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‘Mind your business’: Mixed reaction in India after 19 American universities condemn police amid Citizenship Act protests

‘Mind your business’: Mixed reaction in India after 19 American universities condemn police amid Citizenship Act protests
Students and faculties from more than a dozen American universities have produced a joint statement decrying police abuses on Indian college campuses. However, not everybody has welcomed the message from abroad.

A collective effort of several top schools, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Stanford, the 400 signatories voiced “solidarity” with demonstrators protesting the recently passed Citizenship Amendment Act and slammed police excesses in quelling the unrest.

We express full solidarity with students across universities in India who are peacefully protesting against the recent passing of the unconstitutional and discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act.

Also signed by Cornell, MIT, the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Illinois, the missive details five demands for the Indian government – calling for an end to the violence and investigations into police conduct, among other things.

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While some expressed gratitude for the support from abroad, a number of Indian netizens did not appreciate being lectured by students living 8,000 miles and an ocean away, and asked them to respectfully mind their own business.

“Harvard does not have any moral right to talk about India. Did they ever write a letter during American foreign invasions?” one commenter asked aloud, while another wondered: “Out of how many students? [4 million?]”

Opposition lawmaker Shashi Tharoor of the Indian Congress Party, who shared a story about the joint university statement on Twitter, encountered push-back online as well, with some declaring their support for the police and questioning the protesters’ motives.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has slammed the protests as “guerrilla politics” designed to instigate violence, and accused opposition parties of “spreading lies” about the Citizenship Act.

“I appeal to the youth in colleges to debate our policies and protest democratically. We will listen to you,” Modi said at a rally on Tuesday, adding: “But some parties, urban Naxals, are firing off your shoulders,” referring to India’s small but vocal communist movement.

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Passed by India’s parliament last week, the citizenship law offers to fast-track Indian citizenship to non-Muslim migrants who fled Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh before 2015 for reasons of religious persecution. While supporters of the legislation – introduced by Amit Shah of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – argue its sole purpose is to protect vulnerable minority groups, critics insist its exclusion of Muslims is motivated by hatred and contradicts the country’s traditions of tolerance and pluralism.

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