Protests erupted against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in liberal enclaves within a select few Universities in India. It was apparent from the very beginning that the campaign did not have widespread support even within the campuses of the said Universities. However, with the help of a pliant media, the campaign was hyped up to create the pretence of a widespread students’ movement across the country.
We witnessed the manner in which the alumni of different Universities launched a counter-campaign to bust the narrative that students were by and large against the government’s initiative. The alumni at IIMA, in response to an earlier statement by leftists and liberals from the University, endorsed the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Registrar of Citizens.
“While the media reported IIMA as being against NRC in an almost a blanket stereotyping of all students, members and alums, there are many, many who support and understand the need for NRC. These voices deserve a place and space to be heard on an equal platform, and it is no justice for them to be clubbed as Anti-NRC just because some of their peers signed a letter,” a letter in circulation said.
In a similar vein, leftists at IIT-Bombay issued a statement that gave one the impression that the entire institution was against the CAA and NRC when it was evidently not true. As a consequence of that, the silent majority of IIT-B spurred into action and launched a counter-campaign to declare their support for the said initiatives. In Delhi University as well, students came out in large numbers to support the CAA.
As it turns, the counter-protest in support of the CAA has spread to other Universities. Leftists at the Dr Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow, issued a ‘statement of solidarity with the students of Jamia Milia Islamia & AMU’. The statement was “in light of the continuing police brutality to curb their peaceful protest”. It was alleged that the Police went to the extent of “brutalizing students under the garb of maintaining law and order”. The statement was signed by various committees of the institution, thus, giving the impression that it did have the explicit consent of major sections of the student community.
However, as it turns out, there was no consensus even within the committees, let alone the wider sections of the student community. Rahul Chaudhary, the national media convenor of the ABVP who happens to be a student at NLU-Lucknow, said that there was significant disagreement even within the said committees who did not agree with the public statement made at all. He told us that a select few individuals assumed the authority without ever being awarded the same and then proceeded to release the statement on behalf of everyone without the consent of those around them. He told us that students were particularly offended by the fact that the statement appeared to convey their opinions as well when clearly they did not endorse the sentiments expressed through it.
OpIndia has also accessed a Facebook post in a closed group that shows the discontent that was brewing following the release of the statement. The individual who made the abovementioned Facebook post said, “I know many people including me who are part of one of the committees and they do not adhere to the same.” Thus, as a consequence, a second statement was issued in response to the previous one by the students of the said institution. And the contrast between the two statements could not be starker.
In the revised statement, the students acknowledge that it’s still unclear whether the protesters from Jamia and AMU resorted to violence or not. It also condemns unequivocally the incidents of rioting and mob violence by the protesters. At the same time, it expresses gratitude towards the Policemen in charge of law and order. But, it also urges the Police to “respond to instances of violence with due regard to the principle of proportionality.” It also urges citizens to “be careful that we do not unwittingly become channels of misinformation and polarization”. It concludes with the hope that “peace is restored and constitutional values are upheld”.
Not once did the statement express any solidarity with the protesters of Jamia and AMU and neither did it condemn the Police entirely, that is the biggest takeaway from the revised statement. Furthermore, the statement clearly acknowledges that the said committees are unelected. Most importantly, it acknowledges that “they do not seek to present the statement of solidarity as the position of the entire student body but merely a part of it” and “It shouldn’t be taken as everyone’s voice”. Thus, another deceitful attempt to present the Leftist stance on the protests as the normative opinion of the student community failed spectacularly.
An even more brutal retaliation came from the Alumni of the National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata (NUJS, Kolkata). The Alumni voiced their unequivocal support for the Citizenship Amendment Act and condemned the mob violence that erupted across the country in the wake of it. They also expressed their gratitude towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for the passage of the Bill.
Their statement said, “We believe that the enactment of the CAA is by no means anti any particular community specifically Muslims and is founded on an intelligible differentia under Article 14 of the Constitution of India having a reasonable nexus with the objective it wishes to achieve i.e. protecting life and liberty of oppressed minorities from three neighbouring nations.”
The statement also said, “We are appalled by the logic fronted by those in opposition to the CAA. Though they submit that persecuted minorities must be protected, yet their solidarity extends to only one particular community and not for persecuted Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians which the CAA aims to protect and harbour. India has in the past opened its doors to Tibetans and Jews. Their fears against NRC are also premature and conjectural.” In a damning indictment, the statement said, “We appeal to the cynics and pathological naysayers to uphold their democratic right to protest and not misuse their freedoms.”
Thus, quite clearly, the ‘movement’ of ‘students’ that is being hyped by the media is facing the strongest resistance from students themselves. Amit Shah, during a recent interview, mentioned that the protests in Universities were not as widespread as it is touted to be and only occurring within a select few institutions. Even so, it appears that within these institutions themselves, the students do not enjoy widespread support as they want others to believe. Thus, liberals and leftists have been forced to engage in deceit in order to feign an aura of popular support.
With the help of the media, a narrative has been created that widespread sections of the ‘student community’ were against the CAA when, in reality, there is no evidence to suggest the same. Furthermore, OpIndia has exposed the manner in which the students’ wing of the Congress party has been attempting to instigate protests across Universities in an obvious bid to garner political mileage from the resultant protests. However, they are facing stiff resistance from students themselves who are coming out in droves in support of the CAA.
The entire charade of the protests by Leftists and Liberals with help from a pliant media reminds one of the famous book by Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman: Manufacturing Consent. The book posited that mass media outlets “are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function, by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion”. In simple words, the media peddles dedicated propaganda in order to create an impression of consent among people. When the public buys into the media narrative, they believe that what they are being told is genuine and choose not to question it. Even if they have personal disagreements, they resist airing their opinions for fear of public disapproval and social ostracization.
In this particular instance, the mainstream media has attempted to ‘manufacture consent’ regarding the authenticity of the so-called movement by students. In reality, no such movement exists on the ground and the ongoing protests are appropriately described as one by liberals and leftists, not students. By portraying it to be as one by students, the mainstream media is attempting to propagandize a students’ movement against the CAA into existence. However, their attempts are being foiled by the silent majority which has finally decided to raise its voice.