Ambassador Sanjay Panda Discusses the Protests at the Republic Day Celebration in San Francisco

 

Ritu Jha-

No political preference was involved in the composition of attendees at the Republic Day celebration on January 26 according to Ambassador Sanjay Panda, Consul General of India in San Francisco.

“It was an open house…anybody could get into the consulate and any member of the Indian community and the friends of India were welcome to participate in the celebration,” Consul General Panda said responding to the January 26 anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) protest and counter-protest hosted by several Indian organizations outside the Indian Consulate in San Francisco.

Enacted into the law on December 12, the anti-CAA protestors believe the law is unconstitutional as it discriminates against Muslims and minorities who do not have access to valid proofs of citizenship.

They also believe that the National Population Register (NPR) is against the secular ideal of Indian democracy as mentioned in the preamble. They are also against Dr. Ambedkar’s ideals of society to be based on the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity.

The anti-CAA protestors who assembled in hundreds have alleged that the consulate allowed the pro-CAA demonstrators to protest from its premises which is concerning.

But Consul General Panda told indica, “[The] Consulate is very neutral in this matter.”

He said people were welcome to have ladoos [desserts] and samosas on the occasion.

“But yes, somebody cannot get into the Consulate shouting slogans. These people [pro-CAA] did not shout slogans inside the Consulate.”

He said the people who came to celebrate the Republic Day demonstrated after the celebration, and they were outside the property of the Consulate.

“It was the police who asked them to remain inside the barricade,” The Consul General said and added they came to salute the Indian flag, and partake in the celebration and saw the anti- CAA protest. In a democracy the protesters should also be prepared for [counter views].

“We listened to what protestors have to say […] and I have reported, they should also be willing to.” he said.

“I listened to both sides,” said the Consul General. “[the counter protestors] could have gone out of the [consulate property] but the police didn’t want them to go.”

When asked if he told the counter protestors to leave the property, he said when the numbers grew, the police asked them to remain behind the barricade to avoid a confrontation.

 

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