Rutgers students, faculty organize protest against India’s Citizenship Law

Photo Courtesy: Vivek Vidyarthi, The Daily Targum

The faculty and students of Rutgers university, 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 Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)and its implications for Muslim religious minority groups, Feb. 7, on the campus.

According to The Daily Targum, the university’s official student newspaper, the organizers of the event that took place in front of Scott Hall on the College Avenue campus included 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.

“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.

She said the event was organized to stand in solidarity with individuals in India, including those who have been attacked at three major universities, 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.

In an earlier interview with India Abroad Truschke said the bill is an appalling assault on equality, human rights, and the vision of India's founding fathers. “It is also completely unsurprising since it stems from a political ideology, namely Hindutva, that uses hatred of Muslims as a foil for itself,” she said.

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.

Das said the students have been thinking of organizing a protest rally at Rutgers. “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.

A counter protest to defend the CAA also emerged.Harshit Agarwal, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, who attended the counterprotest said 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.

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