Today, Indian Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat has spoken. So did more than a thousand intellectuals some days ago. Bollywood now stands a house divided. For the Citizenship Act 2019. That Prime Minister Narendra Modi would speak against the violent demonstrations that are going on in the name of exercising citizens’ democratic right to protest against a law passed by the parliament of the country was a given. More than the speech or statement of any of the above, what is speaking is people’s silent disgust, thanks to the cantankerous leftists who incited Muslims, misleading them with the notion that they would now have to establish their Indian citizenship. The more they lie, the shriller they are, the more blood they shed, the more the support grows for the amended law. Two private organisations, IANS and CVoter came together to conduct an opinion poll where about 62% of Indians were found to be in favour of the change in the act. Even Assam, where tempers have considerably cooled down, stood alone in the Northeast as a dissenter. The international media with its predisposition against the ‘Hindu’ government isn’t helping much in shaping the public mood, as the likes of BBC, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Al Jazeera, etc stand as discredited as the mainstream Indian newspapers like The Times of India, The Hindu, The Indian Express, etc and indigenous rabble-rousers like the extremes of Prashant Bhushan and Arundhati Roy and the moderates of the ilk of Ramachandra Guha and Yogendra Yadav. If they took the violent Jamia Millia Islamia, Aligarh Muslim University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jadavpur University and all for representatives of the national sentiment, they were living in a fool’s paradise. Every time an ordinary citizen’s property is reduced to ashes and a daily-wager or regular worker cannot reach his workplace in time because the streets are held hostage by hooligans of the left, resentment against the lot that is allergic to the epithet of ‘anti-national’ heightens.
That does not, however, mean that the government’s job of communicating the truth is accomplished. The prime minister has done well to point out that the amended law basically addresses the hapless Dalits, which is the most common caste identity of the refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Antagonising Dalits is an idea the left can ill-afford. The ruling BJP needs to harp on this factor more to put its detractors on the backfoot. Second, the speech of the prime minister that followed, where he highlighted the wrongs of the violent gentry while unveiling a statue of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Lucknow, has unnerved the media that is clearly on the side of the disrupters. The Indian Express said on its front page on 26 December, “… The hope is that amplifying the violence will focus on the method more than the cause and dent the anti-CAA-NRC mobilisation.” When journalism of a media house that promotes a free market turns sympathetic of the ’cause’ of those who wreck the economy, even its die-hard subscribers take everything else it has to offer with a pinch of salt. This bias must be highlighted by the ruling party. This campaign in these violent times can do without the nicety of drawing a line. Modi may recall that Jyoti Basu’s attacks on Anandabazar Patrika used to be vicious. The left has established precedences of discourteousness in speech and vulgarity in action; there is no limit the right can be accused of crossing. Already, Home Minister Amit Shah has perfected the art of bluntness where his ‘no’ means nothing but a no.
Nothing can be explained to a mob, though. Not to the shameless who use children as their political weapons and shields. The government has made it amply clear who the CAA caters to and that the NPR is necessary before every census. As for the NRC, let the delusional media keep basking in the light of its misleading headlines that create the impression that the idea has been shelved. The misinterpretation of the prime minister’s words is proof that the detractors are in not in the right shape of mind to listen. Modi aimed at little more than telling the people that losing their composure over an exercise whose processes have not been decided yet did not reflect well on their maturity; he never said a nationwide NRC would never happen. But to rub it in, the messengers on the government’s side need support to dispel the myths. As of now, every myth buster is an independent unit responding to the urge to serve the nation. This force would do well with consolidation and solidarity, which may both be left to them. But they also need a push by the state actors. From videos to pamphlets, from articles to audio recordings, from seminars to street theatres, whatever can make the truth reach the people must enjoy state support while the police deal with the violent with batons and bullets. The subsequent opinion polls will show much greater support for the law and the propagandists will be marginalised.
Unfortunately, the provincial units of the BJP are proving a liability. Their lacklustre performance is stripping the party of power in one state after another. If the state bureaucracy of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Jharkhand, besides the clerks in states where the BJP never ruled, do not cooperate, neither the NPR nor the NRC can be carried out comprehensively. Propagating a concept becomes difficult when half the campaign team is not with the campaigner. After the rejection of Vasundhara Raje, misplaced faith in Shivraj Singh Chouhan, alienation of tribals from Raman Singh, half-hearted mandates for ML Khattar and Devendra Fadnavis and a comprehensive defeat of Raghubar Das, Modi and his trusted, able and resolute lieutenant Shah must invest in the only thing that the Vajpayee government did better: creating a second-rung leadership.