UNITED NATIONS: “Rather than respond with force and epithets, as he has so far, (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi would do well to abandon this misguided project of Hindu nationalism,” The Washington Post suggested on Tuesday, two days after hundreds protested outside the Indian Embassy against their country’s new citizenship law.
India Abroad, the largest newspaper of the Indian diaspora in the United States, reported that Sunday’s rally was “one of the biggest in recent decades” by people of all religious and ethnic backgrounds, including Hindus and Muslims.
Rallying around Mahatma Gandhi’s statue outside the embassy, they chanted slogans against the Modi government’s controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), perceived as anti-Muslim.
The report noted that the noisy but peaceful demonstration included men and women “spanning several generations and representing a coalition of Muslim American, secular, and progressive” groups.
Similar protests were held outside Indian missions in capitals around the world, including London and Toronto. In London, opponents of the Modi government also launched a “Bharat Bachao” campaign to persuade Mr Modi to withdraw the anti-Muslim law.
Last week, more than 220 Harvard affiliates sent a signed letter to the Indian government supporting such protests and condemning suppression of student demonstrations at Indian universities.
The letter criticises the act as an anti-Muslim measure, arguing that “religion cannot be the determinant of nationhood and citizenship cannot be a tool of ethnic violence.”
The letter also calls for the Indian government to respect the right to peaceful protest.
The Indian parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act, on Dec 12, which forbids South Asian Muslims from seeking Indian citizenship.
Since the Act passed earlier this month, violent protests have erupted across India, including on at least 100 Indian college and university campuses. So far, 23 people have been killed in these protests, including nine who died in clashes with police in Uttar Pradesh on Saturday. Thousands more have been detained.
“Masses of people have taken to the streets for two weeks, defying a ban on gatherings, Internet shutdowns and closures of public transit,” the Post wrote in an editorial published on Tuesday.
Noting that Mr Modi calls these protests a “conspiracy to malign the country around the world,” the newspaper added: “Far from it, Mr Modi. Pushback is democracy in action.”
The Post observed that the law “has rightly alarmed India’s Muslims,” who make up about 200 million of the country’s 1.35 billion people. “They fear that Mr Modi, reelected in May, is attempting to turn secular India into a Hindu state in which Muslims are considered second-class.”
The newspaper noted that Indian Muslims were especially worried about plans for a nationwide citizenship registry, which was tested in the BJP-ruled Assam state and required people to prove their citizenship based on records. That resulted in the exclusion of 1.9 million of the state’s 33 million people, many of them Muslims now at risk of becoming stateless or of being sent to detention centers, the Post added.
The newspaper also noted that India’s Home Minister Amit Shah, Mr Modi’s closest aide, has declared that after the citizenship law, the national registry would be implemented “to flush out the infiltrators from our country.”
Published in Dawn, December 25th, 2019