International

Protests at Republic Day events across U.S. call for repeal of Citizenship Amendment Act

The groups also want U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to designate India in the U.S.’s International Religious Freedom index as one of the 10 countries with severe religious freedoms violations.

The groups also want U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to designate India in the U.S.’s International Religious Freedom index as one of the 10 countries with severe religious freedoms violations.   | Photo Credit: Sriram Lakshman

Protesters gathered the White House Ellipse and petitioned Donald Trump to ask Prime Minister Narendra Modi to repeal CAA during the President’s proposed visit to India at the end of February.

A coalition of diaspora organisations marked Republic Day in Washington D.C. by gathering to protest the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and related recent policies of the government as part of a U.S. wide “Day of Action”.

Among the demands of the protesters are that the U.S. State Department “heed the recommendation of the USCIRF [U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom] and impose sanctions on India’s Home Minister Amit Shah,” a statement from the “Coalition to Stop Genocide”, the banner under which the groups have organized, said.

The groups also want U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to designate India in the U.S.’s International Religious Freedom index as one of the 10 countries with severe religious freedoms violations. Protesters are also petitioning U.S. President Donald Trump to ask Prime Minister Narendra Modi to repeal the CAA during Mr. Trump’s proposed visit to India at the end of February.

Some 500-800 individuals were expected, as per Khalid Ansari, one of the organisers, to participate in the Washington DC rally which started at the White House Ellipse and ended at the Indian Embassy about three to four hours later.

Shortly before 11 a.m. those who had gathered near the White House sang Saare Jahan se Accha. A few individuals waved full-size Indian flags, some carried smaller Indian and U.S. flags, while others periodically shouted, ‘Bharat mata ki jai [Victory to Mother India]’.

Vision of a democracy

“Black civil rights activists made this country [the U.S.] a democracy. Where do we find ourselves as Indian Muslims in this moment is to actualise that vision of a democracy,” Sana Qutubuddin, Advocacy Coordinator for the Indian American Muslim Council, told the crowd at the Ellipse.

“Today ideologies of fascism, authoritarianism and Hindutva supremacy are consuming India,” civil rights activist and law professor Arjun Sethi said. Mr. Sethi explained the CAA and National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam and restrictions in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370 (special status for the former State) to the crowd.

The groups and individuals participating are primarily from the Indian-American community, Mr. Ansari said, but other organizations had come to show solidarity. Individuals from other countries were also present, as indicated by a show of hands , prompted by one of the organisers.

 “It’s a legislation passed by Parliament. Every citizen has a right to peacefully protest,” an Indian diplomat told The Hindu. “So if it is an Indian law you are protesting, why do you have others there?” the diplomat said.

The protestors ended their rally outside the Indian Embassy. A security cordon had been placed right around the Embassy and police had blocked off a part of Massachusetts Avenue, where the Embassy is.

“ We are not here for a competition We are here for people to understand what the rest of our families back home are going through, what fears we have, “ Ms. Irshad (who only gave her first name) a DC area resident from Bangalore said.

“This is a competition ,” she said pointing to a few individuals on the Embassy side of the security cordon, including Cultural Diplomat at the Indian Embassy Mr. Moxraj, who was shouting slogans at the protestors via a megaphone.

“We are not here for a competition.” Ms Irshad said.

Earlier in the morning, Charge d’Affaires at the Indian Embassy, Amit Kumar led Republic Day celebrations at the Embassy which included floral tributes to the statute of Mahatma Gandhi outside the Embassy,  unfurling the tricolour and a reading of President Ramnath Kovind’s Republic Day Address.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 1:06:00 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/diaspora-organisations-protest-caa-to-mark-republic-day-in-the-us/article30660433.ece

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