The General Membership of the Teaching Support Staff Union condemns India’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) of 2019. This legislation expedites Indian citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians fleeing religious persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, if they moved to India before 2014. However, it does not extend the same protection to Muslims and other persecuted minority sects. (1) The CAA presents an Islamophobic narrative and discrimination based on religion, directly contradicting the Indian constitution’s commitment to a secular republic. (2) The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is concerned that this legislation is “fundamentally discriminatory” against Muslim people, and allows for discrimination against atheists and members of other religious groups. The Commissioner stated that these amendments “appear to undermine the commitment to equality before the law enshrined in India’s constitution” and “will have a discriminatory effect on people’s access to nationality.” 

This amendment to the Citizenship Act, along with the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), may create significant barriers to citizenship for trans* people, Indigenous tribes, people from lower castes, and other marginalized groups. These people have been excluded from the recent NRC in Assam (3)(4), and may therefore be unable to produce documents of citizenship. Those affected by the changes risk being subject to a complete loss of citizenship and livelihood, potential detention in camps currently under construction and/or already in use across the country. (5)(6) Further, the CAA is a direct assault on the Indigenous communities of Northeast India who will be detrimentally affected by the widespread migration the Act could bring forth. (7) 

Further, we condemn the repression of the democratic protests across India (8), including the student protestors at Aligarh Muslim University and the Jamia Millia Islamia University. The presence of police using batons and tear gas against University students (9)(10) indicates blatant disrespect for the human rights of unarmed students and international law. In less than a month, over 1,500 protestors have been arrested and over 20 individuals have been killed, including children (11)(12)(13). In addition to depriving protestors of healthcare and legal aid (14)(15)(16), the Indian government has disabled internet access in Assam and parts of Uttar Pradesh (17)(18)(19). These attacks follow atrocities in the Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir starting in August when the Indian government undemocratically stripped the state of its autonomous status. (20) (21)

Irrespective of the implications of the CAA, we underscore that protests and dissents are part and parcel of democracy. We stand with students’ rights to principled protest and intellectual freedom as these are central to the academic and democratic integrity of educational institutions. The actions of the Indian government headed by Narendra Modi are fascist. We stand in solidarity with our comrades in India and the patriotic citizens of India protesting the CAA and the fascist regime of the ruling government. We extend our solidarity with this international struggle to end the systematic oppression of marginalised people, and call for the Canadian government to join the international community in condemning these actions. (22)(23)(24)(25)