The Seattle City Council, one of the most powerful city councils in the U.S., on Monday unanimously passed a resolution condemning India’s recently-enacted Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Reaffirming Seattle as a welcoming city and expressing solidarity with the city’s South Asian community regardless of religion and caste, the resolution “resolves that the Seattle City Council opposes the National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship Amendment Act in India, and finds these policies to be discriminatory to Muslims, oppressed castes, women, indigenous, and LGBT people“.
Introduced by Indian American City Council member Kshama Sawant, the resolution urges the Parliament of India to uphold the Indian Constitution by repealing the CAA, and to stop the National Register of Citizens, and take steps towards helping refugees by ratifying various UN treaties on refugees.
Arundhati Roy in a solidarity statement to the resolution said “The Indian Government’s Citizenship Amendment Act coupled with the National Citizenship Register resemble the Nuremberg Citizenship Laws of the Third Reich. They could generate panic, uncontrollable chaos and a population of stateless people on an unimaginable scale. In the state of Assam alone, pending a last round of appeals, that number is close to two million. The government must be prevailed upon to repeal these laws as quickly as possible. I support Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant’s resolution. I hope that others around the world will follow its example.”
“Seattle City’s decision to condemn CAA should be a message to all who wish to undermine pluralism and religious freedom. They cannot peddle in hate and bigotry, and expect to have international acceptability at the same time,” said Ahsan Khan, president of Indian American Muslim Council.
Thenmozhi Soundararajan of Equality Labs, which organized the community in support of resolution, welcomed its passage. “We are proud of the Seattle City Council for standing on the right side of history today. Seattle is leading the moral consensus in the global outcry against the CAA, she said.
Soundararajan said that thousands of organizers across the country have called, e-mailed, and visited Seattle City Council members to amplify this resolution, and it sets an example to cities across the United States.
“At a time when members of the Indian ruling party sided Trump, the Muslim ban, and his war on immigrants as justification for targeting hundreds of millions of Indian minorities, Americans have a unique responsibility to stand up and speak about this human rights crisis. We are glad that Seattle is leading the way on this,” she said.
Seattle City Council became the first legislative body in the United States to take a stance on India’s CAA and NRC, which have created turmoil in India since the CAA passed in December 2019. The CAA imposes a religious criterion to fast-track Indian citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Parsi, and Christian immigrants, notably leaving out Muslims. When paired with the NRC, the CAA could lead to hundreds of millions of people in India being stripped of their citizenship and rights. The NRC requires extensive documentation to prove an individual’s citizenship and has already left out millions of residents when applied in the state of Assam.
In Seattle, hundreds from the South Asian community and allied organisations have spoken out against the CAA and NRC, including over 400 people who rallied in Bellevue on 26 January. Local organisations API Chaya, Tasveer, IAMC Seattle, Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Washington, Seattle South Asians Building Accountability and Healing (SABAH), Khalsa Gurmat Center Federal Way, Gurudwara of Renton, Gurudwara of Auburn, Gurudwara of Kent, Gurudwara of Bothell, and the Seattle LGBTQ Commission joined national organisations Equality Labs, Amnesty International USA, and the Ambedkar King Study Circle in calling for the passage of the resolution. Seattle-area residents recognise that international condemnation will apply pressure on the Indian government to account for the discrimination and violence perpetuated by the CAA and NRC.
“As South Asians in Seattle, SABAH confirms that the CAA is not an internal issue to India, and that Seattle must take a stand against it,” said Veena Roy of SABAH. “There are thousands here in Seattle who are intimately connected to the minority experience in India, some have needed to migrate here after similar violence in the past, and many who have family in India who directly experience the violence that the Indian government clamors to keep hidden. We know that Kshama Sawant’s resolution is much more than a symbolic gesture. It has created ripples in the Greater Seattle Area, even in India. As a community of Seattle, a sanctuary city that fights for equality and safety for the undocumented, we applaud the passing of this resolution,” she added.
Javed Sikander, Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Seattle welcomed the resolution. “These acts are unconstitutional and designed to disenfranchise several million Muslim, Dalits and other minorities in order to create a fascist state. The prime minister of India and his party BJP has to be stopped from further damaging India and its secularism,” he said.
Tyna Ek, of the Seattle Indivisible, said, “The NRC/CAA, in combination, threatens to make millions of Indian Muslims stateless. Seattle Indivisible stands against religious persecution here and abroad; and we are proud that our City Council does as well.”