We’re working with progressive representatives and South Asian leaders that are a counterweight to Hindu nationalism, says Sharmin Hossain of Equality Labs.
January 26, the Indian Republic Day, has always been marked in America with pride and pomp, as a way for the immigrants to show their love and support for their country of birth.
However, the just concluded 71st Republic Day was unique in more ways than one. Thousands of Indian Americans came out at city squares and Indian consulates to register their protest about India’s new Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Anti-CAA protests have been happening, not just in the United States, but across the globe since December 2019, when the controversial legislation was enacted.
“South Asian Americans in the majority are not aligned around a politics of genocide. Our issues are aligned with the larger progressive movement which includes immigration, health care, queer liberation, and racial and caste equity” – Sharmin Hossain
Specifically CAA offers Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who came to India before Dec 31, 2014 a path to Indian citizenship after six years instead of the usual 12 for others.
CAA’s opponents call it a violation of the secular Indian constitution as it excludes Muslims.
A five judge Constitution bench of the Indian Supreme Court is hearing 143 petitions challenging the constitutional validity of CAA, but has declined to stay its implementation.
The January 26 protests in major US cities were second in a series of “National Days of Action” planned by various civil rights organizations in the US.
Sharmin Hossain, Political Director of Equality Labs, one of the organizers of the anti-CAA protests in the country talks to the American Bazaar about the importance of raising anti-CAA voices in the United States.
Tell us about the anti CAA protests planned in the US. Why do you think it’s important to raise a voice in US too?
Sunday, January 26, India’s Republic Day was our second National Day of Action. Thirty cities across the United States joined the national call to reject the Citizenship Amendment Act, and Stop Genocide in India now.
The CAA is an integral part of the Modi government’s process of creating a stateless Muslim population — who can be profiled, treated as second-class citizens, and imprisoned in massive detention centers already being built in India. This project may start with Muslims but all caste-oppressed communities are at risk as we are the communities in the Hindu Nationalists crosshair.
Without the pipeline of support, they receive from networks of upper caste Hindu networks in the diaspora, India’s right-wing militias and the Modi government would lack the financial and diplomatic support they need to distribute their fascist ideologies. Their relationship lies at the nexus of wealth and caste inequality and nationalist fervor that are both typical of the South Asian diaspora.
We’re mobilizing national actions with South Asian American grassroots groups across the US to uplift the demand that these networks immediately cease their support and divest from the spread of Hindu fascism.
Has there been any counter response from the Hindu nationalist groups to your protests. How do you think the average Indian American feels about the issue?
Yes, there have been coordinated efforts by the supporters of the Modi government to spread disinformation around the CAA and there were protests planned on January 26 in support of the regime.
However, South Asian Americans in the majority are not aligned around a politics of genocide. Our issues are aligned with the larger progressive movement which includes immigration, health care, queer liberation, and racial and caste equity.
My message to the vocal upper caste networks who support Hindu nationalism is that they cannot claim to support civil rights and equality for all Americans while simultaneously advocating for religious supremacy that results in the oppression of minorities in India. The moral consensus in our community is against Hindu fascism which is why the movement is growing leaps and bounds.
We believe these protests are about creating the space for the broader South Asian community to unite around a moral duty to stop genocide before it starts.
What support if any do you expect from the US Congress?
Activists on the ground are working to get statements of solidarity and resolutions proposed to condemn the CAA and demand that Modi government repeal the law.
We’re working with progressive representatives who are on the right side of history, and a growing list of South Asians in leadership positions that are a counterweight to Hindu nationalism.
They include Congressman Ro Khanna, Vice-Chair of the Bernie Sanders campaign, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, Varshini Prakash, Executive Director of the Sunrise Movement, Joseph Geevarghese, Executive Director of Our Revolution, and Amar Shergill, Executive Board Member of the California Democratic Party (CDP,) and Chair of the CDP Progressive Caucus.
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This is in addition to the many South Asian and Asian American organizations including Alliance for Justice and Accountability, South Asian Advancing Leadership Together (SAALT), Indian American Muslim Council, SASI NYC, ASATA, API CHAYA, NQAPIA, and 18 Million Rising.
Representative Andre Carson and Deb Halland have both made statements condemning the CAA. We need more Congress members to demand India rescind this law immediately, and shed light on the corporate and diplomatic ties the regime has with American stakeholders now.