oppressive fashion).

The movement is a moral and peaceful one and constitutional in essence, unlike many movements we encounter periodically that seek to procure benefits and entitlements. No one in this movement is seeking personal benefits (although ultimately an individual has a right to express concern about potential impact on her) but about rule of law under the constitution.

It is thus not about the self alone but about society as a whole. Since it is the constitution that the movement seeks to defend the onus is heavy to ensure that the steps participants take do not violate the constitution. The Preamble must remain the guide with its words resonating the soul of the constitution.

Meanwhile, the public discourse triggered by the unprecedented outcry in the streets and universities of the country has been repeatedly driven in directions that can be misleading and disruptive of unity for the cause.

The challenge before the Supreme Court will take its time before the final judgment is pronounced. But sensing the intensity of public feeling State governments have moved resolutions opposing the CAA-NRC-NPR combine. Publicly conceding that the Resolutions cannot override the Amendments passed by Parliament is by no means indication that the opposition to the CAA etc is being diluted.

Ours is a federal structure of governance and therefore the strong contrary opinion of the States ( or some of then ) about the law cannot and must not be ignored. Curiously difference of opinion between the Central government appointed Governors and the State governments too must be handled in the proper spirit of mutual respect and accommodation.

One hopes that the Supreme Court in its great wisdom will be able to find a solution that balances the competing aspirations within the federal structure and constitutional morality keeping in mind the constitutional conventions that need to be respected. Of course, the Supreme Court judgment will be the last word till a future Parliament chooses to reverse the changes that have been made.

Democracy prevails over all decisions except those constitutional provisions that the Supreme Court has said is beyond the reach of transitory political majorities. It remains to seen if the arguments at the Bar will persuade the Court that non-discrimination on grounds inter alia of religion for purposes of citizenship is such a basic feature of our constitution.

This decision will have to be taken knowing that it would mean life or death in terms of a persons most basic character from which all other descriptions flow citizenship of the country.

Another dimension that must not be lost sight of is that our decisions might well be creating Stateless citizens, not to mention giving cause for tension with our neighbouring countries. This may well be an opportunity to take our understanding of the constitutional scheme to a higher level and our democracy to greater maturity. But our public discourse must rise above fascism versus anti-nationals; us versus the other; patriots versus iconoclasts ( tukre tukre gangs ); bhakts versus Lutyens’ people; the enemy within versus X mukt; friend versus foe.

Be that as it may, 2020 is the year of rebirth of secularism, liberalism, nationalism, constitutionalism, equality, dignity, freedom, justice. While people spoke of new India, we are witness to the rebirth of India, celebrating time tested principles of nationhood even as it embraces emergent modernity and the opportunity it offers to succeeding generations of Indians. An ancient civilisation has also proclaimed that it is young and gender just.


Salman Khurshid is a senior Congress leader and former law minister and foreign minister. The above is taken from his Facebook wall. 

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