We are writing in regards to the protests in India against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens in India. Through this letter, we hope to echo and amplify the concerns raised by students at institutions not only in India but worldwide, and we ask the Amherst College community to stand with us.
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), passed by the Indian Parliament in Dec. 2019, seeks to fast-track Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from neighboring countries. While this law has been portrayed as one intended to protect persecuted religious minorities in India’s neighboring nations, it notably excludes Muslims, thus ignoring the persecution faced by minority Muslim communities in South Asian nations. Furthermore, the CAA violates Article 14 of the Indian constitution, which ensures that religion cannot be a criterion for Indian citizenship. Coupled with the National Register of Citizens, the CAA can be used to strip Indian minorities of their citizenship.
The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is an official register of people who are legal Indian citizens, administered by the state. It is currently operational only in the state of Assam and so far, 1.9 million people in Assam have already been declared illegal migrants. On Nov. 20, Home Minister Amit Shah stated that the register would be soon implemented nationwide. Under the conditions specified by the NRC, anyone who cannot prove that they or their ancestors entered India before March 24, 1971 will be declared a foreigner and face deportation. The Indian government has begun constructing massive detention camps across the country for those who fail to prove their citizenship under the NRC.
The NRC, in conjunction with the CAA, threatens Muslims in India more than any other religious minority. For example, a non-Muslim Indian who may not have the documents required to prove citizenship under the NRC guidelines is still eligible for citizenship under the CAA. As Muslims are not included under the CAA, a Muslim Indian in the exact same position would instead be declared a foreigner.
The right to express concerns about these developments in a peaceful manner is enshrined in the Indian constitution as a fundamental right. With this in mind, we believe that the violence against peaceful protestors in India constitutes police brutality. The New Delhi police forcibly entered the premises of Jamia Millia Islamia University, released tear gas in the main library and assaulted students on campus. Similar instances of police brutality were recorded at the Aligarh Muslim University in Aligarh. Furthermore, on Jan. 5, masked thugs brandishing large sticks entered Jawaharlal Nehru University and attacked students and faculty. These miscreants went unpunished by the Delhi police, whose response to the ongoing attack has been minimal. Meanwhile, there are reports that the state police of Uttar Pradesh have committed sexual assault against underage protestors held in custody.
We urge that the Amherst College community support and stand with protestors in India. As members of an academic institution, we believe that we have an added duty to stand with the protestors and victims of police violence, many of whom are fellow students and faculty.
As such, we ask that supporters please sign the letters whose links are available under this article on The Amherst Student website.
Letter of Support from Amherst College affiliates: Support for Student Protestors in India and condemnation of the CAA, NRC and police violence: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSe73w1Atkn1oapYILFksEj3Q34pEMGTYGb453BnF -Ogi2WYg/viewform?usp=sflink.
Letter from Overseas South Asian Students: Condemnation of CAA-NRC and Suppression of Student Protests: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfuiylEazTOWdghPUDQKx1FGV0V1SzvFx-02EdE Hv-881jqGQ/viewform?fbclid=IwAR1JduHggtBTAouzViMZ8AM_POhgf8SpV03sQNaai2qAvgb0 b2n5Ey2wAYw