Protests against India’s controversial citizenship laws spreading across the U.S.

The Cambridge City Council became the second city council in the country last week after Seattle to pass a resolution, calling on India’s Parliament to repeal the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act and end the National Register of Citizens. Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, front row second from left, who migrated to the U.S. from Karachi, Pakistan at the age of two, chaired the meeting of the Cambridge City Council that passed the resolution. Along with her, the co-sponsors of the resolutions were Councilors Quinton Zondervan, Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler and Patricia Nolan. Front row from left Councilor Dennis J. Carlone, Siddiqui, Patricia M. Nolan, Marc C. McGovern, Vice Mayor Alanna M. Mallon. Back Row: Quinton Y. Zondervan, Timothy J. Toomey, Jr., E. Denise Simmons, and Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler.

In yet another such censure by city lawmakers, the City Council of Cambridge that is home to world's top universities, including Harvard and MIT, passed a resolution this week, calling on the India’s Parliament to repeal the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act and end the National Register of Citizens.

The resolution passed Feb. 10 accuses the Modi government of pursuing racist policies “inconsistent with Cambridge's values” as a city that welcomes South Asian communities of all castes and religions.

The passing of the resolution by Cambridge came a week after Seattle City Council, one of the most powerful city councils in the U.S., passed a similar resolution Feb. 4, urging India to repeal the CAA and stop the NRC.

Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, who migrated to the U.S. from Karachi, Pakistan at the age of two, chaired the meeting of the Cambridge City Council that passed the resolution.

Currently serving her second term on the Cambridge City Council, Siddiqui was one of the co-sponsors of the resolutions along with Councilors Quinton Zondervan, Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler and Patricia Nolan.

According to news reports, more than 10 Cambridge residents spoke about their support of the resolution during the public comment section of the council meeting.

Kashif Hoda, a Cambridge resident and Muslim immigrant from India, spoke to the significance of promoting love and acceptance in response to the CAA and NRC. “The discriminatory laws being put in place will make millions of people — not just Muslims — illegal in their own lands, for lack of proper documentation, or even minor errors in their documents,” Hoda was quoted as saying in Harvard Crimson.

Harvard Crimson quoted Cambridge resident Payal Kumar as saying that this city is the home of illustrious institutions like Harvard and MIT, the upcoming internationally renowned Harvard India Conference and incredible community leaders, and a legacy of innovation.

“We have a responsibility to use our platforms and privileges to speak to these struggles, especially when our resources here in Cambridge are so intimately tied to them,” Kumar and others were quoted as saying.

Rachel Wyon, an activist in Cambridge who was born in India to British parents, told Al Jazeera that laws such as CAA echoed the Nazi Germany of the 1930s. “Through the CAA, most of us can recognize the echo of the 1930s in Germany when a Nazi government took similar steps - closely parallel to the NRC and CAA - which we know now were initial steps towards the Holocaust," Wyon, who deposed before the city council in support of the resolution was quoted as saying.

Last month, Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant told India Abroad that the progressive South Asian community in Seattle realizes the dangers of the deadly combination of the CAA and the NRC and how it will affect not only the 200 million Muslims, but also the marginalized and poor communities.

“The CAA and the NRC have, in so many ways, been a watershed moment because it has struck a nerve with a section of the society. She said that as a socialist, what is heartening to her is to see the kind of unity the law is building in her community. “People of all walks of life, some who are protesting for the first time in their lives,” and coming together, in solidarity,” she said.

The Cambridge City council resolution came after a series of anti-CAA demonstrations in Cambridge by Indian Americans, Indian students community and those from South Asia, accusing the Modi government of having “racist policies” which it said are inconsistent with Cambridge's values as a city that welcomes South Asian communities of all castes and religions.

It alleged that “a nationwide expansion of this policy could strip hundreds of millions of people of their citizenship rights with no option to be re-naturalized.”

In December Harvard students and staff signed statements, condemning suppression of student protests against the measures at Indian universities.

Harvard affiliates signed a letter supporting protests against the CAA and condemning the suppression of student protests at Indian universities. Harvard affiliates also staged a 24-hour protest against the CAA in January. The Harvard letter authored by Hemanth Bharatha Chakravarthy ’22, a research assistant at the Harvard Kennedy School, and Shreyvardhan Sharma ’22, was sponsored by groups, including the Harvard US-India Initiative, the Harvard Islamic Society, and the Harvard College Pakistani Students Association.

The Citizenship Amendment Act and the NRC sparked demonstrations from students across India, protests which the Indian government attempted to shut down by setting curfews, shutting down internet access, and deploying authorities to enforce order. The actions of India's government quickly sparked protests across various countries.

The protests seem to be spreading across the U.S. with both city, state and federal lawmakers as well as students and teachers across campuses taking a strong stand against the Indian government’s measure.

On February 7, the faculty and students of Rutgers university in New Jersey, including Audrey Truschke, a professor in the Department of History, who is a staunch critic of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for its Hindu nationalist agenda, organized a protest against India’s CAA and its implications for Muslim religious minority groups Feb. 7 on the campus.

Noting that Rutgers has a history of social justice and advocacy, Truschke said at the rally that Rutgers faculty and students travel back and forth from India, making the issue even more relevant. Truschke also said that 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.

“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.

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