- From Yogi Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, to all the BJP leaders campaigning, Biryani is a bad word. They rant against Shaheen Bagh and Biryani together.
- But if you connect the dots, it makes sense from Amit Shah’s perspectives. Using Shah versus Shaheen Bagh, he has managed to whip up an agenda of hate to polarise the Delhi election where the BJP was a no-hoper against incumbent AAP.
Shaheen Bagh now commands world attention as a group of determined women - some grandmothers and some with infants in their arms - are taking on the might of the Narendra Modi government in a protest against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
The protestors are armed with nothing but the tricolour- the Indian flag. The Preamble to the Indian Constitution is read almost on the hour every hour, protest songs ring and the women join in.
Yet two armed shooters have threatened the peace of Jamia-e-Milia Islamia and Shaheen Bagh and a woman identified as Gunja Kapoor, who is currently “blessed” to followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi sneaked into Shaheen Bagh wearing a burka and tried to take videos. Kapoor has run the political gamut - from being a Modi hater tweeting: “I am ashamed of being an Indian till Modi is PM” to now calling herself Modi’s “foot soldier". Kapoor has been promiscuous in her political dalliances supporting the Congress, Aam Aadmi party (AAP) and even the Samajwadi party.
Fortunately for the Shaheen Bagh ladies, they caught Kapoor before she could carry out her plans to tarnish the protests. Kapoor gave a fake name calling herself “Barkha” and was handed over to Delhi police.
Luckily the wise women of Shaheen Bagh recorded everything despite which Kapoor is making outlandish claims that they tried to force her to convert to Islam. This is Modi's “foot soldier”.
So why the BJP’s desperation to tarnish Shaheen Bagh?
Their IT cell head Amit Malviya put out a doctored video claiming that the protestors were being paid money and biryani.
From Yogi Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, to all the BJP leaders campaigning, Biryani is a bad word. They rant against Shaheen Bagh and Biryani together.
But if you connect the dots, it makes sense from Amit Shah’s perspectives. Using Shah versus Shaheen Bagh, he has managed to whip up an agenda of hate to polarise the Delhi election where the BJP was a no-hoper against incumbent AAP.
Shah has thrown everything into the Delhi election: Going door to door to campaign; making 270 Members of Parliament work on each Assembly segments. Shah has led the charge against Shaheen Bagh saying: “Press the button of the EVM with such anger that the current hits Shaheen Bagh.”
His candidates have talked about doing a “surgical strike” on Shaheen Bagh. One BJP MP said if Modi and Shah did not win this election the Shaheen Bagh women would enter people’s home and rape them.
A Union minister in Modi’s cabinet Anurag Thakur thundered: “Goli maro salo koh desh kei gadaron koh” (kill all the traitors). A former chief election commissioner S.Y. Qureshi has expressed dismay at the light tap on the wrists administered by the current Election commission. In Shaheen Bagh Shah, he saw a potent way to re-write the electoral script in his own image. The script is the familiar minority-baiting dog whistles and to convince the Hindus that they are in danger from the nefarious plans of the minority.
In Delhi, we had the incredible sight of the incumbent Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal being forced to recite the Hanuman Chalisa. Shah on a daily basis challenged Kejriwal to come clean on his support to Shaheen Bagh. Finally, Kejriwal said if he had the power he would get it cleared in two hours.
Shah and the BJP have already won as all other parties now tweak their strategies and campaigns on the new Hindutva pitch. All the Opposition parties in India are now shaky on secularism - we can call it the Shah effect.
Delhi polls are crucial
The outcome of the Delhi election will have huge significance. Kejriwal has tried to play on the local work done by him pitch, while Shah has made CAA and Shaheen Bagh his campaign tools.
Delhi results are a Rorschach test for India. Will Delhi be swayed by a dark and poisonous campaign of othering a group of Indians or will they vote for a government which is at least trying to run on its record of governance.
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I fear whatever the results Shaheen Bagh will be cleared by Shah perhaps using violent means. The toxic Gunja Kapoor plan failed. One protestor in Shaheen Bagh told me she thought Gunja Kapoor, who had a hidden camera on her person would have worn the burka and shouted pro-Pakistan slogans to tarnish the protests.
The question is why do mercenary self-described “foot soldiers” of Modi want to attack Shaheen Bagh?
The answer is the political reality that is gripping Indian politics today.
The BJP has now made every election about Pakistan, Biryani and accusing other parties of being “anti-national”. The echoes of the 1930’s Germany are not coincidental.