(Eds: Adding inputs from Houston rally)
Washington, Jan 27 (PTI) India''s 71st Republic Day celebrations in the US on Sunday were marred by some peaceful protests and marches by a large number of Indian Americans in various cities of the country against the recent changes in the citizenship law.
Among Indian Americans, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019, however, also had a fair share of its supporters who sought to counter protesters by asserting that “India cares for Neighbouring Minorities” and “CAA Won''t Impact Indian Citizens.”
The supporters, however, appeared to be outnumbered by protesters, who held peaceful rallies and marches in various US cities, carrying anti-CAA banners and raising slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and demanding CAA''s repeal and revocation of the proposed National Register for Citizens.
They raised the demand ruing that India’s secular fabric is under threat.
In some of the cities, particularly New York, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta and San Francisco having Indian consulates, and at the Indian Embassy in Washington DC, the protestors shouted slogans like “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” and “Hindu, Muslim Sikh, Isai: Aapas Mein Sab Bhai Bhai”.
The protesters, however were countered by a number of Indian Americans who supported the enactment and congratulated the Modi Government for taking such a bold step.
The largest gathering of anti-CAA protestors was reported from Chicago where Indian Americans gathered in large numbers and formed several mile-long human chain.
In the American capital of Washington DC, more than 500 Indian Americans marched from a park near the White House to the Gandhi Statue in front of the Indian Embassy.
The anti-CAA protests in at least 30 US cities were organized by recently formed Coalition to Stop Genocide, comprising several organizations like Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Equality Labs, Black Lives Matter (BLM), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR).
“The brutal crackdown by government in India on anti-CAA and anti-NRC protests has created a situation in which women in large numbers have come out on streets to challenge the divisive-communal-fascist agenda of the government," Magsaysay Award winner Sandeep Pandey said, addressing a gathering in Washington DC.
“It gives hope that democracy and Constitution can ultimately be saved by the common people from a government which is bent upon destroying them," he said.
IAMC president Ahsan Khan said from the Bay Area in California, 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,” said Khan after the rally in San Francisco.
"Protests happening not only in India but around the world represent a global consensus against the draconian policies of the Modi-Shah government," said Dr Shaik Ubaid from New York.
“All Indians are equal citizens and that is the foundational social contract between the Indian nation and its citizens," said Minhaj Khan from New Jersey.
"Breaking this contract has grave implications for the future of India as a country,” he added.
Meanwhile in Houston, over 150 Indian-Americans rallied in support of the CAA and the NRC outside the Indian Consulate in Houston on Sunday, saying these measures were required to save the minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Carrying placards and banners with pro-Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens messages, the demonstrators lauded the Indian government for giving "persecuted minorities from neighbouring nations a life of respect and dignity."
The event closed with singing of the national anthems of the USA and India.
Director of Ishwar Sewa Foundation Sahana Singh said minorities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh need a safe place.
The Ishwar Foundation is rehabilitating Hindus who fled from Pakistan.
Achalesh Amar, a member of Friends of India Society International said: "We are thankful to the Modi government for giving these persecuted minorities from neighbouring nations a life of respect and dignity."
Anand Verma, a senior lawyer present at the rally, said, "We held the rally to counter the protests by Indian Muslims planned for this Sunday".
According to the CAA, people from Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come to India till December 31, 2014, from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan due to religious persecution there will be given Indian citizenship.
The protesters claim that the legislation was "unconstitutional and divisive" as it excludes Muslims. They have expressed apprehensions that the CAA along with NRC will impact the community in the country.
The Indian government has been emphasising that the new law does not deny any citizenship rights, but has been brought to protect the oppressed minorities of neighbouring countries and give them citizenship. PTI LKJ/SHK RAX IND AKJ CPS