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Indian Americans hold protests against Citizenship law

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Message Abdus-Sattar Ghazali
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Indian Americans have joined fellow Indians in protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which discriminates against Muslims. The CAA excludes citizenship for Muslim migrants who had illegally entered India from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh before December 2014.

Two-day protests were held against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in multiple places across the United States of America, including New York, California, Washington and Georgia. The protests were held across four locations at Artesia Boulevard in Los Angeles, Devon Street in Chicago, Moody Street in Waltham, Patel Plaza in Decatur and Newark Street in Jersey City over the weekend of January 18 and 19.

Thenmozhi Soundararajan, Executive Director of Los Angeles-based South Asian American organization, Equality Labs, the News Minute that the protests are being organized to demand that the controversial Act, which provides citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, be repealed.

"The CAA is an integral part of the Modi government's process of creating a stateless Muslim population who can be profiled, treated as second-class citizens, and imprisoned in massive detention centres already being built in India," Thenmozhi adding that the government currently receives support from the Indian diaspora in the US and the protests were held to spread awareness on the controversial law.

"This is why we're mobilizing a National Day of Action with South Asian American grassroots groups across the US to uplift the demand that these networks immediately cease their support and divest from the spread of Hindu fascism. We are drawing a line in the sand: The diaspora will not be complicit with genocide," Thenmozhi said.

Vinnu Wolhowe helped organize the action in Seattle, Washington. She told the News Minute: "As a Dalit Christian from India, who now lives in Seattle, I know that religious and caste minorities in India have experienced state-sponsored violence through a plethora of avenues and that we have seen this coming. We have to wake up and be willing to look at these uncomfortable truths: India has never been a tolerant, secular, nation, and what we tout to be the biggest democracy has never been safe for minorities."

Shelly Anand, who helped organize the action in Decatur, Georgia, was quoted by the News Minute as saying: "The Modi-led government is.. seeking to further deepen the divide among South Asians by caste and creed, rather than bring us together -- and all for the benefit of upper-caste Hindus. I'm taking a stand against the CAA, the Hindu Right, and Modi government because I refuse to perpetuate the communal tensions that have plagued the subcontinent and the diaspora for over a century."

Nationwide protests against the law are on the rise

Since the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was passed on December 11 by the Indian Parliament there have been protests across the country.

The amendment to the Citizenship Act of 1955 provides a path to Indian citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian religious minorities fleeing persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who entered India on or before December 31, 2014.

Under the Citizenship Act of 1955, one of the requirements for citizenship by naturalization is that the applicant must have resided in India during the last 12 months and for 11 of the previous years. The amendment relaxes the 11-years requirement to five years for persons who are not Muslims.

Political analysts say that this is well-planned long-term strategy of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to stay in power. Of the 25 lower-house seats in Parliament from Northeast India, 14 are from Assam, two from Tripura (which is dominated by Hindu Bengalis), two each from Manipur and Meghalaya, and one each from Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim. Assam has seven seats in the upper house of Parliament, while the rest of the Northeast has seven. Therefore, any party that can win at least 15 seats from the region in a general election by playing the communal card has the added advantage of forming the federal government.

Manchester University Students Union

In the United Kingdom, the Students' Union of the University of Manchester on Monday issued a statement expressing solidarity with anti-CAA protesters and students of Jamia Millia Islamia, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

The statement pointed out that spontaneous protests against the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) have erupted across India, especially led by students in university campuses. "The government's response to civil and democratic protests has been to unleash violence and terror. Multiple reports have documented the use of riot gear, tear gas, batons and live ammunition. This state-sanctioned terror has now entered universities notably, Jamia Millia Islamia, Aligarh Muslim University and Jawaharlal Nehru University. Unarmed student protesters have been attacked severely: their bones broken, their heads split open. To add insult to injury, police reports have been filed against the victims while the perpetrators often non-state actors enjoying implicit political patronage have gone scot-free."

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
 
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