At least 300 students have issued a statement in support of the protests happening in India against the Citizenship Amendment Act since late last week.

Columbia Stanford Yale and Harvard students condemn police action in CAA protestsPTI photo
news CAA Tuesday, December 17, 2019 - 13:53

At least 300 students from various prestigious institutions in the United States, including Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Stanford Universities, among many others, have issued a statement in support of the protests that have been happening in India against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) since late last week.

“We, students, alumni and the wider community, at universities across the United States of America, condemn the brutal police violence unleashed against students at Jamia Millia Islamia University and at Aligarh Muslim University on December 15, 2019, as a gross violation of human rights under the Constitution of India and International Human Rights Law. We express full solidarity with students across universities in India who are peacefully protesting against the recent passing of the unconstitutional and discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act,” the statement says.

Emphasising that the right to protest is a cornerstone of a constitutional democracy, the statement said that it also acts as a safeguard to the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

“The right of all people to express their ideas and opinions through the medium of protest is also guaranteed through a number of core international human rights provisions, including the right to free expression under Article 19 of the ICCPR, which has been ratified by India,” the students state.

Calling the use of force by the police and paramilitary on protesting students “excessive”, the statement points out that the law enforcement’s actions should be within the confines of legality, legitimacy, necessity and proportionality per the International Human Rights Law.

“The entry of police and paramilitary into University premises, indiscriminate attacks within the premises of the University including releasing tear gas in libraries, and brutal use of force against civilians is a blatant violation of the law and can only shock the conscience of any democratic society. Students have narrated that police rampaged through hostels and molested women on these campuses. Students from Jamia Milia Islamia were arbitrarily detained at police stations and were denied their constitutional right to access legal representation,” the statement says.

“These incidents of violence indicate complete negation of every norm that guide the functioning of the police in a democratic society governed by the rule of law. Seen further in the light of the fact that most victims of this brutality were Muslim, these incidents stand out as shocking instantiations of targeted violence against a minority group,” it adds.

The signatories also condemned the violence against protesters in Assam, reportedly resulting in casualties, and “unlawful denial” to internet access by the Indian state.

Expressing concern about the Chief Justice of India terming the protests as riots, the statement says it reduces the events to a simple law and order issue for the police to handle, rather than recognising the violation of protesters’ rights and the degree of violence they have been subjected to.

They also listed the following demands.

  • We demand the cessation of violence by the police and their complete withdrawal from the university premises.
  • We demand an immediate, independent, and robust investigation into the abuse of power by the Delhi Police, Uttar Pradesh Police, and the Central Reserve Police Force.
  • We demand that student protestors be allowed to continue to protest peacefully in the exercise of their fundamental rights under the Indian Constitution without any threat of use of force by the police or other law enforcement agencies.
  • We call upon officers of the Indian Police and Administrative Services to fulfil their duty to uphold the Constitution of India, and to resist any political demand to act in abuse of the powers that have been conferred upon them; and, to ensure police forces under their command act strictly in accordance with the constitutional, legal and ethical constraints that bind them.
  • We call on the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr Amit Shah, to immediately take these necessary steps to curb police brutality or resign.

The signatories also include a few names from Delhi University, and other American educational institutions like Georgetown University Law Center, Boston University, Pratt Institute, The Fletcher School, Tufts University, among others.

Earlier, at least 120 students and affiliates from Harvard University alone had also issued a statement expressing solidarity, describing the CAA as against the Indian Constitution’s principles, and condemning police action against students of Jamia, Aligarh Muslim University and elsewhere.

University of Sussex students also express solidarity

At least 120 students and alumni from the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex in the UK have also issued a statement of solidarity with the protesters and condemning the police action against protesters.

“We deplore this heavy-handed action by the police forces and urge the Indian government to take strict action against erring police personnel. Universities are spaces of critical learning. They are not spaces that must be militarized,” the statement said.

They also registered their protest against the CAA and said it was against the Constitution’s secular tenets.