The fortnight since the adoption of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill by parliament has been witness to one of the significant moments in recent political history in India. It has revealed two facets which are interrelated but opposite in nature. The first facet is that the Modi government has emerged as a full-fledged authoritarian regime. The second is that the widespread protests against the CAA and the NRC countrywide, have established the gathering resistance to the onslaughts on secular democracy and the constitution.
The Modi government at the centre and the BJP-ruled states have unleashed a frontal attack on the democratic rights of citizens–on the right to assembly, the right to peaceful protest and freedom of expression. Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which prohibits the assembly of more than four persons, has been widely used in all the BJP-run states and in Delhi where police and law and order are with the centre. The most extreme form was seen in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh where the entire state was put under prohibitory orders.
The use of Section 144, a colonial law resurrected in the Criminal Procedure Code, in this manner makes a mockery of the right to protest which is constitutionally sanctioned.