On the Situation in India in the Wake of the Citizen Amendment Act

A Statement by the AAR Board of Directors

Approved by the AAR Board of Directors on January 6, 2020

On December 11, 2019, the Indian Parliament approved the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which provides fast-track citizenship for Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Buddhist, Parsi, Christian, and other refugees fleeing persecution, but—significantly—excludes Muslim refugees. The Act—which has been condemned as contravening the principles of equality and secular citizenship enshrined in the Indian constitution—has resulted in major protests across India.

Beginning a few days after the passing of the bill, Indian Police in a number of locations have targeted peaceful university protestors—especially at Muslim institutions—imposed curfews, blocked the Internet, and, in the case of the Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi, attacked students on campus resulting in more than 200 students being critically injured. A petition condemning this crackdown has been signed by over 10,000 scholars and public intellectuals, many of them members of the American Academy of Religion.

While Indian scholars and students continue to bear the brunt of police repression, the passing of the CAA and the subsequent government reactions are, more generally, an assault on free speech, the foundation of all scholarly work; they imperil ongoing scholarly collaboration; and they needlessly endanger scholars—professors, graduate students, and undergraduates on exchange programs—working in India.

The American Academy of Religion, the largest scholarly organization for the academic study of religion in the world, with over 8,000 members, stands in solidarity with Indian colleagues and students who have suffered under these crackdowns, condemns the stifling of Indian colleagues’ freedom to peacefully dissent, and urges utmost restraint on the part of Indian security personnel.