India’s US Embassy Called Us Pak Agents: Anti-CAA Protesters in DC

Organisers of the rally alleged that officials at the Indian Embassy had accused them of being paid to protest. 

3 min read

Video Editor: Vishal Kumar

On 26 January, as India celebrated its 71st Republic Day, twelve thousand kilometres away, a massive crowd had gathered near The White House in Washington DC to stage a march to the Indian Embassy.

According to those who marched for over an hour through the the capital’s downtown, did so to register their protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the National Population Register (NPR) as well as against human rights violations in India.

However, organisers of the rally, as well as the participants, alleged that the Indian Embassy tried to thwart the assembly and intimidate those who had gathered outside the Embassy at the end of the march.

“As somebody who believes dissent is patriotic I was there and I was alarmed to see the very combative stance of the Embassy.” said Rukmini Banerjee, a 31-year-old resident of Washington DC who works in the non-profit sector, told The Quint.

Protesters marching past the Washington Memorial in DC’s National Mall area. 
Protesters marching past the Washington Memorial in DC’s National Mall area. 
(Image: Twitter)

‘Where is Your Pakistani Boss?’

In an echo of the allegation protesters at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh often face, one of the organisers of the rally, Ramya Reddy, said that officials at the Embassy even accused the protesters of being paid to be at the rally.

“They were name calling. They asked one of the organisers,‘Where is your Pakistani boss? We know you are being paid to be here’.”
Ramya Reddy, co-organiser of the protest rally
The cordoned off boulevard outside the Indian Embassy
The cordoned off boulevard outside the Indian Embassy
(Image: Ramya Reddy)

Intimidation Tactics Against Protesters

Reddy added that the march was attended by a diverse set of people from all around the Washington DC-Maryland-Virginia (DMV) area. “There were Hindus, there were Muslims, there were Sikhs, there were women, there were Dalits, they were LGBTQ,” she said.

Reddy added that the Embassy used a variety of methods to first thwart the rally and then to intimidate the protestors.

“On the morning of the protest, we had gathered at The Ellipse, near The White House, and were supposed to march to the Embassy around noon when we got updates that they had parked half a dozen buses, blocked off the streets and cordoned off the Gandhi Statue (outside the Embassy. Often a place for people to convene),” Reddy told The Quint.

“There were members at the Embassy who were taking pictures of the attendees. Many of those who attended have sensitive visa statuses.”
Ramya Reddy, co-organiser of the protest rally
Protesters march down downtown Washington DC on Republic Day
Protesters march down downtown Washington DC on Republic Day
(Image: Ramya Reddy)

‘Hindi Songs Played On Loudspeakers To Drown Out Protest’

Banerjee, raising the same points, added that the tall buses were parked “to obscure the view of the large number of protesters who had gathered outside the Embassy.”

Moreover, Banerjee added that in order to drown the slogans and voices of the protesters, the Embassy had installed loudspeakers and blared Hindi film songs.

“They were blaring Hindi patriotic songs, everything from ‘Suno Gaur se Duniya Walo' to 'Maa Tujhe Salam' to 'Aye Mere Watan ke logo', to drown our voices,” said Banerjee.

Despite the alleged hurdles by the embassy, Reddy saw the protest as a major success and believed that they were ultimately unaffected by the intimidation.

“Ultimately, it did not matter. They were about a hundred, and we were thousands. Our collective voice was much stronger,” she told The Quint.

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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