CAA Protesters Fill the Streets at India’s Republic Day Celebration in San Francisco

Ritu Jha-

In one of the largest protests ever by Indian diaspora in California, over several hundred people assembled outside the Indian Consulate in San Francisco to raise their voices against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The protest started around 9:30 AM and voices remained loud past 1:30 PM.

Gathering consisted of people from all age groups, backgrounds, castes, and religions. The event began with the celebration of Republic Day with the recitation of the national anthem and a reading of the Preamble to the Constitution. On this Republic Day, the attendees resolved to defend and protect the Constitution followed by songs and poems reaffirming the values of pluralism, resilience, and resistance in Hindi, English, and Urdu. There were also chants of Aazadi and a recitation of Faiz’s poems which have become synonymous with the NRC-CAA protests all over the world.

According to the protestors, another counter-protest took place at the premise of the Indian embassy where pro CAA-NRC people displayed banners comparing Rohingya Muslims to ISIS and calling Jawaharlal Nehru University and Aligarh Muslim University anti-nationalist and chanted words like “Gaddar” (traitor) to the anti-CAA-NRC protestors.

Karthikeyan of the Ambedkar King Study Circle on joining the protest said, “The CAA, the NCR, and the NPR are 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 project of Hindutva is advancing itself from Hindu Raj (State) to Hindu Rashtra (Nation).

He sounded concerned when he saw the Indian consulate allowing pro-CAA demonstrations from the consulate premises which he believes tarnishes the image of the Indian consulate.

“Many people so far (till the demonstration happened] thought that the Indian Consulate is impartial, but now they are surprised,” said Karthikeyan.

He told indica that the Indian Consulate (IC) should be accommodative, “Governments will come and go,” he said. “If Indians live outside India, [they] lose their confidence in ICs then they (NRIs) will feel alienated.”

“Indian Consulate officers are representatives of the Government of India rather the ruling party. Alienation is the most dangerous thing,” he said, I’m very sad about the Indian Consulate’s role rather than the people, anti-CAA or pro-CAA.”

A senior attendee, Raju Rajagopal, who represents Hindus for Human Rights (HHR) echoed Karthikeyan and called the act unfortunate. “It was quite obvious the consulate was helping them, giving them safe space”

“It is sad to see the consulate taking sides,” said Rajagopal and added that this was one of the largest and diverse crowds he’s seen. “The biggest thing was people came from Denver, Los Angeles, and Colorado to take part in the protest,” he said.

Referring to the long line that covered both sides of 540 Arguello Blvd in San Francisco with people from India, Karthikeyan said, “The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) declares openly the Muslims and the Christians are enemies of India.”

“How can the people follow certain faiths and be enemies of India? It’s the foundation of their divisive politics,” he said.

He explained that people were shouting at each other and when the anti-CAA people offered water bottles to the pro-CAA people they accepted. So he believes the conflict is temporary.

Rajagopal told indica the issue is not just the Muslims or CAA, “This is a fight for the very survival of a secular and pluralistic India, against the fascist Hindutva, which has shown it’s ugly face for all to see.”

Sharing his concern he said that nobody it’s not  legitimate to block illegal immigration, “but at what cost.”

He said, “It is easy for us to talk about peace and unity but CAA and NRC are threating the lives of minorities potentially Adivasis (tribal) who cannot bring documents and for government proposing that ….making fun of it is absolutely unparliamentary. And Prime Minister said it won’t affect Muslims but deliberately proposing and then lying about it. People know the motive behind it.”

Another participant of the protest, Ahsan Khan, AIMC president from the Bay Area in California, asserted, “The rally of Indian Americans represents an extension of the massive unrest in India against the ruling BJP government for its relentless attacks against the secular Constitution. Indian Americans and people of conscience in the US are seeking accountability from the Hindu nationalist regime that wants to turn Indian Muslims into foreigners and render them stateless.”

Rajashik Tarafder, a PhD student at Caltech added, “We are at a stage in the movement where different attempts at characterizing and maligning the protests are being tried by the government. However, the most threatening of those attacks is yet to begin. It must be entirely expected that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of the NRC and CAA. The question will then become, ‘What do we do next?’ We are, after all, against the legal procedures of the government. Legal or not, the CAA and NRC must be repealed to preserve the spirit of the Constitution.”