The Congress has activated its student and youth wings as well as state units on both the CAA and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), directing them to build a people’s movement on the twin issues.
Calculating that this is an opportunity to reconnect with India’s young, particularly, student population, the Congress is planning to take the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests across the country with a message that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is at “war” with its own people, a party leader said.
The opposition party has so far maintained that it is a fight to protect the Constitution, which is being “violated and threatened” by the BJP with its “divisive” politics.
By standing with the students, the Congress is trying to reach out to the youth that had moved away from it in the wake of the anti-corruption movement launched by social activist Anna Hazare in 2011-12. Those protests had laid the ground for the ouster of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in which the Congress registered its worst ever tally of 44 seats.
“This is the time to reconnect with the youth. We, as a political party, have made our position very clear that we stand with the students in protecting our Constitution and the country,” another Congress leader said.
The party has activated its student and youth wings as well as state units on both the CAA and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), directing them to build a people’s movement on the twin issues.
“The CAB & NRC are weapons of mass polarisation unleashed by fascists on India. The best defence against these dirty weapons is peaceful, non violent Satyagraha. I stand in solidarity with all those protesting peacefully against the CAB & NRC,” tweeted former Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Monday, indicating that the party will be at the forefront of a peaceful movement.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi too has been unsparing on the government. “The Modi government has become a symbol of violence and division. This government has pushed the country into an unfathomable depth of hate and has destroyed and decimated the future of India’s youth. When those sitting in echelons of power foment violence, attack the Constitution, mercilessly beat up India’s youth and flagrantly violate the law, then how will the country be governed democratically and constitutionally?” she asked.
“The Modi government’s intent is clear – destabilise the entire society, incite violence, snatch the rights of the young, create an atmosphere of communal disharmony and use all of these for parochial political gains. The architects of this conspiracy are none less than Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah,” Sonia Gandhi added.
To show solidarity with the students, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and other senior leaders on Monday held a protest in front of India Gate against the “police brutality” on students of Jamia Milia Islamia and the Aligarh Muslim University.
Youth Congress president Srinivas BV said his organisation will play its role in channelising the protests by the youth and would go to every nook and corner with a message that the need of the hour is to “save” the Constitution and the nation. “This injured nation calls for an end to all the violence perpetrated to its people. The war is at our doorsteps, it is here, it is now. Fight, speak up, do not be a mute spectator,” he said.
Srinivas also hinted at prolonged agitation. “The Youth Congress will not rest until the wrongs of this fascist regime has been made right. Let the government understand the protest over police barbarism in Jamia is the spark of a flame that will eventually burn down BJP,” he said.
This time, the Congress is clearly not worried about the repercussions of being labelled as anti-national, as had happened during the protests in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in 2016. Rahul Gandhi had then visited the JNU campus to express solidarity with the students protesting against the arrest of then students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar on sedition charges. Kumar was arrest for allegedly organising an event in the campus against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.
A senior Congress leader explained that the context was different now, as protests have not been confined to two varsities but spread to other campuses across the country and even states. “The entire country is against CAA and NRC. Look what is happening in North East. Did BJP expect that? Other states too have spoken against these issues. Can the entire country be labelled anti-national for rising against the injustice?” he asked.
The Congress president too issued a stern warning to the government in the wake of ongoing protests. “Let PM Modi understand that the rising youth power – student power is always harbinger of a new change. The circle of suppression and subjugation unleashed by BJP’s arrogance executed through the instrument of police brutalities against the youth and the students will prove to be the beginning of the end of Modi government,” she said.