Thousands of Indian Americans marched across several cities in the United States on 26 January coinciding India’s Republic Day to protest against India’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that discriminates against Muslims in the grant of citizenship.
The protesters asked the US government to impose a sanction against Home Minister Amit Shah for unleashing what they said was state-sponsored repression and police crackdown on millions of peaceful protesters who have hit the streets across India since the controversial law was passed by the Indian parliament.
Children, women and men turned up at the protest locations in Washington DC, New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, Houston, Indianapolis, Minnesota, Detroit, Wichita, Bay Area, and Seattle and raised slogans against the CAA, the controversial National Register for Citizens (NRC), and the National Population Register (NPR).
Speakers at these protests sites spoke passionately against growing phenomenon of Hindu nationalism by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the ruling BJP.
Speaking in Bay Area, Ahsan Khan, IAMC President, said, “Today is a truly historic day as we have sent out a firm signal to India that the United States will reject any and every attempt by its fascist government to turn India’s 200 million Muslims into stateless people.”
Thenmozhi Soundararajan of Equality Labs said, “The Hindutva brigade that is currently ruling India has grossly underestimated the resolve of millions of Indians to safeguard their country from hate and bigotry.”
Sunita Viswanath of Hindus for Human Rights, a Hindu group that opposes the RSS, said, “The outpouring of support not just from Indian Americans but also from other Americans at today’s protest reflects the total rejection of Islamophobia in India.”
Stefan Shaw of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) said that ‘India is trying to Muslims what Germany under Hitler did to Jews.’ Shaw said, “The world will not let it happen again.”
Many protesters had converged on these locations from cities far away in other states, chartering buses, or taking trains and even driving down in their cars for hours.
In Washington, DC, the US capital, more than two thousand protesters assembled on the sprawling grassy lawns right outside White House and overlooking the National Monument and gave fiery speeches. They then marched to the Indian embassy about a mile away. Outside the embassy, about a hundred pro-CAA Indian Americans chanted slogans in favor of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi but were swamped by the anti-CAA protesters.
In Houston, New York City, Chicago, Atlanta and San Francisco, the protests were held right outside the offices of the Indian consulates.
The protesters in Washington DC came from Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and North Carolina. Those in New York City came from across not just New York state but also New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts. In Houston, the protesters came from across Texas, including from Austin and Dallas.
Across the protest locations, protesters waved hundreds of Indian national flags and sang patriotic Indian songs, including India’s national anthem and saare jahan se achchha, the iconic song penned by poet Iqbal. In several places, protesters publicly read out the Preamble to the Indian constitution.
Noted civil rights activist and Magsaysay Award winner Sandeep Pandey, who traveled from India to Washington DC to join the protest, said that India must ban the RSS. He said, “The government won’t do it because it is the RSS that is in power. That is why millions of people are protesting and they will eventually vote the fascists out of power.”