Seventy-six individuals from Azim Premji University in Bengaluru, including faculty members and post-doctoral researchers, voiced their concerns on the events that have occurred in the past few months in the country.
In a statement, the signatories, who claimed they were writing in their individual capacities, said that the Citizenship Amendment Act violated Articles 14 (equality before the law) and 21 (right to life or personal liberty) of the Constitution.
They said the amendments are “patently divisive on communal lines” and are “spreading fear among several communities”. “The poor, who are also document-poor, especially women, are likely to be the most affected if a nationwide NPR-NRC [National Population Register-National Register of Citizens] is rolled out,” they said. “The vengeful state repression that these protests were met with, especially in BJP-ruled states, is deeply concerning.”
The signatories expressed solidarity with peaceful anti-Citizenship Act protestors and said that the right to dissent was “the safety valve of democracy”.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11 and notified on January 10, grants citizenship to six religious minority groups from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, provided they have lived in India for six years. The cut-off date is December 31, 2014. It has been widely criticised and called discriminatory because it excludes Muslims.
The proposed National Register of Citizens is an exercise to identify and distinguish undocumented immigrants from genuine Indian citizens. The population register is linked to the census, due in 2021, and is described as “the first step towards the creation of a National Register of Citizens”.
The signatories also noted the alleged excessive force used by the police on protestors in Uttar Pradesh, including in Aligarh Muslim University. At least 19 people have died in Uttar Pradesh alone during clashes between the police and those protesting against the Act.
“The Delhi police has also used tear gas on students in the Jamia Millia Islamia library,” the statement read. “Apart from these universities, students and teachers from other institutions (example- IIM-Ahmedabad, Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Bengaluru) have had to face intimidation for practising their constitutional right to dissent peacefully. The sedition charges against students of Mysuru University for merely holding a placard saying ‘Free Kashmir’ presents another grim picture of the complete breakdown of basic freedoms in India.”
The individuals urged the Centre to form an independent body that will impartially inquire cases of campus violence that were “being projected as ‘clashes’”. They appealed to the government to repeal the amendments to Citizenship Act, and vow not to implement the NPR and the NRC.
The signatories also criticised the “undemocratic manner” in which the Human Resources Development ministry has dealt with the protests against the increase in fee in Jawaharlal Nehru University. They alleged that the Delhi Police and the university’s administration had abetted the attack by masked assailants on January 5. The Centre should listen to JNU students who were demanding the vice chancellor’s resignation as he had failed to protect them, the letter added.
The statement further noted the restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir and described them as a “clear violation of the fundamental rights”. It noted the losses incurred by businesses and the return of migrant labourers after the Centre amended Article 370 of the Constitution to revoke the erstwhile state’s special status.
The Animal Left against CAA and NRC
The Animal Left, a group fighting for animal rights, noted that apart from the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status the Centre had passed the CAA. The group, in its statement, also condemned the police action on protestors, especially in Uttar Pradesh.
“There’s no accepting such manifestly unjust policies backed by violence in any country, let alone one that claims to be a constitutional democracy with equal rights for all citizens,” the statement said. The group expressed dismay that no other animal rights group had released a statement in solidarity with the Citizenship Act protests.
“At Animaleft we believe that our struggles are intertwined, that creating a better future for non-human beings goes hand in hand with expressing solidarity with communities at the receiving end of state and social discrimination,” it noted. “We strongly condemn the ongoing effort to write discrimination against Muslims into the law.”
California Scholars for Academic Freedom expresses solidarity
The California Scholars for Academic Freedom, a coalition of scholars and educators, expressed solidarity with the student-led protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the NRC. The group said it was shocked to learn about the police action against students at Jamia Millia Islamia University and Aligarh Muslim University, and the mob attack on JNU students.
“We strongly condemn these unprovoked brutal attacks against
students, faculty, and staff intended to shut down dissent,” the statement read. “The student protesters and their allies across society have both unveiled and further documented the majoritarian, exclusionary agenda behind the CAA legislation.”
The signatories said that the anti-CAA protests when viewed along with the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and Supreme Court’s Ayodhya verdict could be perceived as a “string of anti-Muslim acts by the Indian state that have seriously undermined the secular foundations of the Indian nation”. They urged the Centre to rollback the amended Citizenship Act and the NRC.
On November 9, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre to set up a trust within three months to oversee the construction of a Ram temple at the site in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid stood till 1992. The Muslims, the court said, should be given a five-acre plot elsewhere in Ayodhya for the construction of a new mosque as relief for the “unlawful destruction” of the Babri Masjid.