Ivy League South Asian students launch campaign against India’s citizenship laws

South Asian students from across campuses of major Ivy League universities have launched a concerted campaign against the Indian government’s new Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens, calling upon the U.S. House of Representatives to formally express disapproval “through targeted sanctions” on Modi government officials until both the laws are repealed.

In a letter to be sent to the U.S. Congress the students have condemned the Hindutva ideology and the Modi government’s “fascist and exclusionary treatment” of Indian Muslims, vowing to stand in solidarity with the “brave civil disobedience” movement in India while at the same time condemning the horrific police brutality against protesters.

“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 written by Yale Student Shreeya Singh, who is also Yale South Asian Society Political Chair, said.

Besides Yale, the letter signed by ‘We, concerned students’ which is awaiting more signatories before being sent to U.S. House of Representatives, has so far been signed by Harvard College U.S.-India Initiative, Columbia University South Asian Organization, University of Pennsylvania South Asia Society Board, Cornell University South Asian Law Students Association, Brown University South Asian Students Association and Dartmouth University Muslim Students Association Al-Nur, among many other student bodies and South Asian organizations with whom the student bodies have collaborated. Alongside, scores of individual students have also endorsed it.

“This initiative is the product of a lot of conversation among friends and other like-minded people who feel strongly that a message condemning Modi government’s actions of dividing the country along religious lines should be sent by all concerned students. Students across campuses are passionate about taking a firm stand on the issue,” Singh, who is a junior at Yale, studying history with concentration in South Asian history, told India Abroad. Besides Indian Americans and other South Asians, many Asian students have joined the campaign expressing solidarity.

Among those spearheading the campaign, include Ziad Ahmed (Yale junior), Aparna Shankar (Princeton junior), and Lakshmi Amin (Yale junior).

Singh said a lot of Americans do not really understand what Modi and his Hindutva ideology stand for and they know little about the RSS, which is based on Nazi ideas of fascism, adding that there are a lot of Indian Americans who patronize and donate for BJP’s campaign in India. “I think we need to raise awareness in America about what their ideology means for India and what they mean for Muslims and other minorities in India,” Singh said.

She said recently there was a photo campaign at Yale with posters and signs expressing solidarity with the protesters in India, and at Harvard there was another protest on campus by students who chanted slogans against the citizenship law.

Ivy League South Asian students launch campaign against India’s citizenship laws

“We are also planning an inter-campus protest as part of the campaign which is called ‘Holi against Hindutva.’ We have this idea because Holi symbolizes the colors of India and its diversity. On that day will be protesting the Modi government’s treatment of minorities and we will be staging protests across campuses,” Singh said.

She said all the organizations that have signed the open letter will be having their protests on their own campuses in March, although the date has not yet been fixed. Holi this year falls on March 9.

“All of these organizations who have signed the letter are committed to having a protest during their respective Holi celebrations on their campuses and they will be protesting the Hindutva ideology. I hope that both NRC and CAB will be repealed before that and that is why it is important for us to send this letter to the House of Representatives,” she said.

The letter also will ask the House of Representatives to immediately pass House Resolution 745, urging India to end restrictions on communications in Jammu and Kashmir and preserve religious freedom for all residents.

“Since the U.S. claims to be the defender of democracy around the world and we are now seeing democracy being actively dissolved in India, the U.S. Congress should act in order to save democracy in India. During this Holi let’s join in celebrating India’s colorful democracy and protestthe Modi government’s undemocratic treatment of Muslims,” she said.

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