'Down down CAA,' the chants echoed in the streets of Kochi as hundreds of college students came out in protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act on Wednesday, boycotting their classes. With two different student marches, one organised by Ernakulam district unit of Students Federation of India (SFI), and the other by a collective of students from 16 different colleges, Kochi witnessed a massive dissent against CAA.
Despite isolated protests in a few colleges expressing solidarity with the students of Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University, a large scale protest of this magnitude against CAA by students was a first in Kochi.
Starting from Maharaja's College and Rajendra Maidan, both the marches were headed towards the Reserve Bank of India in Kaloor. Students from 16 colleges including Maharaja's College, Sacred Hearts, St Albert's, Cochin University of Science and Technology, Kalamassery Polytechnic College, Rajagiri College, At Teresa's and Government Law College Ernakulam, participated in the protest march.
"The Modi government has just broken the very basic, the secular fabric of our Constitution. We are very proud to see students with different ideologies coming together to protest against the attack on the Constitution," said Ann Maria, a student of Government Law College Ernakulam.
The protesters also expressed their solidarity to the students of Jamia Millia and Aligarh Muslim University. "This is just a start of our protests. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act is an outright blow on the Muslim citizens of the country. This clearly expresses the Islamophobia of the BJP-led central government. The Prime Minster said protestors can be identified by their dresses. Now look at the students who have gathered here. We have come here as one against the Islamophobic, unconstitutional legislation," said Shamna Saigal, a student of Government Law College in Ernakulam.
Apart from Kochi college students, other residents, and some students from Jamia Millia Islamia were also part of Wednesday's protest. After JMI was closed in the aftermath of the protests, two Jamia students who were at the Kochi protest, had come home.
"The Delhi Police was very brutal in their attack. They barged into the campus, hostels, toilets, and even prayer halls inside the university. Though the CAA is not just concerning the Muslim community, the Islamophobic agenda of the Centre is very explicit," said NS Abdhu Rahman, an MPhil at JMI. Abdhu Rahman had participated in the protest march in Kochi with a broken hand – a result of police action on the students in Delhi.
There were also criticisms against SFI for not being part of the students collective march, and holding one separately with its members alone. Responding to these, SFI leaders in the district told TNM that they conducted protest separately since they did not want to share a platform with members of Campus Front. However, the organisers of the students’ collectives’ march told TNM that there were no specific organisations leading their protest, and it was just students who oppose Citizenship (Amendment) Act coming together.
A third protest march conducted by the students and alumni of Media Academy in Kakkanad against CAA also happened on Wednesday evening.