AMP Condemns Indian Government’s Anti-Muslim, Anti-Immigrant Legislation and Repression of Demonstrations Against It

December 17, 2019
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(WASHINGTON, D.C. 12/17/19)—American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), a national organization dedicated to advancing the movement for justice in Palestine, stands in solidarity with the thousands of demonstrations that have broken out across India against the racist “Citizenship Amendment Bill” (“CAB”). Cheaply disguised as an effort to support refugees, CAB conditions Indian citizenship for immigrants and asylum-seekers on their religious background. As an organization dedicated to the liberation of Palestine from Israeli occupation, AMP is uniquely aware of the way in which selective empathy for refugees fleeing oppression can be used by propagandists as a cover for violent displacement, ethnic chauvinism, and colonization.

The CAB is a project of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ultra-right wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a party with fascist and racist roots among Hindu supremacists. The BJP practices the ideology of Hindutva, which holds that India—home to millions of people of different religious and ethnic traditions—is a fundamentally Hindu nation-state. Rejecting the values of secularism and diversity, the BJP took advantage of widespread public outrage over corruption to gain a landslide victory in Indian elections in 2014, further increasing its hold in Parliament in 2019. The CAB is one of several crushing blows to basic legal equality in Modi’s India, alongside his efforts to destroy limited autonomy for the people of Muslim-majority Indian-occupied Kashmir by amending the Indian constitution, and Hindu nationalists’ recent court victory over ownership of the site of the Ayodhya Temple, where Hindu extremists led a mob that burned down the Babri Masjid in 1992. 

For the sixty-four years preceding the CAB, religion was not a factor in obtaining Indian citizenship. Furthermore, Article 14 of the Indian Constitution nominally guarantees equal protection to all classes of people. But under the CAB, an individual can also obtain Indian citizenship if they are a Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, or Pakistan that entered India prior to 2015. Notably excluded are Muslims such as the Rohingya people fleeing genocide whom the Indian government has sought to deport. 

The CAB is particularly significant given the Indian Supreme Court’s recent ruling requiring the update and enforcement of the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The Register requires Indians in the northeast Indian state of Assam to prove their lineage in the country prior to 1971, when thousands of refugees fleeing war in neighboring Bangladesh crossed into Assam “illegally”. Individuals who cannot prove their lineage are presumed to be “illegal immigrants” and denied citizenship; an update to the Register in 2018 indicated that some four milion people in Assam, most of them Muslim, were unable to provide sufficient proof of their status and were at risk of statelessness. The CAB would exempt Hindus who were unable to prove their status, allowing them to stay in Assam, while permitting the deportation of Muslims and thereby drastically altering Assam’s demographics. BJP chief Amit Shah has previously referred to Bangladeshi Muslims as “cockroaches,”—a term once used by Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir to describe Palestinians—and the Indian government has opened massive detention camps in Assam to hold individuals who cannot prove their status.

Throughout the country, students and others have led massive protests against this attempt to transform India into a fascist state. In response, the Indian government has ruthlessly repressed demonstrations—raiding university campuses, violently assaulting and beating students, and killing at least six people thus far. 

The story is familiar to us. In fact, Indian Consul General Sandeep Chakravarty who was speaking in an official capacity to a gathering of Kashmiri Pandits, celebrated the “Israeli model,” suggesting that the Israeli occupation of Palestine is a successful model that India should replicate. (WATCH ‘Israel Model’ Explained In 10 Points | Siddharth Varadarajan) The Apartheid state’s racist citizenship and migration laws permit Jews from any part of the world to claim Israeli citizenship and “return to Israel” while non-Jews, including hundreds of thousands of Palestinians expelled from their homes to other parts of occupied Palestine or into exile, are barred from returning—much less citizenship. Palestinians living under occupation in Gaza and the West Bank have been left stateless, while Palestinians out of the country for travel, work, or study have seen their residency status cancelled administratively. Even those Palestinians with citizenship face dozens of discriminatory restrictions, including restrictions on family unification. Meanwhile, thousands of non-Jewish African migrants have been barred from resettlement by Israel and deported, some to their deaths, to prevent what the Israeli state deems a “cultural threat” to Israel posed by African “infiltrators”. Much like the CAB does for Hindus, Israel exempts Africans and Arabs of Jewish ancestry from the kinds of legal discrimination it permits against Africans and Arabs of other faiths.

AMP condemns any and all attempts to legitimize anti-Muslim extremism, forced displacement, or racism, and stands entirely with the brave Indian demonstrators of all backgrounds as they challenge India’s fascist leadership and pressure the government to reverse its discriminatory policies.