A massive series of protests has currently emerged in India, after the government passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). This new law is also regarded as deeply problematic by a majority of constitutional experts, because it makes ‘religion’ the criteria of citizenship.
Yesterday, the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO) in Berlin learned that one of the center's former visiting fellows, Tanika Sarkar, had been detained in Delhi. She was later released but the crackdown on protest and dissent is deeply disturbing.
A number of experts from ZMO are available for interviews on the situation in India.
In the wake of the recent passing of the controversial law, Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), a massive and prolonged series of protests has currently emerged in India. These protests are spread across all big and small towns, bringing people of different communities, religions, and classes together. The lead has been taken by university students, public intellectuals, and social and legal activists. A large cross-section of the society is out on the streets from Kolkata in the east to Mumbai in the west, calling out the Hindu majoritarian stroke of the current government.
Irrespective of the issue of the constitutionality of the Act, which has been challenged in the Supreme Court of India, a majority of constitutional experts have regarded it as deeply problematic because it makes ‘religion’ the criteria of citizenship. This has serious and long-lasting implications for altering the nature of constitutional secularism, which defines Indian democracy.
Together with National Register of Citizens (NRC), which the government has promised to implement, this Act, in all likelihood, is designed to arbitrarily exclude Muslims from the claims of citizenship. While NRC intends to enlist and classify genuine citizens and ‘illegal infiltrators’, CAA by virtue of keeping Muslims out of the Act, potentially creates a legal condition in which the existing Muslim citizens could become stateless.
Protests against these legal measures are for securing the rights of minority groups and upholding constitutional equality. This should be a matter of grave concern for everyone as such practices of anti-minority politics are widely seen and heard globally.
In the last few days, the protests in places like Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengalaru, Lucknow, Aligarh have met brutal police crackdown. University students have been beaten up inside campuses and libraries. Internet services have been cut off and mobility curtailed. Rather than inviting the stakeholders and adopting the line of reasoned discussion, the current union government has gone for the brutal display and use of state power.
Yesterday, a number of public intellectuals were detained from across the country. A leading historian, Ram Guha was put into the police bus while speaking to a bunch of journalists and holding the poster-cut of Gandhi and Ambedkar. Also in Delhi, such detentions took place. One among them was the retired professor Tanika Sarkar, who was a visiting fellow at ZMO, and had been actively associating with researchers at the centre. From the news reports we learned that she was later released, but the crackdown on protest and dissent is deeply disturbing.
Any constitutional or political alteration to the fundamental idea of pluralistic India as well as brutal silencing of dissent warrants wider condemnation from global civil society members.
Some of the fellows at ZMO will be happy to speak on this issue further, and on the political context and social ramification of these new legal measures:
Sadia Bajwa (Humboldt University, Berlin)
Dr. Nitin Sinha, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Heike Liebau, email@example.com
Dr. Franziska Roy, firstname.lastname@example.org
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