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Repeal the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019

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December 21, 2019

Honorable Shri Ram Nath Kovind

President of India,

Brassey Avenue, Near Rashtrapati Bhavan, Raisina Hills, Delhi 110004

Dear President Kovind ji,

We are writing to you as immigrants and part of the diaspora of Northeast India residing in the United States and Canada. We strongly condemn the recently-enacted Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in India. It is an unconstitutional Act that threatens the secular fabric of the nation, is anti-indigenous, and has grave economic and socio-cultural implications for Northeast India, specifically Assam.

Following are the reasons why we deem the Act to be detrimental to Assam:

1. It violates the Assam Accord: The Act violates the Assam Accord, the peace treaty between Assam and the Government of India in 1985, according to which it was mutually agreed that Assam would host all immigrants who arrived until March 1971, the year Bangladesh got its independence and no further. In addition, CAA violates Article 14, 15, 19, 21,25, 29 of the Constitution of India that prevents discrimination based on religious grounds, guarantees equality under law to citizens and guarantees both citizens and non-citizens of their right to life and liberty.

2. Assam will bear the brunt of the Act in the absence of a coherent government strategy to rehabilitate migrants in humane, just, and sustainable ways. Assam is one of the poorest states in India – almost 1/3rd of the population lives in extreme poverty, according to World Bank data, and the poverty rate remains higher than the national average. It also lags behind almost every other state in the country on Human Development indicators and lies below the national average. The small, economically-struggling state welcomed millions of immigrants through the Assam Accord until 1971. The number currently, according to independent sources, runs to tens of millions. In the absence of the economic systems and infrastructure necessary to support a growing population, accommodating more migrants who arrived since 1971 and who are likely to arrive in the future will bring these systems on the verge of a collapse.

3. It threatens the cultural diversity and plurality of indigenous traditions in Northeast India, offends the Indian Constitution and Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and international norms on the rights of indigenous People. Assam is home to a rainbow of ethnicities, tribes, and indigenous groups. A large influx of homogenous groups threatens the delicate balance of this multicultural, multiethnic, and multi-indigenous society which has maintained mostly harmonious relations in the past.

In addition, we strongly condemn the violation by the police and the Indian paramilitary forces of the basic human right of Indian nationals to “freedom of peaceful assembly” as per Article 20 of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the fundamental freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution of India. Police and Indian paramilitary forces have killed six people in Assam alone and injured hundreds, including students, around the country. The Assam government banned internet in the state and established a curfew for several days preventing residents from getting access to even basic needs. The curfew directly affected people such as daily wage workers who depended on their daily earnings for basic survival. The banning of internet directly affected several businesses, including the running of ATMs, in the state. Public intellectuals across the country engaging in peaceful protests against CAA have been detained or arrested. This high-handedness of the police and paramilitary forces MUST STOP IMMEDIATELY.

Our demands are the following:

1. Repeal the CAA immediately.

2. Implement the Assam Accord fully.

3. Consult with the public on finding a comprehensive and sustainable solution on rehabilitating and resettling migrants in ways that treat both citizens and migrants as human beings equally worthy of dignity and respect, and deserving of lives that are fulfilling economically, culturally, and spiritually.

We also want to emphatically state that we are not affiliated with any political or news media organizations, countries, or agencies with vested interests. We are merely immigrants on a foreign land who love our homeland, India, and our host country, the United States/ Canada. We are thankful for the welcome that the US/ Canada has extended to us, and in return, we contribute to its economic and socio-cultural milieu and diversity. We condemn xenophobia, Islamophobia, and settler colonialism in all shape and form, and support durable peace, economic well-being for all and preserving cultural diversity and plurality of all indigenous traditions.

Please note, this letter is the result of a collective, democratic, and transparent process of discussion, consultation, and feedback-gathering over a period of time from immigrants of Assamese origin in North America, and, hence, the letter represents their collective opinion on the CAA.

Kind regards,

Concerned Citizens of Northeast India in North America

Copy to:

1. Prime Minister of India, Honorable Shri Narendra Modi

2. Union Home Minister of India, Honorable Shri Amit Shah

3. Chief Minister of Assam, Honorable Shri Sarbananda Sonowal

4. Ambassador of India to the United States, Honorable Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla

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