New Delhi: Several members of the British Parliament, such as Stephen Timms, Rupa Huq, Pat McFadden, Claudia Webbe, among others have expressed concern over India’s new Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the ongoing protests against it and the implications on human rights and Muslim disenfranchisement.
The MPs expressed their views at a meeting organised in London recently by the Ambedkar International Mission (UK) and the South Asia Solidarity Group in the UK Parliament (House of Commons) on Monday, on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR) and the protests against them across India, according to a press release issued by the orgnaisers.
The meeting, sponsored by Stephen Timms, MP, was addressed by lawyer and legal scholar Gautam Bhatia, who is currently involved in the Supreme Court challenge to the legislation, which is slated to come up for hearing on Wednesday.
In his speech, Bhatia spoke about the “brazenly discriminatory” nature of CAA, the potential for mass disenfranchisement of Muslims and why it undermines the Indian citizenship guaranteed by the Constitution.
Satpal Muman, chair of the UK’s largest dalit organisation, CasteWatchUK, reminded the audience of B.R.Ambedkar's warning that 'Hindu Raj' would be a calamity for India, and expressed solidarity with thousands of protesters on the streets in India. He also noted the active role of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh and other overseas Hindutva organisations in blocking legislation in the UK which would make caste discrimination illegal.
According to the release, Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham (Labour), said: ‘I have been struck by the diversity of the people who are protesting against these measures in India in my constituency. Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs are all coming together’. He said he had written to the UK Foreign Office urging it to take a stand and had also written to the Indian High Commission expressing his deep concern about the CAA-NRC-NPR and their impact.
Timms also recounted that he was a frequent visitor to a Hindu temple in his constituency, but was shocked when some of his Indian constituents told him that they had been told at the temple that they were ‘not allowed’ to vote Labour during the 2019 UK elections.
Rupa Huq, MP for Ealing Central and Acton (Labour), also expressed her concern about the impact of the legislation and raised the questions of how NRI citizenship may be affected.
In response, Bhatia explained that the new legislation also gives the government more powers to cancel OCI status and that this change was partly a response to the increased criticism the Modi government is facing from the diaspora, said the release.
Claudia Webbe, MP for Leicester East (Labour) pledged to call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to revoke the “discriminatory” CAA which violates human rights.
Pat McFadden, MP for Wolverhampton South East (Labour) expressed his concern about the way the Conservative Party had blocked the implementation of legislation outlawing caste discrimination in the UK, under pressure from pro-Hindutva organisations.
Several MPs also said they would table an Early Day Motion in Parliament calling for the CAA-NRC-NPR to be discussed in Parliament, the release added.
Earlier, Amrit Wilson of South Asia Solidarity Group, described the scale of protests in India by students, women, Muslim communities, dalits, urban and rural workers and many others and the violence unleashed on protestors, while releasing a jury report of a People’s Tribunal on State Action in Uttar Pradesh (India) held recently in New Delhi.
Some other members who spoke also highlighted that the Modi government could be seen as part of the current global rise of fascism and the Far-Right, which also included Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro (who has been invited as Chief Guest to this year’s Republic Day Celebrations), Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu.
At the meeting, it was also announced that on the eve of India’s Republic Day on January 26, a demonstration would be held against ‘Fascism in India’, bringing together various diaspora organisations in solidarity with the resistance to CAA-NRC-NPR in India
The rally at Downing Street and March to the Indian High Commission has been called by South Asia Solidarity Group, CasteWatch UK, Tamil People in the UK, Co-ordinating Committee of Malayali Muslims, Kashmir Solidarity Movement, SOAS India Society, Indian Workers Association (GB), Ghadar International, Indian Muslim Federation(UK), Federation of Redbridge Muslim Organisations(FORMO) & other diaspora groups, the release added.