What’s Happening in India, And Why You Should Care

[Content warning: mentions of sexual assault]

The Government of India is introducing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), and
proposing a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC). These two acts work together
and must not and should not be considered in isolation. The NRC will create an official
record of all legal citizens of India. For inclusion in this register, you must provide a
prescribed set of documents issued before a specified cut-off date. Failing to do so, you fail to qualify for the NRC. This is where the CAA comes in. Under the CAA, you will benefit only if you are a Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Christian or Parsi minority refugee, and only from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, who sought refuge in India before December 31, 2014. While including these categories, the CAA very neatly leaves out the communities such as Muslims, as well as refugee Sri Lankan Tamils in India, Rohingyas from Myanmar, and Buddhist refugees from Tibet. It is hence important to consider the NRC and CAA together; you will be able to avail the benefits of the CAA should you fail to qualify for the NRC – but only if you claim to be religious minorities fleeing persecution from the included countries.

The CAA and NRC combination go against the liberal and secular spirit of the Indian
Constitution and its preamble as it discriminates on religious grounds. In response to this, protests have erupted in the country and even on an international scale (Glasgow,
Washington DC, Berlin, etc.). With a few exceptions, these protests have been widely
peaceful. However, peaceful demonstrations in India are being violently quashed by the
authorities, resulting in multiple deaths and injuries. Student protests have been met with an inhumane level of violence; most notably the police brutality in Jamia Milia Islamia University and Aligarh Muslim University, as well as the attack on Jawaharlal National University by “masked goons”, which is being called an “unknown attack” despite several eyewitnesses and the students confirming the attackers to be from the ruling party (BJP)’s student wing. More recently, riots broke out in Delhi, the capital of India. It resulted in the death of civilians, both from Hindu and Muslims sides, as well as police officers. Official records show that more than 40 people died, and more than 200 people were injured; the actual count may be higher. Amidst stone-pelting and gun violence, several Muslim women also reported sexual assault. While fence sitters are still highlighting this as “violence from both sides”, majority of causalities were from the Muslims side. Mosques were vandalised and adorned with religious Hindu flags, and schools and vehicles were torched. The Delhi police is being strongly criticised for turning a blind eye to this violence. Apart from these and many other instances of documented violence, in several parts of the country, internet and SMS services were cut off to censor information and prevent organised protests. Members of civil society from all walks of life have been detained in several parts of the country for voicing their opposition to this act and India’s descent to authoritarianism. International students protesting in India, as well as Indian students protesting abroad have either been deported or have faced deportation threats.

It is important to show your solidarity to the Indian community during this time and help in whatever capacity you can. Please recognize your privilege and give this issue the attention it so desperately needs. Here are some ways to engage and help:
1. Attend and organize protests near you.
2. Spread awareness of the facts and help fight the rampant misinformation being
spread by government backed IT cells on social media.
3. Raise this with your local councilors and representatives in Holyrood and
Westminster to encourage condemnation of these measures from the
international community.
4. Engage with activity on social media, follow related hashtags and share videos
and photos that the government is desperately trying to censor.
5. Engage in discussions with family members/friends/strangers whenever possible
and challenge bigoted viewpoints.

Lastly, here is a ‘cheatsheet for responding to state propaganda on CAA/NRC’, obtained via South Asian Students against fascism.

[Anoushka Kapoor – she/her – @kapoorni and Sagnick Mukherjee – he/him – @sagnick98]

[Photo credit: Food&Drinks Photographer]

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