The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was passed by the Indian Parliament on December 11, 2019. It amends the Citizenship Act of 1955 and creates an easier path for acquiring Indian citizenship for persecuted religious minorities—Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Christian, and Parsi—from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan who entered India before or on December 13, 2014. The Act does not encompass other (non-Islamic) neighboring countries, nor does it consider other persecuted minorities—for example, the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar, the Ahmadiya and Shia of Pakistan, or the Tamils of Sri Lanka. While the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was able to pass the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) through Parliament without a hitch, it was unprepared for the massive protests against the Act that soon followed in a number of places in India. The protests were spearheaded by students from across universities in India. The women of Shaheen Bagh, a Muslim neighborhood in Delhi, were also at the forefront of the protests. Protests were brought to a halt as riots erupted in Delhi that left 53 people dead and many more injured. Anti-Muslim rhetoric of the ruling BJP leaders preceded the riots as the party geared up for elections to the Delhi Assembly (which it lost) in early February 2020. However, in the post-riot reckoning it was the protesters who were blamed by the police for the riots and various participants in the protests are facing prosecution, while the BJP leaders who made inflammatory speeches have gone scot-free.
Among more recent events, the COVID-19 pandemic and a draconian lockdown after mid-March saw many laboring people from metropoles like Delhi walk back to their homes hundreds of miles away, and the Indian government was unable to do anything for a long time to ease their situation. The government has also used the lockdown—as have other high-handed regimes globally—to reimpose its authority. Other major moves of the government in the last 12 months include making inoperative Article 370 of the Indian constitution that gave special status to the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, and laying the foundation for the building of a massive Ram Temple where a Muslim mosque once stood before it was demolished by BJP activists in 1992.
The UCSB faculty participants in this symposium will discuss the varied ways in which this chain of events has unfolded in India and what these events mean with respect to Indian democracy and its institutions, the rhetoric of nationalism, the onslaught on the idea of secularism, and the economy and the livelihoods of the Indian people. Anshu Malhotra, Professor of Global Studies and Kundun Kaur Kapany Chair of Sikh and Punjabi Studies, will discuss Shaheen Bagh and Muslim women in India. Utathya Chattopadhyaya, Assistant Professor of History, will reflect on the reconfiguration of nationalism in India. Aashish Mehta, Associate Professor of Global Studies, will discuss populism, policy, and the real economy in India before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Satyajit Singh, Professor of Global Studies and Political Science, will reflect on the student protests in perspective. Amit Ahuja, Associate Professor of Political Science, will discuss electoral politics and what the recent protests mean for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Cosponsored by the IHC’s South Asian Religions and Cultures Research Focus Group and the Department of Global Studies