The massive nationwide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens have revitalised Indian civil society, with broad coalitions springing up between students, minorities, lawyers, doctors, academics and the urban youth. Not since the 1990 Mandal agitation has Indian society seen such an outpouring of people on the streets from Coimbatore to Delhi.
It is unclear how this situation will evolve from here. The BJP has reasons both to be smug and to panic. It may assume that the “real India” has nothing to do with the middle-class liberals rallying on the streets, and they can expect Modi’s base to ally with him, regardless of what the critics say.
A sense of alarm is also evident going by the number of arrests, detainment and the brutal crackdowns on students and protestors in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. The number of protestors may be small but a determined revolution has begun and nothing terrifies a party more than the power of a spectacle that can bring together the public.
The government, meanwhile, remains firm on implementing the new citizenship law. Home minister Amit Shah had made it clear that implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) will be followed by the National Register of Citizens (NRC) throughout India that will be concluded by 2024 – though the party seems to be on the backfoot now.
We asked people what they think will be the outcomes of the protests -
"As much as I believe that protests and demonstrations are important, this government is so messed up - I feel like this is all in vain, but it's good to see them panic. Lying about the NRC, deleting their old tweets are the little wins we needed. But in the larger picture I'm unsure how it will bring change, all we can do is hope that the old man listens to his nation." Pranav, 24.
"I don't think the protests are going to do anything at all. These people come on the streets, disturb traffic, get beaten up, and still, they don't stop. I don't see the point - The government is going to implement this anyway, why are they trying to go against it when there's no point? There's going to be no sudden change of mind or whatever." Gauri, 42.
"Protests are what brought us our independence so if you still think that "protests are useless" just remember we overthrew colonial rule with protests. It doesn't look great right now simply because of the fascist government trying to keep the state of our nation under the wraps, but we won't stop. We're here to fight, and fight we will." Rajashree, 26.
"Before I say anything else, here's a token of my appreciation to BJP's IT cell for taking up a challenge that they can never win. When it comes to outcomes of the current protests, we can see some of them even now - deleting old tweets, making videos with young millennials to be relatable, lying to the public, - all of these are wins. This is how it starts, they backtrack on small things till one day, they can't, they're caught in the lie and then it's all downhill from there, for them." Imaan, 28.
"Being present at these protests is important, it's only when the entire nation shows dissent that the government no longer has a sense of pride and power, that's when we can break them down. These protests will only work when we come together - which we are, in huge numbers - because only then will the fascist party know they don't stand a chance against the people." Jyotsna, 39.
"It's dicey. On one end there's hope that this may just work. That this may just be the right move. But on the other hand, the government in power is such a largely fascist enterprise, they don't care. We could be out on the streets every day, but they still wouldn't care. Their ideology is more important to them than anything else, but so is ours. We will fight for equality and justice even if it takes us years to overthrow these jerks." Prachi, 20.
India can hardly afford this form of turmoil in an environment where unemployment is at an all-time high, and the economy is at an all-time low. The students and other citizens on the streets are those who are trying to spare India the chaos the CAA has in store for the country, we can only hope it brings about the change they intend to bring.