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, work groups 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. For those willing to dispense with “whataboutery” style questions, point them to this comprehensive document where they can read & independently research this subject and form their own minds: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1S5mzfijNKE1X2qBU26FA_y0FPyiAGicT/view

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

On the contrary, the vast majority of the violence & property damage has been committed by the police and by organized political thugs and there is ample visual evidence of that.

(Download link)

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

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

Here is the full list of people killed in the protests so far: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1d22dUUHTc0OF7XQ-UrFVbRoTQt_RXOVdu3Ku84KZqaY/edit#gid=0

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. Also point out that it’s quite interesting that all the violence has pretty much been entirely in BJP-ruled states, and ultramassive protests everywhere the BJP is not in power have been peaceful. In case they challenge your assertion that almost all of the violence has been in BJP states, please point them to the Home Minister saying the exact same thing (except, he blames it on a political conspiracy 😁 https://m.timesofindia.com/india/shah-why-have-non-bjp-states-not-seen-violence/amp_articleshow/73077071.cms)

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.

This is the core of this fallacy: The innocence of every single protestor is completely immaterial to whether the law is moral or constitutional. Listen to what the PM and Home minister have said at campaign rallies and see the stark difference between that and the damage control they are doing now.

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
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 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

Legal foundation for why the CAA/NRC is a bad idea: https://twitter.com/EqualityLabs/status/1208495239369035780?s=20

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:

  1. Explaining the chronology of CAB and NRC: https://video.twimg.com/ext_tw_video/1207957560457777153/pu/vid/414x240/jWrUL0PWz_06yTek.mp4?tag=10
  2. May 2019 speech https://video.twimg.com/ext_tw_video/1207956703544672256/pu/vid/786x720/LcH3fKE8wV0t6s0s.mp4?tag=10
  3. 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/854x480/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”

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

There are photos of them.

Photo of Assam detention centre taken in Dec 2019 by https://twitter.com/ahmermkhan/status/1208726318080131073

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

BBC has a video about them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3yis-Igp7I

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

Is it not a basic responsibility of a citizen to prove that he is a citizen by showing documents? Don’t Americans have to prove that using things like SSN, passport etc?

 

It might surprise you to learn that the answer it NO. Let me explain.

We have to provide Identity (Who you are) to the government to be able to avail services, or to vote. For this, we have voter ID, aadhar, Passport, Ration card and a host of other identity documents.

It is NOT your job, but the government’s job to prove that you are NOT a citizen. If you are residing in this country, the burden of proof is on the state, not you. It is the government’s responsibility to maintain a list of those who enter the country (using visas or illegally). It is every local government officials’ responsibility to ensure that those who lose identity documents in natural or man-made disasters get them back promptly.  

They DO NOT get to harass 130 crore people into proving that they are an Indian citizen because they have not done their job of maintaining a list of who IS NOT

Please understand that this does not mean that the protestors are denying that we have an illegal immigration problem. The important point here is that it is not every legal citizen’s responsibility to spend their precious time and resources gathering age-old documents, standing in line, dealing with corrupt bureaucrats to prove citizenship so that the state can weed out foreigners.

To the assertion that Americans and other western countries also ask their citizens to prove citizenship, I’m afraid you are factually wrong. Don’t believe me - believe the USCIS’ official website - https://www.uscis.gov/us-citizenship/proof-us-citizenship-and-identification-when-applying-a-job

(The first paragraph categorically states “We do not issue any kind of citizenship document to a person who is a citizen by birth in the United States.”. Of course the US has government departments dedicated to keeping track of those who enter legally and ICE, the controversial department regularly in the news uses police style investigations to find out who is residing illegally and targets them directly. If ICE were to take the BJP’s recommended approach of asking every legal citizen on the street to show documentation, they’d be shut down by their Supreme court in a moment’s notice).

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev shared a video where he calmly explained why CAA & NRC were good ideas, and the Prime Minister & Home Minister both encouraged everyone to watch these videos.

With due respect to every one of you who follows Jaggi V and finds his ideas to be personally useful in a spiritual sense, I’d like to perhaps suggest that he is not an expert in politics. In fact, the traditional, ancient Indian idea of a Yogi or a monk is someone who stays away from politics, but that’s his choice to make. However, it’s not a good idea to assume that everything he says is accurate or sensible.

  • He starts out with “I even wondered have I missed something really? Because I haven’t read the Act fully, I only know it from newspapers & what's generally out there” 
  • In general, I think it’s a good idea to read something before passing judgement on it. Particularly, someone who subsequently goes on to wonder if the protestors read the act.

  • According to him, "23% (of minorities) stayed back in West Pakistan and around 30% in East Pakistan (Bangladesh). That’s what people say...I am no expert but it can't be totally wrong."

  • He then goes on to say that discrimination against non-Muslims is enshrined in law, and claims that Hindu marriages are not recognized in Pakistan
  • This is a good example of using a broad generalization which is true (Pakistan and Bangladesh are not great places for those who are not Muslim) to make a very emotionally charged and specific claim - that even Hindu marriages are not recognized. Except - that’s not true since 2017 https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-39233567

  • He then says “we cannot afford millions of people coming into India and that’s why some countries were chosen in the CAA. “The reaction in the country amazes me. Are we this hard-hearted that somehow for this reason...This bill is only focused on religious persecution”
  • That we cannot afford millions of people coming into India is true, but he uses this neat little trick of saying “that’s why only some countries were chosen”, so that the criticism that Sri Lankan Tamils, Rohingyas & Tibetans were not included is addressed, but it’s a bit dishonest to claim that protestors who are asking for the religion filter to be removed are the ones who are more hard-hearted than the side that is keeping muslims from these countries out.

  • He then says “It looks like government was caught napping as they didnt expect such reaction for such a simple issue. They didnt put up enough police on streets so police got trashed really badly on streets....brutally.”
  • This is objectively inaccurate given the massive and brutal scale of police response to peaceful protests in every BJP-ruled state (and relatively incident free protests in every other state). Please see the links in the first question for video evidence of large scale police brutality

  • Then he says this rather disturbing thing - “But I think they (police) didn't use their firepower. That's a lot of restraint otherwise people would have died in big numbers.” and also compares Jamia students sitting in the library to quarry workers
  • Among the things Jaggi V does not seem to understand is how policing works in a democratic society. The police aren’t doing protestors with a constitutional right to protest a big favour by not killing them in massive numbers (we are all not like his late wife). It is the police’s job to enable democratic protests while maintaining law and order.

  •  Finally, when asked about the NRC, he makes fun of people who don’t have identity documents and wonders “"Then who the hell are you?"
  • 19 Lakh people in Assam ended up being in the first NRC list. 19 Lakhs, of which several had lost their documents to annual floods, forced migrations and the ravages of time. Several thousands lost their documents in Kerala during the floods last year. So the answer to his insensitive “Who the hell are you?” is “A human being”.

 

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/

Haartez (Israel): https://www.haaretz.com/amp/world-news/.premium-india-under-modi-is-becoming-a-brutal-authoritarian-state-1.8298750?__twitter_impression=true

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. - Citizenship Amendment Act is fundamentally discriminatory in nature  https://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=25425&LangID=E