The anti-CAA protests might not have caused any real change — the law has been passed by both houses, and will start being implemented soon — but it sure has revealed where a lot of people stand on certain issues.
On a TV debate, Congress member Ajay Verma challenged the BJP to give a separate nation to India’s Muslims. “Like Bangladesh was created, create a separate nation for India’s 20-25 crore Muslims” he thundered. “And declare India as a Hindu Rashtra,” he added.
His comments drew a gasp of astonishment from the anchor, who immediately challenged him on his claims. “What are you trying you say,” she asked. As the discussion turned heated, other participants on the debate then berated Verma for his statement, saying he and his party was trying to divide the country.
It’s understandable why talk of a separate nation for Muslims draws such strong reactions. For one, it opens old wounds — the partition of India into secular India and Muslims Pakistan in 1947 had been one of the greatest tragedies in human history, displacing millions from their homes and killing lakhs. Also, the demand for a separate nation for Indian Muslims sounds unacceptable to most Indians, given how Pakistan was already created for Muslims who wanted to live in a Muslim-majority nation. To cleave yet another Muslim nation from India would be a betrayal of the idea of India as it had been proposed in 1947
But the CAA protests that have erupted over the last few months have now taken on a distinctly Islamic hue. During the protests, protesters have held up placards saying “F*ck Hindutva”, chants of kaafiron se aazadi (freedom from infidels) have been raised, and scores of Muslim men have been accused of damaging public property. Nowhere is this more apparent than at Shaheen Bagh, where Sharjeel Imam, the lead organizer gave a speech where he asked for Assam to be “permanently cut off from India”, given how Muslims dominate the area called the chicken neck that connects India with the North East. During his police interrogation after his arrest, he said that he believed that India should be an Islamic state.
But the Congress now wants to take this idea to its logical extreme — it’s openly talking of a whole nation for India’s Muslims. The idea might find some resonance in the vote banks that the Congress traditionally covets, but it remains to be seen if it’ll find broader acceptance among the people of India.