Indian diaspora groups from around the world have issued a statement on January 26, Republic Day voicing their concern over the alleged persecution of 18 students and activists under an anti-terror law for challenging the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA).
In a statement that coincided with the Republic Day, the global diaspora groups said they believed the ‘Delhi-18’ are being targeted as reprisal for their democratic dissent against CAA.
“On the occasion of India’s Republic Day, it is important to call attention to the persecution of 18 brave Indian students and activists who are being maliciously prosecuted by the Indian state. These 18 are among the leaders of the peaceful peoples’ protest movement that captivated India and the world against discriminatory changes made to India’s citizenship law in December 2019.”, the statement reads.
“The Delhi18 are student leaders and activists who were at the vanguard of the anti-CAA protests in Delhi from December 2019 onwards. For standing up fearlessly and collectively against the government’s aim to rewrite the inclusivity of citizenship to India, these 18 have been falsely charged by the Delhi Police as instigating the mass violence that broke out in Delhi in February 2020.”, it adds.
“The Delhi 18 include Sharjeel Imam, Ishrat Jahan, Khalid Saifi, Tahir Hussain, Saleem Malik, Mohd. Saleem Khan, Meeran Haider, Shadab Ahmed, Gulfisha Fatima, Tasleem Ahmed, Shifa Ur Rehman, Athar Khan, Umar Khalid, Safoora Zargar, Md. Faizan Khan, Asif Iqbal Tanha, Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita. Of the 18, 13 – all Muslims, have been in jail for over a year as of January 2022,” the statement continues.
The statement has been issued by 18 organisations from different parts of the world: International Solidarity for Academic Freedom in India, Worldwide; People Against Apartheid and Fascism, South Africa; The Humanism Project, Australia; Aotearoa Alliance of Progressive Indians, New Zealand; India Solidarity Germany, Germany; Hindus for Human Rights – USA; Dalit Solidarity Forum, USA; Chicago Coalition for human rights in India, USA; Hindus for Human Rights- UK; World Wide Now; International Council of Indian Muslims; Scottish Indians for Justice, Scotland; Hindus for Human Rights – Australia & New Zealand; Justice for All, Canada; Strive UK, UK; International Coalition for Justice in India, UK; Foundation, The London Story, Netherlands; and Boston South Asia Collective, USA.
Professor Mohan Dutta, Dean’s Chair in Communication at Massey University, New Zealand and director of its research, said, “The human right to dissent forms the fundamental architecture of democracies. The unlawful incarceration of Delhi18 depicts the authoritarian abuse of power by the Hindutva state, seeking to silence voices that challenge its politics of hate that fundamentally threatens the Indian constitution.”
According to CAA, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014, following religious persecution there, will be fast-tracked Indian citizenship. The Indian government has insisted that the new law will not deny any citizenship rights, but has been brought to protect the oppressed minorities of neighbouring countries and give them citizenship.