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Ivy League South Asian Student Groups Slam Citizenship Act In Open Letter To US Congress, Call For Its Immediate Withdrawal

Students protest at Harvard University. (Photo Courtesy: Harvard students)

In an open letter to the US Congress, students from the South Asian Student Associations in the US have condemned the BJP government’s treatment of Muslims in India and expressed solidarity with the ongoing civil disobedience protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the draconian NRC.

Written by Shreeya Singh, the Yale South Asian Society political chair, and edited by Ziad Ahmed the Yale Muslim Student Association Member, the letter has been signed unanimously by the South Asian student associations of almost every major Ivy League University (including Yale, Harvard, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell and Brown), and is currently being deliberated by the student board of associations at Stanford, Columbia and Dartmouth.

The letter demands that “the American House of Representatives immediately pass House Resolution 745, urging the Republic of India to end restrictions on communications in Jammu and Kashmir and preserve religious freedom for all residents,” and for Congress to condemn the Modi government. The letter has been sent to representatives in the House.

The South Asian organisations at these universities have also pledged to join a protest against Hindu nationalism this upcoming Holi in March 2020, called #HoliAgainstHindutva.

The letter says that the Citizenship Amendment Act “is just the latest of India’s many steps to marginalise its population of 200 million Muslims” and how the “will strip hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Assam of their citizenship”.

“We believe that the fight for equal treatment for India’s Muslims is also fundamentally a fight for India’s foundational values of secularism and democracy. This is a fight for the future, which must be led by those who will inherit the future,” the letter reads.

Read the full letter below:

§

To the Congress of the United States of America

On December 11th, the world’s largest democracy passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), an illegal and unconstitutional law aimed at excluding Muslims from Indian citizenship. By dividing Indians into Muslims and non-Muslims, the bill explicitly enshrines religious discrimination into law.

Ever since Narendra Modi was elected prime minister in 2014, he and the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have championed a hardline and revisionist brand of Hindu nationalism, known as Hindutva. Hindutva aims to erase India’s diverse myriad of cultures and faiths, redefining the country into a Hindu civilisation and promoting violent and exclusionary attitudes toward Muslims. BJP leaders have normalised inflammatory and dehumanising language, such as the BJP President describing Muslims as “termites.”

The BJP’s parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), is a Hindu extremist group that drew inspiration from fascism and German nazism since its founding in 1925.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill is just the latest of India’s many steps to marginalise its population of 200 million Muslims. The government has imposed a lockdown and communications blackout on Kashmir’s predominantly Muslim population for over four months, and recently released the National Registry of Citizens (NRC), which will strip hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Assam of their citizenship.

Those who are not listed on the registry can be put in mass detention camps and made stateless persons. Meanwhile, rates of violent hate crimes against Muslims, such as mass mob lynchings, have increased exponentially across India after 2014.

We, concerned students:

  • Condemn Hindutva ideology and the Modi government’s fascist and exclusionary treatment of Indian Muslims.
  • Stand in solidarity with the brave civil disobedience movement in India and condemn the horrific police brutality against protesters.
  • Call for the Indian government’s immediate withdrawal of the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Registry of Citizens.
  • Ask the American House of Representatives to immediately pass House Resolution 745, urging the Republic of India to end restrictions on communications in Jammu and Kashmir and preserve religious freedom for all residents.
  • Call on the US Congress to formally express disapproval through targeted sanctions on Modi government officials until the CAA and NRC are repealed, and urge the United Nations to take action against India on the basis of its undemocratic and unconstitutional treatment of Muslims.

We believe that the fight for equal treatment for India’s Muslims is also fundamentally a fight for India’s foundational values of secularism and democracy. This is a fight for the future, which must be led by those who will inherit the future.

Therefore, we invite American universities and youth organisations to mark #HoliAgainstHindutva in March of 2020. Holi is the traditional Indian festival of colours, which celebrates the country’s vibrant diversity and culture in a spirit of inclusiveness. This Holi, join us in celebrating India’s colourful democracy and protesting the Modi government’s undemocratic treatment of Muslims.

Signed by:

Yale College South Asian Society

Yale University South Asian Graduate and Professional Association

Yale College Muslim Students Association

Sikhs at Yale University

Harvard College US-India Initiative 

Members of Harvard College South Asian Association

Columbia University South Asian Organization (Zamana)

Columbia University Sewa 

University of Pennsylvania South Asia Society Board 

Radical South Asian Collective at the University of Pennsylvania

Cornell University South Asian Law Students Association

Members of Princeton University’s Asian American Students Association

Brown University South Asian Students Association

Brown University Muslim Students Association

American University South Asian Association

American University Muslim Students Association

Claremont College South Asian Students Association

Claremont College Committee for South Asian Voices

Organisations preceded by “members of” have not signed unanimously

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