Thousands begin protest in largest ever rally of Indian Americans to mark India’s Republic Day as a “Day of Action”
Indian Americans and US based civil rights organizations join international movement against the brutal repression of minorities and caste oppressed in India
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 26, 2020
A broad coalition of Indian Americans and US based civil rights organizations and activists today organized massive rallies in multiple cities across the United States on January 26, India’s Republic Day to demand that India repeal the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that its Parliament legislated last month. The law is blatantly undemocratic, unconstitutional and divisive in both letter and spirit.
Protesters are demanding an end to India’s continued repression of minorities and are urging the US Government to impose sanctions on India’s Home Minister Amit Shah, as recommended by the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
In recent months, the Indian government has legislated the “Citizenship Amendment Act,” which applies a religion based criterion for granting citizenship to migrants from neighboring countries. Along with the National Register for Citizens (NRC), the law can be used to turn stateless millions of Muslims who have been Indians for generations. Detention centers are being built across India in order to imprison and subjugate those the state arbitrarily deems as unwanted denizens in India. The Indian government’s moves are reflective of the ideology of Hindutva, a supremacist ideology born of Hindu nationalism espoused by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The ruling BJP is the political wing of the RSS.
Organized under the banner of “Coalition to Stop Genocide,” coordinated protests are being held at Indian missions in New York, Washington DC, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago and San Francisco, in addition to dozens of other cities with a sizable presence of the Indian diaspora. Protesters in Washington, D.C., converged outside the Indian Embassy and marched to the White House. Other cities where protests are happening include Indianapolis (IN), Wichita (KS), St. Paul (MN), Seattle (WA), and Detroit (MI).
The January 26 mass protests follow more than six weeks of US-wide protests since the CAA was passed on December 11. Multiple protests have been held outside the Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Last week, students at Stanford University had organized a protest on their campus.
The Coalition to Stop Genocide includes dozens of organizations, including Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Black Lives Matter (BLM), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), Equality Labs, and Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR).
“The CAA is an integral part of the Modi government’s strategy of creating a stateless Muslim population, that can be profiled, treated as second-class citizens, and imprisoned in massive detention centers already being built in India,” said Dalit rights activist and founder of Equality Labs, Ms. Thenmozhi Soundararajan. “This project may start with Muslims but all caste-oppressed communities are at risk as we are the communities in the crosshairs of Hindu nationalists. We are marching in force globally to stand as a united diaspora to say to the Indian government stop the genocidal CAA. The time to stop a genocide is before it starts,” added Ms. Soundararajan.
“Protests happening not only in India but around the world represent a global consensus against the draconian policies of the Modi-Shah government,” said Dr. Shaik Ubaid from New York. “They are also a clear indication that the world will not stand idly by while Hindutva’s supremacist worldview takes India down the path of fascism,” added Dr. Ubaid.
“Religious freedom should not be an exception anywhere in the world. One must choose God and surrender and not be forced,” said Hawk Newsome of Black Lives Matter, New York. “Every country should be a refuge for those seeking religious asylum and to worship in peace,” added Mr. Newsome.
“This largest ever rally of Indian Americans represents an extension of the massive unrest in India against the ruling Hindu nationalist government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for its relentless attacks against India’s secular Constitution,” Mr. Ahsan Khan, President of IAMC said from the Bay Area in California. “Indian Americans and people of conscience in the U.S. are seeking accountability from the Hindu nationalist regime that wants to turn Indian Muslims into foreigners and render them stateless,” added Mr. Khan.
“The CAA is an attempt to make an exception of Muslims and to strip them of their rights,” said Mr. Stefan Shaw of Jewish Voice for Peace. “As we have opposed Jewish exceptionalism in Israel, we oppose Hindu exceptionalism in India,” added Mr. Shaw.
“I have just returned from India where I spent time with front-line activists living under surveillance and being thrown into jail simply for exercising their constitutional right to speak and peacefully protest,” said Sunita Viswanath, co-founder of Hindus for Human Rights.
“All Indians are equal citizens and that is the foundational social contract between the Indian nation and its citizens,” said Mr. Minhaj Khan from New Jersey. “Breaking this contract has grave implications for the future of India as a country,” added Mr. Khan.
Coalition to Stop Genocide has pledged to join hands with allies in the US and around the world that are committed to justice and accountability in order to safeguard India’s pluralist ethos from the forces of hate and bigotry.