APC condemns the crackdown on peaceful protesters in India, including the harassment of APC staff member

India, 06 January 2020

In recent weeks, peaceful protests have erupted throughout India in response to the adoption of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). APC condemns the crackdown on peaceful protesters in the country, including the harassment of our staff member Gayatri Khandhadai.

Background on CAA and the protests

In recent weeks, peaceful protests have erupted throughout India in response to the adoption of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act. Passed in early December, the amended legislation excludes Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who have been resident in India since before 2014 from the status of "illegal immigrants", and expedites their path to citizenship. The Amendment does not extend the same protection to atheists and Muslims, including minority sects, from these three countries.

Critics say that the CAA undermines India's secular constitution, which ensures equality for all religions and does not list religion as a criterion for citizenship. International groups and experts have also expressed their concerns in relation to this discriminatory legislation. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has called the CAA "fundamentally discriminatory in nature".

Restrictions on the right to protest

There has been a severe clampdown on the right to protest across India. In addition to prolonged network shutdowns, dozens of people have been killed and thousands have been arrested amid demonstrations in India against the CAA. The UN Secretary-General expressed concern about the Indian government's use of excessive force and urged full respect for the rights of freedom of opinion and expression and peaceful assembly. 

On 29 December, a group of activists in Chennai, including APC staff member Gayatri Khandhadai, decided to protest by drawing kolams (patterns with rice flour) that said “No to CAA and NRC”. Kolams are part of a long-standing tradition in Tamil Nadu, drawn especially during the ongoing Tamil month of marghazi, which is a central part of their culture. They were met by over 40 police personnel who asked them to stop since they didn’t have permission under Section 41(3)(a) of the Madras City Police Act. The activists did not seek permission for this because it was not an organised protest and they were not raising slogans. The story went viral in Tamil Nadu and nationally, with many people drawing kolams outside their houses in solidarity. 

We are particularly concerned about the doxxing suffered by our staff member Khandhadai during a press conference held on 1 January to discuss the 2019 crime statistics. We believe the Police Commissioner is intentionally spreading rumours about her, including by playing into Islamophobic sentiments in order to intimidate and silence her and others who are exercising their constitutionally protected right to peacefully express their dissent. We fear that there is a real possibility that she could be taken into police custody.

More information
  • Read our full statement.

  • Follow updates and help us amplify the message through the #NoToCAA hashtag on Twitter.

  • Access our press section to stay updated on pressing news and other resources.

  • For interviews, coverage and other press inquiries, contact Leila Nachawati, APC’s media outreach lead: leila@apc.org.  

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About APC

The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is an international network and non-profit organisation founded in 1990 that wants everyone to have access to a free and open internet to improve lives and create a more just world. https://apc.org  

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Country: 
India
Media publication date: 
Monday, January 6, 2020
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