Letter from Overseas South Asian Students: Condemnation of CAA-NRC and Suppression of Student Protests
Open Letter to the Supreme Court of India
We, overseas South Asian students, condemn the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019, as well as the brutal suppression of student protestors at Jamia Millia Islamia University and Aligarh University.
We condemn the CAA for discriminating on the basis of religion, and therefore violating Articles 14, 15, and 21 of the Indian Constitution. The Act excludes persecuted Tamil Muslims from Sri Lanka, Ahmadiyya and Hazara Muslims from Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar. Religion has never served as a prerequisite for citizenship and it goes against the secular principles enshrined in this country’s Constitution.
We condemn the violent suppression of student protests by the Delhi police in Jamia Milia Islamia University (JMI). The presence of paramilitary forces, baton-charging students, and using tear gas in a confined space like the JMI library indicate the police’s blatant disrespect not only for international law but also for the human rights of unarmed students. We stand with students’ rights to principled protest and intellectual freedom because they are central to the academic and democratic integrity of our educational institutions.
The CAA, combined with the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a deliberate political move to exclude Muslims from rightfully claiming their rights and benefits of citizenship in India. Around 19 lakh (1.9 million) people have been rendered stateless and ‘illegal’ after the NRC was implemented in Assam. We question what will happen to those who are left out of the National Register of Citizens and fear that the Government in power will hold such people in places like the deportation/detention camp being constructed in Assam. We see these developments as part of a larger wave of exclusionary Hindutva politics — an essential part of which is ethnic exclusion and violence. The BJP has repeatedly exacerbated such ethnic exclusion and violence: in the past few years, we have seen a dramatic increase in religious and caste-related violence — lynching, sexual violence, and harassment — against Muslims, Dalits, and Adivasis, often with direct involvement or endorsement by BJP MLAs and MPs. 90% of the hate crimes in the last decade have been committed since the BJP government came into power in 2014.4 We can no longer tolerate this. As Nehru said at the very birth of our nation, “We cannot encourage communalism or narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought or in action.”
The brutal silencing of student voices in JMI is also not without precedent: such suppression of democratic mobilization has become the norm. The government by default resorts to long duration of internet and communication shutdown to control media coverage and suppress resistance. Kashmir continues to have the longest internet shutdown in a democracy, in addition to which arbitrary detainment of local politicians and protestors continue. The protests in North Eastern States, Aligarh, were likewise clamped immediately by blanket internet shutdowns. These governmental methods of suppression go against the democratic foundations of our country: if we cannot raise our voices, if we cannot gather in public, if we cannot express our grievances even online, without the fear of governmental suppression, then we cannot claim to be a democratic nation. Our voices cannot be heard if we are cut off from each other.
As South Asian students from multiple cultural, national, and religious backgrounds studying in universities around the world, we stand in solidarity with those rejecting the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Register of Citizens (NRC), and the suppression of protesting students across India. We stand united in our humanity and refuse to be divided on the grounds of religion, legality, or citizenship.
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