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30 January 2020

India must repeal CAA, stop crackdown on protesters, Amnesty International USA tells U.S. Congress

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‘CAA-NRC will create the world’s biggest crisis of statelessness’

IMO News Service

Washington, D.C.: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi must repeal the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and stop the brutal crackdown on anti-CAA protesters, Amnesty International has said.

The world’s premier civil rights watchdog has also said that the CAA and the National Register for Citizens (NRC) would create the world’s biggest crisis of statelessness.

“The CAA, both in structure and in intent, is exclusionary and inconsistent with India’s Constitution and human rights obligation,” Francisco Bencosme, Asia Pacific Advocacy Manager, Amnesty International USA, said at a Briefing at U.S. Congress. It “may deprive minorities of their citizenship in India. If implemented, this stands to create the biggest stateless crisis of the world causing immense human suffering.”

“We ask here today for the Modi government to repeal the CAA and stop cracking down on protesters and ensure that its citizens have the right to peaceful assembly.”

Bencosme was speaking at a Briefing on “Implications of India’s Citizenship Law (CAA)” attended by dozens of Congressional staffs of Senators, Congresspersons and House committees. Also in the audience were officials of Department of State.

The briefing, held on Monday, January 27 was organized by Indian American Muslim Council, the largest Indian American group advocating for Constitutional secularism in India; Hindus for Human Rights; Engage Action; and Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Bencosme said the prime minister’s “silence” on the police brutalities and crackdown “has spoken louder than his words”. “When he [Modi] has spoken about the protest he has been divisive, instead of healing the wounds of the country.”

Bencosme also said Amnesty International had documented “a clear pattern of the use of excessive force during protests and arrests of peaceful protesters”. There were also instances of “delayed access to legal counsel, differential treatment of assemblies, and bias in police and administrative response.”

Across India, anti-CAA protests had occurred in at least 94 districts across 14 states. At least 31 people have died in the violence. More than 110 have been arrested, and more than 600 have been kept in preventative detention, Bencosme said.

Most deaths have occurred in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state where Mr. Modi’s party is in power. “Arbitrary detention, use of excessive force, differential treatment of assemblies, and torture in custody have sadly become commonplace in Uttar Pradesh,” Bencosme said. “The way the state government has, by and large, chosen to respond to the anti-CAA protests has been massively disproportionate, unwarranted and unlawful. We call on them to end the brutal crackdown immediately.”

Speaking of Prime Minister Modi’s parliamentary constituency, Varanasi, Bencosme police had continued their “intimidation and crackdown”. Many who were injured in December had left homes and sought medical treatment in other areas “due to fear of reprisals from authorities”. There was constant police patrolling even at night, he said.

Houses have been vandalized across Varanasi. In at least two instances, the police broke into houses “in the middle of the night to make arrests, destroying property”. The police have “induced a climate of fear in citizens’ homes in India.”

Bencosme quoted a Varanasi resident as saying, “if you are trying to participate in anti-CAA protests, the government will arrest you and threaten you and slap laws like sedition on you. But if you are pro-CAA, you can organize rally and solidarity events.”

On October 22, Bencosme had testified on the ground situation in Kashmir before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Asia, Pacific and Nonproliferation. He had at that time criticized the Modi government for curtailing civil rights in Kashmir.

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