It all started when Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) announced a hybrid webinar on Nov. 12 on the topic of India’s citizenship laws, titled, “Manufacturing Statelessness – What Next for India’s Citizenship Laws?”

With the Indian government promising to start implementing the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) next year, we felt that this was the right time to refresh everyone’s memory of the double-talk by the government about the intent and scope of the CAA and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), whose inhuman consequences in the state of Assam have been well documented.

We had gathered a stellar panel to speak on the topic, with Aman Wadud, a practicing lawyer, on his personal experience with the NRC in Assam; Prashant Bhushan, a well-known Supreme Court lawyer, on a legal perspective on the CAA and the raft of petitions challenging it; T.M. Krishna, musician, author, activist, on the broader implications of the CAA/NRC on Indian democracy; Anuradha Bhasin, of The Kashmir Times, on the impact of the NRC on women and marginalized communities; and Prof. Rohit Chopra, Santa Clara University, on the deep fissures within the Indian diaspora on the policies of the Modi government. The webinar was co-sponsored by our ally, the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC).

Within days of announcing the webinar, the India Community Center (ICC), Milpitas, CA, where the event was to be held, started receiving hundreds of identical-looking e-mails and phone calls demanding that they cancel our event, which was described as “anti-India” and “Hinduphobic.” Judging from the nature of those messages, it was clear that the campaign to intimidate HfHR and our guest speakers was being orchestrated centrally.

To its credit, the ICC board refused to cancel our event and reiterated that ICC has been a safe space for all kinds of community groups to hold their meetings there, as long as they adhered to basic rules of civility and inclusion.

Despite ICC’s pushback, however, several unregistered persons gained entry into our event on November 12th, with the express intent of disrupting it. This became clear as Prof. Rohit Chopra started speaking when some people started shouting and would not let him get on with his remarks. The worst came when a few members of the audience left their seats and walked menacingly toward Prof. Chopra. They retreated only after he announced that he was videoing their actions and we threatened to call security to eject them.

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