INDIA: Masses Take Streets to Condemn Anti-Muslim Immigration Law

Photo: Protesters face off with police in New Delhi last week against anti-Muslim immigration law.

By Miriam Cordova

For more than a week, New Delhi and other cities in India have been disrupted with mass protests after a new citizenship law passed which openly rejects Muslim immigrants from three neighboring countries.

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has given rise to wide opposition because it unmasks the Hindu fascist face of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration. Having passed in both houses of parliament on December 11, it claims to allow paths to citizenship for those who have fled Afghanistan, Bangladesh, or Pakistan before 2015 but explicitly excludes Muslims. Since the bill was passed, hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets in protests that have become increasingly violent as Indian police brutally repress demonstrators.

Media sources have reported that 23 people have died, many at the hands of police, and hundreds have been taken into custody. The old Indian state has instituted curfews and restricted Internet access, even arresting 113 people for making supportive social media posts. While police used teargas and batons, the people have thrown rocks, set a police station on fire, and vandalized buses. Twelve police officers were injured in New Delhi on Tuesday.

In New Delhi alone at least 130 people have been admitted to hospitals with injuries related to the protests. Police attacked students of Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University in the library and in the bathrooms, claiming that protesters had run to hide there. Another student of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, had to have his hand amputated after police injured it.

Police have also injured pedestrians and journalists who were not participating in the protests. BBC journalist Bushra Sheikh reported that police broke her phone, pulled her hair, and hit her with a baton.

The protests have not been confined to New Delhi, with tens of thousands demonstrating in Kolkata, students throwing stones in Lucknow, and students in Chennai and Varanasi protesting in solidarity with Jamia Mallia students.

Modi’s administration claims that this immigration act protects religious minorities and will not affect current Indian citizens of any religion. However, Home Minister Amit Shah has promised that the national citizenship registry currently being implemented in the state of Assam, which targets Muslim Indians by having them prove their Indian ancestry or face deportation, will soon be extended to the rest of the country. India is home to 200 million Muslims, the third largest Muslim population behind Indonesia and Pakistan.

The CAA represents another step towards fascism in the consolidation of anti-Muslim policies implemented by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The government rolled out a citizenship check in the northeastern state of Assam earlier this year which left millions of Muslims stateless, in addition to the occupation of Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir.

While these mass protests against the repression of old states are similar to those observed in Latin America and other countries this year, those in India are part of a greater People’s War for New Democracy led by the Communist Party of India (Maoist). The People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army has been ranked by the US as a top threat to its imperialist global hegemony.

Just this week, the old Indian state was forced to admit that a battle in 2012 which left 17 farmers and peasants dead, previously attributed to the CPI (Maoist), was in fact a fake encounter. Whether against revolutionaries or mass protesters, the reactionary old state uses the same repressive force. The Indian people’s refusal to indulge in religious sectarianism displays a heroic rejection of the BJP’s attempts to divide and conquer and growing discontent with the reactionary old state in India.