Beyond secularism & fascism: CAA gives opportunity to re-imagine clichés about idea of India
Hilal Ahmed/The Print
No one knows the fate of anti-CAA movement. But the ideological struggle between New India and Just India will continue to survive.
The controversial Citizenship Amendment Act has now become a reference point for future political articulations about two ideas of imagining India. And yet, old binaries such as communalism-secularism and nationalism-fascism are still being invoked out of sheer intellectual laziness.
The debate over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) presents a new opportunity to re-imagine tired clichés about the idea of India. There is now a need to look for those ideas that explain the dasha (state of affair) and disha (future direction) of contemporary Indian politics.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership wants to invoke the idea of citizenship to redefine its aggressive Hindutva-driven nationalism. The anti-CAA protests, in contrast, oppose this law to reclaim what protesters call the true spirit of Indian republicanism.
These conflicting claims produce a new battle of political ideas.
There is an official idea of New India, which is the ideological underpinning of the CAA. On the other hand, there is an equally influential idea of India’s Swadharma (India’s inner-self) that proposes a radical streamlining of our political culture.A controllable ‘New India’
New India, we must note, is not simply a political spin. It is a thoroughly worked out ideological framework that the BJP accepted as its political principle in 2018.
Narendra Modi’s official website underlines three features of ‘New India’: A nation driven by innovation, hard work, creativity; a nation characterised by peace, unity, brotherhood; and a country free of corruption, terrorism, black money, and dirt.
To realise these objectives, Modi’s website asks Indian citizens to take an eight-point pledge. Two of these points are very interesting: “I extend my complete support to an Accessible India”; and “I will be a job creator, not a job seeker”.
In the tradeoff between rights and duties, citizens are called upon to offer uncritical support to the Modi government so as to achieve what is called an ‘accessible India’. On the other hand, seeking employment as a fundamental right is strongly discouraged. Indian citizens are clearly told that job creation is not a duty of the government; hence, they should not consider it as a right.
In ‘New India’, the government asserts itself as the supreme agency that works on behalf of the citizens in the political sphere, but it keeps itself away from the economic sphere and does not take any responsibility to provide jobs. For Modi, “New India is the era of responsive people and responsive government.”
This ‘selective accountability’ attitude provides an ideological legitimacy to the BJP to justify the dilution of Article 370 and pursuing an aggressive CAA campaign to correct what it calls “historic blunders”. At the same time, this framework empowers them to refute anti-CAA protests as irresponsive experiments.India’s Swadharma
One of the most constructive critiques of ‘New India’ has come from Swaraj India’s president Yogendra Yadav. His notion of India’s Swadharma not merely provides a theoretical coherence to the anti-CAA protests but also shows that the Indian experience with democracy has transformed it into everyday culture.
Yadav’s conceptualisation of Swadharma is not about the glorious Indian civilisation, which Jawaharlal Nehru aimed to rediscover in his Discovery of India; nor does Yadav reduce it to the constitutional ideals, which are cherished as the solution for everything. Instead, he defines India’s Swadharma as Bharat ka iman — an element that captures the uniqueness of our democratic experiences in the post-1950 period.
Swadharma tries to redefine the much-celebrated Western political ideals of democracy, diversity, and development in the Indian context. Yadav says India convinced the world that democracy could be practiced in conditions of deep disadvantage and lack of formal education. This is also true about diversity. Yadav suggests that the Indian idea of diversity has not been about celebrating cultural/religious differences but about ‘acceptance of radically different ways of being’. The idea of development is also redefined as something not limited to GDP growth rate or per capita income.
For Yogendra Yadav, “what is distinctive about our contribution to thinking about development is the idea of the last person first” – something M.K. Gandhi had said.