indica News Bureau-
Members of the Indian diaspora, including Indian-American students gathered at the Harvard Square in Boston on India’s Republic Day, January 26, to stage a 24-hour protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act passed by the Government of India last year. The protesters sang songs, recited poems and read the Preamble of the Indian Constitution to remind everyone that India is a secular country where all faiths are respected and of the democratic principles laid down in the Constitution.
Along with Boston, more protests were held in York, Chicago, Washington D.C., Atlanta, and San Fransisco were other US cities on Sunday. With the 24-hour protest, the protestors in Boston showed solidarity with compatriots on constant protest in Shaheen Bagh, Ghantagarh, and other places all over India, in the cold, and through the night since last few weeks.
Jaspal Singh, one of the protestors wrote a two liner for the Government of India to them that it is the of the people right to have an identity. “Hindustan ke mukhtar hai hum, kirayedar nahi,Mera haq mera wajood hai, tumhara ehsaan nahi” that loosely translates to “An owner of India, not a tenant, My rights stem from my existence, not your favor”
Protestors expressed a diversity of views while generously offering chai, samosas, poha etc. to all those who dropped by. Some drafted original compositions, others recited works of Faiz, Tagore, and Rahat Indori.
One protestor expressed his anger at the idea that a democratically elected government would ask its own voters to prove their citizenship. Another protestor passionately sang the full version of India’s national anthem, originally composed by Rabindranath Tagore. She spoke about how the Citizenship Amendment Act stood against the spirit of the anthem itself, which held up humanity as its highest ideal, irrespective of religious affiliation. Several protestors also invoked Ambedkar’s warnings at the Constituent Assembly, where he said, “If things go wrong under the new Constitution, the reason will not be that we had a bad Constitution. What we will have to say is that man was vile.”
MIT Professor Dwai Banerjee along with other community members, raised the question of “belonging” and what it is that the motherland truly strives for.
Dr. Suraj Yengde, a post-doctoral researcher at Harvard University, urged the Indian-diaspora to challenge the Hindu-Muslim dichotomy at the heart of Hindutva, pointing out that a monolithic Hindu identity suppresses the identities of Dalits, Adivasis, and many other communities with distinct traditions and histories. He highlighted the tragic death of Sidappa , a Dalit in Bangalore, who died while manual scavenging, an act illegal in India since 2013. Just as Siddappa died despite preventive laws, a secular Constitution was by itself insufficient – it needed political action to make it a reality.
Members of the Indian diaspora spoke about how although the current ruling party in India enjoyed some support from the diaspora, a significant share of the members stood vehemently against their divisive politics and laws. Such voices from the diaspora can and would make a difference by strengthening the world-wide movement against discrimination.
Lastly, Dr. Ruha Shadab, a student at the Harvard Kennedy School, hoped that this form of protest spanning 24 hours, would encourage more such demonstrations in the US.
The cold Boston rain could not dampen the spirits of the young protestors who all heeded the clarion call of a Constitution in need. As all the protestors of this small diaspora said that the causality of this protest is uncertain but the feeling of hope in their guts is certain.