Tired of explaining CAA/NRC to Bhakts and Fence-Sitters? Here’s how you can respond to their standard questions

Compiled by South Asian Students Against Fascism

As massive protests have erupted nationwide in opposition to the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Act, the BJP’s massively well-funded IT-cell operation has predictably begun a misinformation campaign to convince the apolitical, average citizen that this is all a bunch of anti-national, agenda-driven, Modi-hating, Muslim-appeasing, Urban naxal, Congi, AAP-tard, secular troublemakers out to besmirch the image of India globally by embarrassing the government. Only one of those accusations is true – the secular troublemaker part. And be proud to be one.

There are some who are quite open in their support for anything that makes Muslims’ lives harder, and they are best ignored (not engaged with on any platform) and not amplified (by quote tweeting in anger or snark). You can’t change their mind any which way, but you can, if you are focused enough, make a dent on the fence-sitters, because right now, the only information they are getting is misinformation from the right-wing.

But the real battle is not on Twitter or Facebook, it’s on WhatsApp. It’s estimated that 400 million Indians use WhatsApp, while 8 million use Twitter. WhatsApp is where families, school & college groups, workgroups and every combination of shared interests and relationships intersect. It’s also increasingly where the non-tech savvy get their news. WhatsApp shapes politics way more than any other platform in India and while we waste our time haranguing Jack Dorsey to fix his algorithm and do a better job of banning violent toxicity on the platform, most of India is quietly fed a daily dose of toxic misinformation on every single imaginable topic by right-wing activists on WhatsApp

Here’s a cheat sheet that will help you respond to misinformation on CAA/NRC on WhatsApp.

PS: A recommended conversational strategy with those in favour of NRC or sitting on the fence is to not jump to bombard them with links and gotchas. No one likes being lectured to. So, ask them questions. What do they think the NRC is? The CAA? Ask them why the exception for Muslims or why Srilankan Tamils or Tibetans are not included? Most people respond better to discovering their own gaps in knowledge than being lectured to by someone. Use the links and media here after you’ve asked the person to explain why they are in favour of the law.

The protests are violent and damaging public property. How can I in good conscience support that?

A vast majority of the violence has been committed by the police and by organized political thugs and there is ample visual evidence of that.

  • “Goli Maro Saalon ko” led by BJP leader Kapil Mishra
  • Police firing in Mangalore
  • Turning a peaceful protest into a violent one
  • Police damaging property by themselves
  • Police damaging a car in Bulandshahr
  • Police damaging vehicles (this is typically done as part of a standard procedure to then later blame protesters for property damage, except unfortunately nowadays people have smartphone cameras).
  • BJP workers dressed in skull caps fomenting violence
    RSS workers caught damaging shops in Gorakhpur
  • CT Ravi, Karnataka BJP, threatening protestors with another Godhra.
  • A “The Hindu” journalist arrested in UP for no reason because he was Kashmiri
  • Woman school teacher arrested and beaten brutally
  • Police use blows to the head on protestors (the usual method is blows to the legs)
  • Gorakhpur (Ajay Singh Bisht’s hometown):
  • Unprovoked police violence in Darya Ganj street in Delhi -Download link)
  • The police literally quoting the PM on “we know what they look like” to randomly pick up someone who looks Muslim
  • Students at AMU have needed medical amputation of arms/limbs after police violence.
  • NSFW Warning: Images of police brutality on students
  • Children being held and beaten with belts by the police
  • More minors being thrashed by the police in UP
  • One of the casualties is a 8-year old. 8. Years. Old.
  • A video montage of police violence so far:
  • The death toll from police violence so far

In contrast, there are several examples of completely peaceful, yet massive protests in every state that is not ruled by the BJP

Nagpur, Maharashtra: https://twitter.com/shraddhs/status/1208215489157054464
Pune, Maharashtra: https://twitter.com/CPPuneCity/status/1208057982929391616
Mumbai, Maharashtra: https://twitter.com/AzmiShabana/status/1207698719115808768
Vaniyambadi, Tamil Nadu: https://twitter.com/itssinghswati/status/1207995229455839233?s=20
Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu: https://twitter.com/Akshayanath/status/1208084321480761345?s=20
Hyderabad, Telangana: https://twitter.com/bemusedlawyer/status/1208439278541295618?s=20
Dharavi, Mumbai: https://twitter.com/advsanwar/status/1208728309623873538?s=20

Reminder: 24 people (and counting) are DEAD. Several hundreds gravely injured. Not a single police casualty till date

Are you saying the protestors are entirely innocent?

Don’t fall for this false equivalence. Keep sharing more and more links of the police committing violence because there will always be more of them while the same bus-burning video or stone-pelting video will get jaded after a point.

Point out that if there was a pickpocket and a murderer, saying that “both are criminals” is an utterly useless distinction, and also immoral if you think about it.

How come no one is showing any sympathy for that one policeman who was stoned/beaten/thrashed?

This is yet another classic fallacy. First, it wrongly presumes that *no one* showed sympathy, which is impossible to prove. And secondly, the police and the state have asymmetrical power. Who has guns? Snipers? Lathis? Tear gas? And orders to shoot? And how many protesters have died so far, and how many hundreds have been injured? This is a ridiculous expectation that equal amount of sympathy must be publicly demonstrated.

That you don’t happen to know someone in your social circle who is anti NRC/CAA and also expressed sympathy for this policeman’s injuries does not invalidate the movement. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence_of_absence)

But don’t stop with that. Ask them if they believe the law is constitutionally valid because some policemen were injured. This will help separate out validity from the protests/violence. It’s the conflation of both that makes it easy for a government to point to one to justify the other.

How come the media is not covering this police violence?

Because the government literally ordered them not to (not too different from Nazi Germany in the 1930s).

Proof: https://twitter.com/timesofindia/status/1208027465815228416?s=20

And, the government has blocked internet to prevent any kind of reporting from almost every place with massive protests

I saw so many media interviews with the protestors and none of them seem to know what they are protesting about

Again, don’t engage with this bait directly. In crowds of millions, simple statistics will tell us that it’s not hard to find someone who is not articulate or knowledgeable about the issues at hand, but has a broader sense of right and wrong and is thus participating in the protests.

Turn the question around and ask them: Do you know what the CAA/NRC is about? Can you explain it with more clarity than the protestors you are making fun of? Also ask them if that if some 10 out of a million protestors aren’t able to explain with clarity what they are protesting, does that make the law automatically constitutionally valid? Or must they still be a good citizen and research it properly themselves?

Then share Gautam Bhatia’s excellent explainer of CAA/NRC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9n_bjgrCLjg

Many of these protesters are making it seem as if all Muslims will be rounded up tomorrow itself and deported. Is that not misinformation?

Again, this is a bait that is best not engaged face-on. It puts the onus on the protesting side to somehow magically achieve a uniform level of understanding, accuracy and high-IQ articulation across the board. That’s not how protests work. As with any movement, if you want to understand it, talk to those who understand it deeply, not point to some average chap and say “look, he’s saying stupid things, so the movement is invalid”.

The following analogy will help explain this: Take Climate Change as an issue. There are scientists who build complex models and make aggregate predictions of dangerous effects on the planet over a long period of time. And there are Greenpeace activists who take the law into their own hands and shut down factories they believe are damaging the environment. And there are people on Twitter who will scream that the world is about to end tomorrow because of Arctic ice melting tsunamis.

Ask them if pointing at the alarmist exaggerator who screams apocalypse now somehow invalidates all of climate science? Explain that all movements work similarly. If they want to, in good faith understand why CAA/NRC is morally and constitutionally wrong, they should listen to experts, and not to some poor chap who had a mic shoved at him at a protest.

Expert videos:

Gauram Bhatia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9n_bjgrCLjg

Suhrith Parthasarthy: https://twitter.com/IndiaToday/status/1204823077785391110

Gautam Bhatia (on the connection between CAA & NRC) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37fL0c_14eo

What about the government’s official clarification that has been doing the rounds on WhatsApp? Didn’t that say that the CAA will not hurt any citizen of India?

Please check if that “clarification” is on official government stationery and is signed by an official authority. If not, ask yourself: why isn’t the government officially clarifying these questions.

Then, please note that the “clarification” carefully ignores the important connection between NRC and CAA. If you want to understand this important connection, read this excellent summary: https://medium.com/@St_Hill/yes-the-caa-and-nrc-are-linked-to-each-other-f0f6c2175b8d

Or watch Gautam Bhatia’s explainer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37fL0c_14eo

On the other hand, the Home Minister has been saying exactly what will happen with CAA & NRC in every single election campaign speech. Why are his campaign speeches different from the “Oh come on, it’s not that bad, no one will get deported” clarifications they are issuing right now?

Downloadable links for Amit Shah’s speeches:

Explaining the chronology of CAB and NRC: https://video.twimg.com/ext_tw_video/1207957560457777153/pu/vid/414×240/jWrUL0PWz_06yTek.mp4?tag=10
May 2019 speech https://video.twimg.com/ext_tw_video/1207956703544672256/pu/vid/786×720/LcH3fKE8wV0t6s0s.mp4?tag=10
Explaining that non-Muslims will get citizenship under CAA and will require no documents at all https://video.twimg.com/ext_tw_video/1207958311615647744/pu/vid/854×480/NC380tETF7jDSjc9.mp4?tag=10

Also, point out that no one seems to be talking about the financial cost of the NRC exercise: here’s a crisp video that explains this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlTKGz-TvJk&feature=youtu.be

Remember: It is the government’s job to explain exactly why CAA has an exception rule for muslims. It is not every single protestor’s job to explain and justify why they are protesting in perfect legally precise language. Saying that CAA will affect no muslim citizens in India is not enough, when we know for a fact that 19 Lakhs people have been declared non-citizens in Assam under the NRC, and we also know that in that 19 Lakhs, several were non-muslims, and now, thanks to the CAA, we know that those non-muslim detainees have an easier path to citizenship

Should India not strive to protect minorities in our neighbouring countries? How can you say Muslims are persecuted in officially islamic countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan & Bangladesh?

Absolutely, we must protect minorities in our neighbouring countries. Did you know Ahmediya and Hazara muslims are not even considered muslim in their home countries and are regularly subject to state sponsored rights abuse? Why is this bill not protecting them? Or Srilankan Tamils. Or Rohingya muslims, who are a minority in a non-islamic country (Myanmar). If the bill had not discriminated against one religion in this way, the protests would not have happened

I heard the Prime Minister’s speech in Delhi. He put a rest to all the fear mongering by clarifying that the government never said anything about implementing the NRC or putting people in camps.

To put it mildly, the Prime Minister lied. Let’s fact-check his speech by using his own party members’ and government employees’ words and actions

1, “I want to tell the 130 crore citizens of India that since my government has come to power, since 2014, there has been no discussion on NRC anywhere…”

Either the PM is lying or Rajnath Singh is: https://twitter.com/rkarnad/status/1208717825814204416?s=20

Amit Shah said the exact opposite in Parliament: https://thewire.in/government/amit-shah-reiterates-bjps-intention-to-extend-nrc-across-the-country

Amit Shah has been saying it at multiple campaign rallies:

BJP Twitter handles have been quietly deleting any tweets where they’ve been talking about NRC’s implementation: https://twitter.com/SquareGas/status/1207945683182870528?s=20

2, “There are no detention centers anywhere”

There are photos of them.

Assam: https://indianexpress.com/article/india/room-for-3000-post-nrc-assams-brand-new-jail-5975952/

Karnataka: https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/kids-immigrants-stay-parents-same-detention-centre-centre-ktaka-hc-113934

The government told Rajya Sabha that 28 people have died in the Assam detention center: https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/28-deaths-in-assam-s-detention-camps-minister-tells-rajya-sabha/cid/1722471

The center told the Karnataka High Court that they have instructed all states to construct detention centers, so did they lie to the court?: https://twitter.com/arvindgunasekar/status/1208683715888582657

The government even has a manual on how to run detention camps! https://twitter.com/ArijeetGhosh1/status/1208714908063289344

3. “I never asked for anyone’s religion, Mujh koi bhed bhav nahi”

The PM said in a campaign rally recently that those who are committing arson can be identified by their clothes: https://www.livemint.com/politics/news/those-indulging-in-arson-can-be-identified-by-their-clothes-pm-narendra-modi-on-anti-caa-protest-11576416062234.html

Last year, he said that Rahul Gandhi is contesting in Wayanad only because Hindus are a minority there: https://www.indiatoday.in/elections/lok-sabha-2019/story/hindus-minority-in-wayanad-so-rahul-gandhi-picked-it-says-pm-modi-1495806-2019-04-06

International media coverage about India’s CAA-NRC: You can argue that some media outlets are “biased against Modi”, but claiming that every single major one from every major country is biased is slightly hard to digest.

“India is betraying its founding fathers” – Foreign Policy. https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/12/17/india-citizenship-law-protests-narendra-modi-amit-shah-founding-fathers/

“India just redefined its citizenship laws to exclude Muslims” – Vox. https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/12/12/21010975/india-muslim-citizenship-bill-national-register?_gl=1*1rb7198

New Yorker – Has Modi Finally Gone too far?

https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/has-narendra-modi-finally-gone-too-far-india-protests

New York Times. Secular India fights back https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/20/world/asia/india-muslims-citizenship.html

Sydney Morning Herald. Modi cannot wish 200 million muslims away https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/narendra-modi-cannot-wish-200-million-muslims-away-20191218-p53l49.html

Wall Street Journal. India’s Muslims push back against Modi Govt

https://www.wsj.com/articles/with-protests-indias-muslims-push-back-against-modi-government-11576866067

CNN. Indian Muslims risk being branded as infiltrators https://edition.cnn.com/2019/12/14/asia/indian-citizenship-laws-muslims-intl-hnk/index.html

The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/16/india-protests-six-dead-as-demonstrators-vow-to-continue-to-fight-citizenship-changes

Japan Times – India is abandoning its founding principles

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2019/12/17/commentary/world-commentary/india-abandoning-founding-principles/#.Xf2lT0czbcs

Le Monde – Threat to Indian secularism

https://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2019/12/17/menace-sur-la-laicite-indienne_6023163_3232.html

Wall Street Journal

https://www.wsj.com/articles/with-protests-indias-muslims-push-back-against-modi-government-11576866067

Financial Times – Amit Shah is dedicated to transforming India into a Hindu nation

https://www.ft.com/content/776db6a2-21f5-11ea-92da-f0c92e957a96

Time – https://time.com/5753624/india-narendra-modi-nationalism/

 

 

 

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