US asks India to protect peaceful assembly rights; urges protesters to refrain from violence.
The protests in India against a new citizenship laws have resonated in the United States with hundreds of Indian Americans holding peaceful demonstrations, while many community and civic groups condemned Indian actions.
Opposition parties and students of at least 22 Indian universities have come out in protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act providing a path to citizenship to non-Muslim undocumented immigrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh on grounds of religious persecution.
Expressing concern over the situation, US State Department spokesperson said, “We are closely following developments (related to the) Citizenship Amendment Act.”
Asking both sides to exercise restraint, he said,“We urge authorities to protect and respect the right of peaceful assembly. We also urge protesters to refrain from violence.”
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In a statement on behalf of its member associations across the US, the Federation of Aligarh Alumni Associations (FAAA) President Salim Shah, strongly condemned the use of police force against the students, faculty and staff of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and Jamia MiIlia Islamia (JMI), New Delhi.
“The citizens of India have fundamental rights to protest the patently discriminatory law,” it stated suggesting “CAA violates basic tenets of the Indian constitution and is morally repugnant to all conscientious Indians.”
The FAAA strongly demanded that the Indian government “repeal the law immediately, or at the very least, amend the CAA to include all immigrants irrespective of race, religion, caste, creed, or nationality, while granting citizenship based on religion will jeopardize this core principle of the constitution.”
The FAAA noted that most migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have not come to India due to religious persecution but to earn livelihood for their families back home.
In the last five years, more migrants have come from Sri Lanka and Myanmar than any of the three countries listed in the CAA, FAAA stated.
The ripple effect of protests resonated even in Ivy League universities with many academics coming out in support of students against the CAA and against the police assault on campuses.
From Harvard, Yale and Stanford to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), American universities witnessed scholars staging demonstrations against use of force by police on students of Jamia and AMU.
“We, students, alumni and the wider community, at universities across the United States of America, condemn the brutal police violence unleashed against students at Jamia Millia Islamia university and at Aligarh Muslim University,” said more than 400 students, scholars, and faculty of Ivy League institutes in a press release.
The release described Indian authorities action “as a gross violation of human rights under the Constitution of India and International Human Rights Law.”
“We express full solidarity with students across universities in India who are peacefully protesting against the recent passing of the unconstitutional and discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act,” the release added.
In their open letter, they demanded that “student protesters be allowed to continue to protest peacefully in exercise of their fundamental rights under the Indian Constitution without any threat of use of force by the police or other law enforcement agencies.”
Demonstrations were held by students at MIT where a silent march was taken out with participants holding posters saying “Merry Crisis and Happy New Fear”.
Northern California witnessed several hundreds of people joining a protest organized by the Bay Area Coalition of Concerned Citizens on Dec 15 at a civic park in Santa Clara.
Holding placards and shouting slogans emphasizing the unity of all religions the protesters demanded repeal of the CAA.
The Act passed by India last week foretells a fatal blow to a secular society in India, said the participants noting that CAA provides a path to Indian citizenship for religious minorities, specifically Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians, but excluded Muslims
“We will never let India divide again,” Ahsan Khan, president of the Indian American Muslim Community (IAMC), one the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the US with 13 chapters, told the website Indica.
“CAA is certainly dividing India on religious lines. We definitely won’t accept this at all,” he said.
“We strongly believe that there should be peace and pluralism, and secularism is very important in India. And if we are hurting that fabric of secularism, then that is not acceptable. See the kinds of things happening in India… we fear division of India.”
Bhajan Singh of the Sikh Information Center, described it as the momentum against the level of oppression.
“I think India is going to have a bright new future with the new awakening of all the minorities finally coming together and wanting a true, free India for everyone,” he said.