‘Reign of terror’ in northern India follows citizenship law

Indian women hold placards and shout slogans during a protest against a new citizenship law that opponents say threatens India's secular identity in Bangalore, India, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019. (AP)
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Updated 27 December 2019

‘Reign of terror’ in northern India follows citizenship law

  • Critics say BJP is openly at war with Muslims as Modi praises police action

NEW DELHI: Idul Hasan has been crying since he saw the body of his 20-year-old son Asif, unable to believe that life has become so tragic. 

“I was called by the ambulance driver, he told me to see my son in the hospital’s post-mortem section,” a sobbing Hasan told Arab News. “What was his crime?”

Asif, a rickshaw driver in the Meerut district of northern Uttar Pradesh state, was killed after Friday prayers when police fired at people protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). 

The act fast-tracks citizenship for persecuted Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians who arrived in India before the end of 2014 from Muslim-majority Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. But critics say the law is discriminatory and goes against the secular spirit of India’s constitution. 

Six people have been killed by police fire in Meerut and a fact-finding team comprising civil society activists accuses authorities of targeting Muslims. One activist has said there is a “reign of terror” in Uttar Pradesh.

“The UP authorities are brazenly targeting Muslims ... throwing democratic norms, constitutional rights and the due process of law to the wind,” the National Action Against Citizenship Amendment team said.

FASTFACT

There have been protests across India but most of the killings and violence has occurred in places governed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party such as Uttar Pradesh.

The citizenship law follows decisions by New Delhi that disproportionately affect the country’s Muslim population including revoking the special status of the Muslim-majority state of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, the screening of Muslims from the National Register of Citizens in Assam state, and plans to build a Hindu temple at the site of centuries-old Babri Mosque.

There have been protests across India but most of the killings and violence has occurred in places governed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) such as Uttar Pradesh.

Media and police reports said there had been 18 deaths from police fire in the state, and that hundreds of people have been detained.

“There is a reign of terror and the minority is living in deep fear,” political activist Yogendra Yadav told Arab News after a visit to Meerut. 

Arab News contacted the director-general of Uttar Pradesh police, O.P. Singh, but he refused to comment.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has praised the role of state police in enforcing law and order, telling an audience in Lucknow that people who committed violent acts and damaged public property should sit peacefully at home and ponder if it was the right path.

Activists who visited the state told Arab News that the BJP was openly at war with Muslims, and that people were so scared they were not going to the police station to file reports about missing relatives.


Harris’ Indian heritage could boost Biden with Asian-American voters

Updated 13 August 2020

Harris’ Indian heritage could boost Biden with Asian-American voters

  • Harris, whose mother was from India and father from Jamaica, made history this week as both the first Black woman and Asian American to join a major-party US presidential ticket
  • Asian Americans are an oft-overlooked political constituency, making up less than 6% of the overall US population, but their numbers are quickly expanding in critical battleground states

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign plans to step up engagement with Asian-American voters this fall and is betting running mate Kamala Harris’ experience as the daughter of an Indian immigrant will resonate with the fastest-growing US minority population.
Harris, whose mother was from India and father from Jamaica, made history this week as both the first Black woman and Asian American to join a major-party US presidential ticket. Introducing her on Wednesday as the Democratic vice presidential nominee, Biden said, “Her story is America’s story.”
Asian Americans are an oft-overlooked political constituency, making up less than 6% of the overall US population. But their numbers are quickly expanding in critical battleground states, and galvanizing their turnout could be enough to swing the outcome of November’s presidential election.
After Biden announced Harris as his running mate, Amit Jani, the campaign’s national director for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) outreach, said he saw an immediate surge of enthusiasm on social media and message boards and received calls from Asian Americans seeking to get more involved.
“Within the South Asian and Indian communities, there’s a level of excitement I haven’t seen before,” Jani said.
The Biden campaign has said it will devote part of a $280 million fall advertising blitz to AAPI outreach, including targeted buys in ethnic media.
While Asian Americans are far from monolithic and are comprised of many different ethnicities, they have supported Democrats overall in recent decades. In 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton won AAPI voters over Republican Donald Trump by a 2-to-1 margin, according to a Reuters/Ipsos Election Day poll.
In states such as Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia and Texas – all of which are closely contested ahead of this year’s presidential election, according to opinion polls – the AAPI population grew more than 40% between 2012 and 2018.
That was more than triple the pace for all residents in each state, according to data compiled by AAPI Data and the nonpartisan advocacy group APIAVote. Indian Americans represent the largest Asian-American group in each of those states.
Trump’s 2016 victory came down to fewer than 80,000 total votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where more than half a million AAPI residents live.
“These are places where the Asian-American vote might mean the difference between victory and defeat,” Karthick Ramakrishnan, a professor at the University of California-Riverside and the founder of AAPI Data, said of the various swing states.
In an effort to win support from Indian-American voters, Trump hosted a 50,000-person “Howdy Modi” rally in Texas with visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year. Modi returned the favor in February, organizing a 110,000-attendee rally for Trump in India.
Advocates said Harris’ background as a daughter of immigrants would resonate with Asian Americans of all ethnicities, given that two-thirds of the AAPI population are first-generation immigrants.
Harris described on Wednesday how her parents came from different parts of the world to the United States seeking opportunity and bonded over their commitment to justice.
“What brought them together was the civil rights movement,” she said.
That movement led to the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which ended racial immigration quotas and opened the country to Indians and other immigrants, noted Neil Makhija, the executive director of IMPACT, which recruits and supports Indian-American candidates.
“She ties together all of our national threads in a way that no other public figure has ever done,” he said.
Varun Nikore, president of AAPI Victory Fund, a super PAC that backs Asian-American candidates, said Asian-American voters were turned off by Trump’s attempt to blame China over the coronavirus – including his use of racially charged terms like “China virus” and “kung flu.”
The pandemic has seen a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans, with more than 2,300 incidents from March 19 to July 15, according to the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council.
A Trump campaign spokesman, Ken Farnaso, said it has held more than 500 events geared toward Asian Americans since 2017, including events where immigrants or their relatives share stories about their escapes from socialist or communist regimes.
“With President Trump at the helm, the Asian Pacific American community can be confident they have the best advocate in the White House,” Farnaso added.
Historically, Republicans and Democrats have put little effort toward reaching Asian-American voters. Nikore said lower turnout convinced campaigns not to invest many resources, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Also complicating engagement: None of the major AAPI populations share a common language.
“You really need to have multiple campaign plans, one for every ethnicity that exists,” Nikore said.
The Biden campaign is hosting numerous AAPI events, including the launch of the Wisconsin AAPIs for Biden effort on Thursday and an Indian independence event on Saturday.
This fall, the campaign will have phone banks dedicated to specific ethnicities and staffed with callers who speak the appropriate language, Jani said.
Harris’ elevation to the ticket comes as more Asian-Americans run for office than ever before.
There have been a record 99 Asian-American candidates for federal office in 2020, compared with 48 in 2018, according to research by the nonprofit Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies. This year’s examples include Sara Gideon, the Democratic Senate candidate in Maine, whose father is Indian.
Studies have shown that more Asian-American candidates leads to higher political participation among the community’s voters.
“It’s hard to overstate how important this is for people like me,” said Sri Preston Kulkarni, an Indian American running for Congress as a Democrat in a competitive Texas district near Houston. “Growing up as the son of an Indian immigrant, I didn’t see other faces that looked like mine, especially in positions of power.”