Summary: Vigorous and extensive participation of working masses in the ongoing spontaneous protest movement is the need of the hour!
Original version in Hindi accessible to download in the right hand column.
Many activists associated with the working class movement in India have raised this question: How is the working class movement related to the ongoing nationwide movement against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register for Citizens (NRC)?
Under the present regime we are witnessing a massive push towards privatization of almost all government enterprises including Defense and Life insurance Corporation (LIC) ; workers are being made redundant in huge numbers, BSNL (a government owned telecom company) workers are not getting their wages for months, as a result of which hundreds of them have committed suicide, there is a large scale wage-cut in many industries, working hours are being increased, workers are being forced to work overtime & there is a tremendous rise in unemployment, poverty and starvation. In this situation when we have failed to give a fitting reply to this onslaught of capital on our lives, why should we join the ongoing protests against CAA and NRC? At least joining this movement cannot certainly be a priority for us?
In order to understand if this question is valid, we need to understand why CAA and NRC are being forced upon us at the very moment when we are facing this unprecedented attack of capital on our lives. Can it be, these two events are in fact interconnected?
Today capitalism worldwide is going through deep crisis. Having gone through tremendous technological development through centuries, capitalism has reached a point when as a result of widespread use of automatic machines and Robots, a huge number of workers have been rendered redundant and therefore “surplus”. On the one hand this huge army of unemployed is a source of cheap labour for capitalism, but on the other hand this very unemployed army can potentially pose a serious threat to the system. The bourgeoisie of different nations are searching for different ways and means to deal with this threat. We all know that on September 15, 1935, Nazi Germany had passed a Citizenship Law declaring that: “A Jew cannot be a citizen of the Reich. He cannot exercise the right to vote; he cannot hold public office.”
Inspired by Nazi Germany, the present regime in India is planning to take away Citizenship from a large number of Indian residents. Bigger the number of people deprived of their Citizenship, the better it would be for Indian capitalism undergoing a deep crisis today. This is because this “surplus population” in tens (or perhaps hundreds) of millions can be kept alive in detention camps specially made for them at a minimum cost and made to work like slave labour without wages. It goes without saying that the majority of these people sent to detention camps would perish and thus capitalism would be exempted from providing jobs to them as well as their unborn progenies. What could be more ideal for the regime in power, if they can get rid of the “surplus population” and simultaneously create a vote bank in their favour out of the remaining population designated as “citizens” by them? To achieve this ideal they merely have to establish that that the people deprived of their citizenship are in fact illegal citizens or ‘infiltrators’. The project of CAA, NPR and NRC fits perfectly into this scheme. Thus instead of sending these illegal citizens to other countries, who may refuse to take them, they can be kept in detention camps till they, along with their unborn progenies become totally extinct.
Those amongst us, who are still under the impression that the target of CAA and NRC are Muslims alone, are living in a fool’s paradise. It is true these citizenship laws have been specially designed against the Muslims. But as we have witnessed in NRC held in Assam, although 19 lakh [1.9 million] people were declared illegal citizens, only 6 lakhs [600.000] were found to be Muslims. The remaining 13 lakhs [1.3 million] were found non-Muslims out of which the majorities were Hindus. Thus we can see, these laws are in reality against the entire working class and toiling masses of India. The reason behind this is the simple reality that the agenda of the ruling regime to get rid of the “surplus population” cannot be achieved by targeting Muslims alone, who are relatively a small minority of the entire population. Therefore the target includes all those who are economically, socially as well as politically backward, i.e., the Dalits, the Adivasis, landless peasants as well as a section of the working class. As we all know, in today’s highly skillful technological production, only a small section of the population can manage to get jobs and the majority of them belong to the privileged echelons of our society.
However it is extremely heartening to see a sea of humanity pouring into the streets to protest against CAA, and NRC during the last few months. The protesters have continued to protest peacefully in spite of the widespread violence perpetrated by the police, the government and the goons of the ruling party. In most of the cities it is Muslim women who are at the forefront of the protests. The women at Shaheen Bagh, Delhi (mostly homemakers and labourers) have continued to protest for the last 3 months without break. They have not only shown extraordinary courage to come out of their houses challenging the extremely patriarchal society to which they belong, but have also shown enough maturity to continue their protest tenaciously as well as peacefully in spite of several provocations. As a consequence they have succeeded in gaining support from different quarters of society besides students. One shining example is opening of Langars (free kitchens) for the protesting women by poor Sikh peasants from around Delhi. Besides women, a large number of students and youth have also participated in the ongoing protest movement. The unique feature of these protests lies in the fact that these protests are neither led by any political party nor by any charismatic leader but by the collective leadership of the women and students. Similar protests are being held at several other places of Delhi along with the protests at Calcutta, Lucknow, Patna, Gaya, Bhopal, Raipur, Nagpur, AIlahabad, Bombay, Jaipur, Chennai and countless other cities as well as villages.
We the workers have much to learn from these protest movements – how to fight our battles against CAA, NRC and other working class issues not under the leadership of a political party or a bureaucratic trade union but collectively by forming workers committees. Today we need to develop a new type of initiative, new forms of struggle which are under the collective leadership of workers. During these struggles we need to form new types of worker-organizations based on worker-democracy. Only by doing so, we will be able to take our struggles forward towards a new society, a society free from exploitation, oppression and slavery, free from caste-ism and racism. Based on equality and harmony this new society will witness a truly humane relationship between Man and Woman on one hand and between human society and nature on the other.
CAA and NRC are based on religious discrimination and therefore stand against the principles of Indian constitution and democracy. However, even more important than this is the fact that these acts passed by the Indian parliament are against the fundamental principles of humanity. People do not cross borders today only due to discrimination and oppression on the basis of religion. They go to other nations in search of decent work (and sometimes in search of any work available) in order to live a better life with dignity. People from neighboring countries come to India and people from India go to Europe, America and Arab countries for this very purpose. The attempt to live a dignified life is a fundamental right of every human being and it should be recognized as such. We the workers through our sweat and bloods have cultivated this planet through millennium and therefore it is our right to make any part of this globe our home.
The ongoing all India struggle against CAA and NRC is a struggle of the toiling masses of India against Neo-Fascist Hindutva regime of BJP. Looking at the nature of the struggle and its tenacity to continue and spread, it can be reasonably hoped that the movement will intensify in coming days which will have a far reaching and positive impact on our society and the world at large. An extensive and vigorous participation of the working masses of India in this revolutionary mass movement is the need of the hour.