Rutgers Students, Faculty Organize Protest Over India’s Citizenship Amendment Act

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Rutgers Students gathered on the College Avenue campus to voice their opinions on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). — Photo:  The Daily Targum

NEW JERSEY — The students of Rutgers University held a protest against India’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) on Friday in front of Scott Hall on the College Avenue campus. The attendees of the protest came to stand in solidarity against the CAA and what it implies for Muslim religious minority groups. A counterprotest to defend the CAA also emerged.

The bill claims to provide fast-track citizenship to people who arrived in India before 2015 and also belong to a specific religious background, specifically Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, according to CNN. Protesters against the bill at this event say that the bill works to further marginalize Muslim minority groups by excluding them from attaining fast-track citizenship.

The event organisers include Reecha Das, a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology, as well as Sadaf Javed and Stuti Govil, graduate students in the Department of Geography. Audrey Truschke, a professor in the Department of History at Rutgers—Newark, appeared at the event as well. In the past, she has previously disavowed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for its Hindu nationalist agenda.

“The (CAA) in India is an openly discriminatory bill,” Truschke said. “When working in tandem with the national registry of citizens and the national population register, the end goal is to deprive a number of Indian-Muslims of their Indian citizenship. This is part of the Hindu nationalist project of the BJP and (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi, which has been gaining steam over the last several years.”

Truschke said the event was organized to stand in solidarity with individuals in India, including those who have been attacked at three major universities in India, including Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jamia Millia Islamia University and Aligarh Muslim University. Truschke said she thinks this bill proliferates the inflammatory treatment and marginalization that Muslims are already experiencing.

Rutgers has a history of social justice and advocacy, Truschke said. Rutgers faculty and students travel back and forth from India, making the issue even more relevant. Truschke also said many of her students are of South Asian descent, and this problem resonates with them and should also resonate with other University faculty and students.

“We have been thinking about organizing against the CAA mainly … after seeing what happened after Modi got re-elected in May. Things have seemed to have accelerated really badly in India, especially with things that happened in Kashmir and now with the CAA,” Das said.

Das said that protests started to take place around December 2019 in India. She and others decided to take action by preparing a protest at Rutgers.

Harshit Agarwal, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, attended the counterprotest. He saw the social media posts regarding the protest event and felt compelled to attend because he said he wanted to share a different perspective. Agarwal compared the CAA to the Lautenberg Amendment of 1990, which was designed to help Jews fleeing the Soviet Union. It was later expanded to include more religious minorities from other countries.

“There is a very direct parallel with the way the (Lautenberg Amendment) has taken shape in America and the way the CAA is taking place right now in India. But no one objects to the Lautenberg-Specter Amendments, whereas there’s this violent backlash against (the CAA) which gives citizenship to all of these people that deserve it,” Agarwal said.

Agarwal does not think the discourse around the issue should become polarizing and said he feels offended when people call him a nationalist. He said he does not think this act inhibits Muslims from receiving citizenship, and people are overlooking the thousands of people who benefit from the act. — dailytargum.com

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