Philadelphia Stands with Indian Students Against CAA and NRC

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In solidarity with student protesters from all over India who have been subjected to police violence for conducting peaceful protests, we stand against the Narendra Modi Government’s attempt to target Indian Muslims through the bureaucratic weapons of the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens. We will never accept these unconstitutional and unconscionable moves, and today join Indians from all over the country, and from every religion, caste, and region, to stand against any and all assaults on the idea of India as a secular, democratic republic.

(Scroll to the bottom for ways to turn your online participation into real-world participation)

The past few days have been extremely eventful for India, and by extension, for antifascist movements all over the world. Having had enough of the toxic and communalist diktats of the Modi regime, citizens from all over India have risen up in protest. While the revolution has finally begun, the regime has not held back: police forces in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi have brutally assaulted peaceful student protesters. The visuals of police in riot gear firing teargas into campuses, and mercilessly striking young students, are there for all to see.

While the coverage in the international media has been underwhelming, the silence of diasporic groups is even more concerning. This statement is written in part to unequivocally say: there are many of Indian origin and heritage in the U.S. who are both concerned about events in India and condemn them. We have a responsibility to speak up in support of those resisting on the ground.

While the CAA and NRC are toxic in their own right, we wish to especially call out the assault on free speech and the democratic right to protest. Armed police entering and perpetrating assaults inside universities is the blackest of signs.

Those of us who live in Philadelphia, and believe in building a more free and just world, cannot stand by as fascist forces execute their programs of violence and exclusion. We stand proudly with the people of India against these excesses.

Background:

On December 15th, 2019, the Bharatiya Janata Party government in India led by Narendra Modi muscled the Citizenship Amendment Act through both houses of Parliament, overriding all concerns raised by the opposition and the critique emerging from civil society.

On the surface, the bill merely offers Indian citizenship to Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians facing persecution on the grounds of religion in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. In truth, it introduces, for the first time, discrimination on the basis of religion into India’s citizenship laws. It does so by specifically excluding Muslims.

While the BJP and its talking heads claim the amendment has ‘limited’ applicability, we are well aware of the consequences of allowing such a dangerous precedent to be set. We remember the Nuremberg Race Laws, and the events that followed after their implementation.

What makes the CAA immediately and dramatically dangerous is an allied project of the BJP, the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Having used it to great effect to come to power in the north eastern state of Assam in India, the BJP wishes to roll it out in the rest of the country and force every citizen of India to prove their citizenship. While in the U.S., ICE has been known to accost people for papers, the NRC is much worse: it is a nationwide, institutionalized inquisition into the question of citizenship

The NRC is even more toxic in India, a country where paper records are unreliable, and where large sections of the population lack the education and resources to acquire documents proving their legal status.

What the CAA and NRC combine to do is give the BJP a procedural excuse to have two different standards of proof for Muslim and non-Muslim citizens of India. Non-Muslim citizens are supposed to take solace from the fact that even if they do not have the right papers, they will have an avenue towards citizenship via the CAA. However, if Muslim citizens have minor spelling errors in their papers, they can lose citizenship without such recourse.

The BJP leadership, from Narendra Modi down to its functionaries, has blatantly targeted Indian Muslims with both rhetoric and violence. Modi has been accused of conducting a pogrom against Muslims in 2002, and there is plenty of evidence that that violence paved the way for his rise to power. As a result, an overwhelming majority of Muslims reject the BJP. The CAA and NRC are designed to both undermine this opposition, and to turn India into a Hindu Nation where religious minorities are relegated to the status of second-class citizens.

As those aware of fascist histories, we all know the consequences of allowing such actions to go unchecked. We stand with the students at Jamia Millia University and Aligarh Muslim University who were brutalized by the police, and with other universities and student bodies across the country who are exercising their right to peaceful protest. As Philadelphians, we join all those in India who are opposing the communalist actions of this Hindu nationalist regime, and recognize that its actions are both specific to India, and part of the Islamophobia of the extreme Right all over the world.

More ways to participate:

Join our protest at the University of Pennsylvania on Thursday, December 19 between 1 and 2 P.M. in front of the Broken Button (Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/gCKmZSgtGW4qRPQ37)

We are planning Teach-Ins and Protests in alliance with other progressive groups in Philly, and would love to see you there. Join our mailing list by signing up here: https://forms.gle/xGYjX72vkdcL4P1z7

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