LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Over a hundred and fifty concerned residents from the Southern California region protested in front of City Hall, in downtown Los Angeles, on Dec. 21 against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens introduced by the Narendra Modi government in India.
The Southern California protest was one more rally that has brought Indian Americans and members of the larger Indian Diaspora out on the streets of Europe, Canada, Australia and various cities across the U.S.
National and international observers have expressed their concerns over the discriminatory nature of the amendments that leaves Muslims out from the list of migrants who, as per the amendment, are promised citizenship. Over 400 students and faculty from various universities in the U.S. condemned the violence at Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia, expressing solidarity with protesting students across India.
In Los Angeles, the protest began with the reading of the Preamble and select Articles of the Indian Constitution. The aim was to highlight the sharp conflict between the new bill and the constitution. Protestors demanded that India roll back the amendments to the CAA and the NRC.
Sreejith Nair, a Hollywood filmmaker, told India-West, “I was in India for the first two weeks of December. And literally the minute I landed back in the U.S., I heard about this new law and it hit me pretty hard. I have best friends who are Muslim who have every right to be a citizen as much as me. I couldn’t just sit at home and do nothing while this happens to people I care about.”
The protest came about through individual posts on Facebook and Whatsapp and within a matter of days, complete strangers came together organically evolving a core team.
Said Prerna Chawla, “Imagine if one Facebook post can do this, what you can do by raising your voice against injustice. All it takes is an honest social media post and a village will stand behind you, supporting you. Earlier this week I was feeling helpless and alone, away from home. Now I feel like I have a family of almost 150 people who turned up at our protest! I will always remember that fateful day that I got added on a random group chat with perfect strangers fighting for a common cause.”
Added Meraj Rizvi, “I woke up to the horrific images of students beaten up by the police and the tear gas shells being thrown in the library of Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi, and I went straight to Facebook to vent my anger and frustration.”
Between slogans and chants of “Azaadi” or freedom, several speakers expressed their anger at the alleged ongoing police brutality, information blackout and suppression of the freedom of speech and assembly. Concerns were raised about the suffering that people will have to go through if CAA and NRC were implemented. Protesters shared their personal stories and experiences, demanding the Modi government act according to the spirit of the Constitution.
The protest wound down with everyone singing the Indian national anthem and cries of ‘Jai Hind!’
A large number of Indian Americans gathered at the iconic statue of Mahatma Gandhi in front of the Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C. It is often the site of India celebrations and tourist stops but on Dec. 22 was the scene of protestors. They called for “India’s unity” and carried placards charging the government with directing the country on a non-secular path and in the process violating the spirit of the Constitution. It was organized by American Indian Muslims along with other organizations in the area.
About 150 people, mostly students, marched to the Indian consulate from the Tribune Tower. In a statement, Indian Students in Chicago said, "Chicago condemns the egregious behavior of the Indian government." "We are outraged by the violence and actively condemn the brutality inflicted upon students at Jamia Milia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University," they added.
A crowd gathered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a call to boycott the NRC and repeal the CAA. "Just like the immigrants are being discriminated and criminalized in the U.S., similarly the Muslims and other minorities in India are being criminalized because of the NRC. Our struggles are very similar and we have to fight these oppressive powers together," said Alonso Espinosa from MIT Students Against War
The Indian American Muslim Council said that the CAA and NRC had made religion a criteria for nationality for the first time. “It is the most significant move yet to profoundly alter India’s secular nature,” it said, and would “officially marginalize and render millions of its most vulnerable people – Muslims and other marginalized communities — stateless.”
The largest advocacy group of Indian Muslims in the U.S., along with the Council on American Islamic Relations, Texas, held a peaceful protest against the new law at Dealey Plaza Dec. 22. Indian Americans from all religions were present to show solidarity, a statement said.