Premier institutes stay away from Citizenship Act unrest 'officially'

Students shout slogans during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Kochi. Photo: PTI
When you enter the campus of National Law School of India University, Bengaluru, you will be welcomed with a big black banner which says ‘in solidarity with JMI and AMU’. Post the police crackdown at Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University, scenes like these are a common sight at premier Indian institutes such as IITs, IIMs, IISc.

While the students and faculty members have come out in support of JMI and AMU students in their personal capacities, institutions have steered clear from issuing any official comments on either the police crackdown or the Citizenship Amendment Act.

The IIT Student Council on Wednesday came out in full strength condemning the police action on the campuses of JMI, AMU and Delhi Delhi University earlier this week. “We, the student representatives across IITs as part of the IIT Student Council stand in solidarity with the students of JMI, DU and AMU in light of extreme and continued police brutality against students of these Universities,” stated the IIT Student Council.

A group of the IIT-Kanpur students, some of them holding placards or with hands raised, took out a silent march on the campus to decry the police action. However, faculty at the institute distanced themselves from the issue.

“Their (the students’) protest was entirely to express solidarity with the JMI students regarding the police action, since they felt that the Jamia students had been treated unfairly. It had nothing to do with the CAA,” said IIT-K deputy director Manindra Agarwal.

Parliament had on Thursday passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill which allows people belonging to religious minority groups persecuted in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to get Indian citizenship.

Students from IIT Kharagpur have issued a statement expressing solidarity with those who were victims of the police crackdown but the institute clarified it should not be linked to CAA. “There has not been any protest or any activity opposing the CAA or NRC,” Sriman Kumar Bhattacharya, director at IIT Kharagpur said.

Faculty members and students from IIM-A have joined their peers from IIT Madras, IIT Kharagpur, IIT Bombay, IIM Bangalore, IIM Indore, IIM Calcutta, XLRI Jamshedpur, and FMS Delhi, among others in signing a letter protesting against CAA.

“As citizens and members of the academic community, we write to register our protest at the recent enactment of the CAA. The Act is discriminatory and violative of the basic structure of the Indian Constitution,” the letter reads.

IIM-A faculty member Reetika Khera, who was part of the protest, said, “Apart from the questions on the CAA raised in the letter, it is distressing to see the violent response of the state to democratic dissent. Further, the National Register of Citizens (which will follow the CAA) has already been shown in Assam to be an expensive, futile exercise, with terrible human costs. It will affect all of us, but the greater burden will fall on the poor.”

NLSIU students have come up with a FAQ booklet in five languages, namely English, Kannada, Tamil, Hindi and Malayalam, explaining how CAA forms a ‘sinister duo’ along with the NRC.

“Any right thinking person will say it (CAA) hits right at the value this country stands for. Religion cannot be a basis for allowing a person to settle in the country,” said Hamza Tariq, a fifth year law student at NLSIU. Around 80 students of the total 400 have been are a part of the protest and are gearing up to go to the Town Hall in Bengaluru for the protest call on Thursday.

The protests have also spilled to the premier Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, with students reading the Preamble of the Constitution as a pledge for their fight against CAB and NRC. However, a faculty member clarified only 50-60 students participated in the protest compared to the total 4,000 strength at the campus. “There is no buzz about these things (political protests) at the campus,” said the professor.

The protests have crossed national boundaries and have reached global institutes including Oxford, Harvard, Yale and MIT.

The students and scholars at Oxford University staged a protest march to India House in London against CAA and the police action on students. Students and teachers at Columbia University also issued a solidarity statement and have planned a protest march.

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