Did the ads come a tad too late?

26 Dec,2019


By Sanjeev Kotnala


The ads came too late. Much after the nation burned in a fire of hatred, rumours, distrust and fury of confusion. People joined rallies and protest. Lacking any chance of proper information, the protestors lost patience. Hooligans intermingled with protesters. Turned agitators. The stones started coming from streets and universities. The tear gas, water cannons were not far behind. Innocent and not-so-innocent citizens joined morchas with questionable leadership. The minority and majority of people with no one to turn to for answers believed whatever was thrown at them via the social media.


Speakers from every area of the society – intellectuals, politicians, religious leaders, students and teachers – joined in. There was no way for anyone to evaluate and logically decide which side should they stand.




The issues were sensitive. They were expected to flare up sentiments.


Surprisingly, the government and the people associated with such delicate matter thought that the religiously charged geopolitical situation prevailing in the country was more than enough reason for a widespread campaign on the subject of CAA and NRC.


There has to be a study and scenario build-up that the advisors were expected to create and recommend. I would hate to believe that the government woke up one morning and used the august space of Parliament to launch a service called CAA and NRC for the nation. The NRC timelines of 2024 were stated without a framework. The inclusiveness of minority across neighbouring countries left many unanswered questions.





The leaders and protesters played to the gallery and primate fear of safety and survival. The uncertainty associated was a big dark cloud threatening people. The issue of religion and its linkage is something an ordinary peace-loving citizen would hate to think in a secular India.


And then there is of course a large section of people fed on communal hatred and fear wanting and pushing for the Hindutva Rashtra. Interpretations and perceptions were ruling the day when absolute clarity was needed. It, for too long, remained a game of perceptions. Perceptions are ultimately adulterated with reality.


Even the best of the people were clueless about what was it all about. Then how can we expect the masses who follow their leaders blindly to understand? It was a god-sent opportunity for many.


What is the objective? Why was it not inclusive enough or what forced exclusivity in the CAA and NRC understanding? How could the government fail to be sensitive to the situation? How did they underestimate the reaction? Who is really responsible for the damage it has done to the religious and cultural fabric of the country.


For every protestor, there must be thousands living in the cocoon of misunderstanding and unvoiced fears. For every peaceful protestor, there were tens of tens with pre-determined agenda and well-planned strategy to incite further violence and hatred.





It does not matter which earlier government started the process and why did they, for so many years, did not go through even a symbolic effort to implement. You can call them cowards or they did not find the environment conducive enough. The current government, with its majority and thinktank(s), had every right to re-evaluate, withdraw, take no action, tweak or create the right environment before leasing the demon of rumours and heated sentiments.





It is not only the communal fabric that is getting ripped ruthlessly. The hatred fueled by the lack of information. The respect for police the civilian protectors has taken a beating. The citizens have been held ransom to uncertainty while media took a position. The sovereign Constitution of Indian collectivism has been questioned. The centre and the state balance has been challenged. None of them good things to happen.


Police must not have to work with hands tied. Fear repercussion when they are trying to control what is an attack on them and are not by mile ‘peaceful protestors’. Rioters must be identified and if they are thousands or lakhs, so be it. However, no decent, peaceful protestor must be harmed. The right to protest and the right to expression is an integral part of the country and its citizenship.





Too late. The ads came too late.


What would it have taken for the government to create transparency and provide the best explanation to intent and the process?


It demanded full-fledged print, TV, radio, outdoor and digital campaign to be developed.

It required that the government engaged the best of the creative brains to develop the campaign and best of the media agencies to orchestrated the release and exposure.

The cost of such an exercise would not ever be a deterrent. Clearly, this was not a subject that could be answered over some agenda much or few interviews.


The silence for the last few days has been loud and damaging.




There is no doubt that almost every responsible country across the globe has some or the other form or NRC. It is a reality that every country must have an NPC. So what if NRC and NPC they are unrelated (as stated by the government). It is a surprise that NRC is just an idea at present with no framework. It is somewhat questionable why was it even brought in?


The CAA is a different debate. It may require a different approach and rework to be inclusive. The question remains as to Which country, Which religion, Who all, Which country should it cover? And which dates should be taken as the cut-off? Or should there be a cut off at all? Or have we passed the time of the cut-offs? Or do we draw a line today and make everything stabilise.


Sanjeev Kotnala is a senior industry professional, consultant and educator. He writes for MxMIndia every week. His views here are personal


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