Student groups across India and abroad have issued statements to condemn the amended Citizenship Act and the police action against students at Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University on Sunday night. On Monday, campuses across India had erupted in protest against the alleged police brutality.
Over 400 students and alumni from Harvard University, Yale University, Tufts University, Stanford University, and other colleges in the United States issued a statement condemning alleged police brutality against students. “In this jointly issued statement, we demand the cessation of violence by the police and their complete withdrawal from university premises followed by a thorough and independent investigation into the blatant abuse of power by the police at the university premises,” the statement said.
“By every account, it appears that police and paramilitary, both at Jamia Millia Islamia University, and at Aligarh Muslim University, have used violence and pursued unlawful and reckless tactics against student protestors in violation of protections under the Constitution of India and International Human Rights law,” the statement added. The statement also criticised Chief Justice of India SA Bobde for terming the protests as “riots” and calling them a law and order problem.
The signatories demanded that student protestors be allowed to continue their peaceful demonstrations, without any threat or use of force by the central government. They called upon officers of the Indian Administrative Service and Indian Police Service to uphold the Constitution of India and resist any political demand to abuse their powers. The signatories also said that Union Home Minister Amit Shah should either curb police brutality against students immediately, or resign from his post.
A group from Delhi University rejected the statement by their Students Union President Akshit Dahiya, who had criticised the protests. The group said the amended law is in direct violation of the Constitution and “its promise of equality and dignity for all its citizens”. Dahiya’s statement shows support for a “nation that excludes and disrespects the nationhood of its Muslim citizens”.
“He does not speak for us,” said the statement. “We regret the stand taken by the DUSU [Delhi University Students’ Union] which views the expression of dissent as acts of anarchism aimed at upsetting the regular functioning of the university”.
The group also expressed solidarity with the students of Jamia and Aligarh Muslim University and referred to the police action as “unconstitutional suppression of their voices”.
On Monday, Dahiya had said he rejects any call of a lockdown at Delhi University, and helped students take exams that others boycotted in protest against the police action.
Follow live updates from the protests today.
More than 100 students of Harvard University separately condemned the violence at Jamia, reported NDTV. In an open letter to the Indian government, they have also voiced concerns about the amended Citizenship Act.
“Protests are inconvenient and disruptive, but they sustain the secular and democratic fabric of our nation,” the letter reads. “The violent suppression of protesters by the police, the use of teargas, lathi charges, and physical assault in response to peaceful dissent, and the police forces’ forceful entry into university campuses and consequent Internet blockades there are all deeply reprehensible.”
The students and alumni of National Law University Delhi also issued a statement, expressing “unequivocal solidarity” with Jamia and AMU students. They said they were deeply anguished by the “brutal display of power by the police against unarmed students”.
“We strongly believe in the critical importance of the freedom of expression of the student protestors, particularly in a university space where students are taught to think and critically analyse social structures, legal instruments and political power,” the statement said. “This is a right that needs to be preserved for the continued sustenance of India as a democracy and a nation that has historically provided a fertile ground for different ideologies and views.”
The group said that the police action was against the “principles of proportionate action and fair response, and a blatant violation of human rights”. They also criticised the internet shutdown in parts of the country.
The students union of All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, also condemned the police action, calling it “violent and brutal repression of student protests”. “It is obvious that the CAA [Citizenship Amendment Act] in conjunction with a nationwide NRC [National Register of Citizens] is possible to result in a directed and vindictive vendetta against a certain minority section of our population,” the union said.
Students, alumni, staff and faculty of Ashoka University said they stand “in firm solidarity with the students of Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University”, and condemned the violence by the Delhi Police. They called the police action inhumane and illegal.
Another group, which identified itself as “mostly university students” and sought signatures of those who endorsed their statement, said they were deeply disturbed at the passing of the amendments to the Citizenship Act. They criticised the provisions of the amendments, and said: “As advocates of democracy, we condemn using violence as a proxy for law enforcement and support the call for accountability of those responsible.”
A similar joint statement was issued by the student bodies of law universities such as National Law School, National University of Advanced Legal Studies and NALSAR University of Law, Live Law reported.
Students of Azim Premji University also extended their full support to the students who faced violence. They condemned the police brutality and the “constant attack on the freedom of expression and autonomy of educational spaces”. They demanded immediate medical care for those students who were injured during the police crackdown on Sunday.
After the incident at Jamia, reports of the Delhi Police using live bullets to control the mob at Jamia did the rounds, but officials denied that any shots were fired. They claimed to have used “maximum restraint, minimum force”, adding that the Crime Branch will look into the matter. However, the medical superintendent of government-run Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi told NDTV that two protestors were admitted with bullet injuries, contradicting the police’s claims that they did not fire bullets.