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Protests against CAA-NRC-NPR First National Movement for Hindu-Muslim Unity after Mahatma’s Departure: Harsh Mander

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Harsh Mander addressing anti-CAA-NRC-NPR gathering at Lucknow's Ghanta Ghar on Feb 13, 2020.

New Delhi— The on-going massive nationwide protests against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and central government’s plan for conducting exercise for National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a movement without precedent in the journey of the country; in fact, it is the first national movement for Hindu-Muslim unity after Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated, says eminent human rights activist and former civil servant Harsh Mander.

He recounts the successes of this over two-month long movement in an article published in The Indian Express on February 20.

“With no single leader, at the vanguard of this rising are young people and working-class Muslim women. Its icons are Mahatma Gandhi and Babasaheb Ambedkar and its symbols the Tricolour and the Constitution. The national anthem, sung rousingly in every protest, has become a protest chant,” says Mander.

Discarding the pessimist views about the success and future of the anti-CAA-NRC-NPR movement, former IAS officer Mander lists its five major successes:

* Its paramount success is that it is the first national movement for Hindu-Muslim unity after Mahatma Gandhi was taken away from us. Indeed, it is a movement for the unity of people of various religious and caste identities. When poor Sikh farmers camp cold nights in Shaheen Bagh to prepare langar with desi ghee for their protesting sisters, it represents the triumph of what is finest in our civilisational traditions.

* Re-politicisation of students in universities across India — today students are teaching their elders not to hate, showing the way to a more caring and equal country.

* Reassurance to India’s Muslims who have been witnessing harrowing and terrifying times in recent years as they were rendered politically irrelevant and treated as a political liability to every party.

* Reclaiming of the idea of nationalism by those Indians who include and unite rather than divide.

* Making the Constitution the soul of the people’s movement – in mass as well as street-corner protests, usually led by young girls, crowds reverentially recite the Preamble of the Constitution – at a time when it is most threatened.

* Compelling reluctant, morally ambiguous non-BJP parties to take a stand to defend the Constitution, which they were willing to betray for petty considerations. It also forced the central government to say the NRC had not been its agenda.

On Hindu-Muslim unity, Mander quotes Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and asks people to heed him:

“Today if an angel were to descend from the Heaven and declare from the heights of the Qutab Minar that India will get Swaraj within 24 hours provided she relinquishes Hindu Muslim unity, I will relinquish Swaraj rather than give up Hindu Muslim unity. Delay in the attainment of Swaraj will be a loss to India but if our unity is lost it will be a loss to entire mankind.”

In the end, Mander writes: “The other part of the movement, therefore, must be to deepen our unity and solidarity. It must address not just the state but each of us. In the end, the kind of country we become will be determined not by law or court judgements, but by whether love or hate colonises our hearts.”

In the last three years, Mander, with his team of Karwan-e Mohabbat, has been visiting victims of mob lynching in various parts of the country – from Rajasthan to Haryana to Jharkhand. He has been tirelessly working to overcome the communal rift caused at the grassroot levels by national hate politics.