Over 500 alumni of the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) in Bengaluru have issued a statement unequivocally condemning the “state sponsored violence against students of Jamia Millia Islamia, Aligarh Muslim University, Delhi University, Cotton University and other educational institutions” in India in the last few days. Calling the reports of police brutality against the students “deeply troubling”, the statement said that the “brutality” suggested “targeted persecution and violent repression of dissent.”
Expressing empathy with students living in residential universities, they said, “We condemn attempts to clamp down on this essential function of universities through the abuse of state machinery. We do not condone violence in protests. We stand in solidarity with students and other protestors who choose to exercise their right to express dissent peacefully.”
The statement also made clear the signatories’ reservations about the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens, and called them unconstitutional, against the fundamental right to equality before law, and against the secular and pluralistic ideals of the Indian republic.
“By purporting to extend citizenship to only certain religious communities while excluding others, the CAA cannot claim to be a secular legislation. Together with the proposed NRC, this would mean that Indian Muslims who are unable to establish their citizenship through the onerous documentary requirements will be stripped of their citizenship rights.”
“Indians of other religions have a path available to them of regaining citizenship, but the onerous requirement of proving citizenship through historical documentation coupled with vulnerabilities of misinformation, illiteracy and poverty make it highly likely that this citizenship verification exercise will be a crushing burden for vulnerable Indians across religious lines,” the statement added.
The alumni of NLSIU who signed the statement extended unconditional support to those practising their “fundamental right to speech and assembly to express dissent” against CAA and NRC.
“The CAA has torn apart the concept of Indianness, and created fear in the hearts of people who rightly call it home - what the makers of the Indian Constitution intended to prevent. To sit silent in the face of this would be tantamount to being complicit in this abuse,” the statement said.
Calling for the Constitution to be preserved and upheld, the signatories said that at this juncture, sitting on the political fence and toeing safety lines by not speaking truth to power was unacceptable.
They also made the following demands.
(i) Repeal of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 and withdrawal of the proposed National Register of Citizens;
(ii) Withdrawal of all police and paramilitary forces from university campuses;
(iii) Independent inquiry and accountability of police and paramilitary officials involved in the crackdown on university campuses including JMI, AMU, DU, Cotton University and others, and those under whose command the crackdowns took place;
(iv) Co-operation of all university administrations in securing spaces for their students to exercise their fundamental rights; and
(v) Withdrawal of all prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to ensure that the fundamental right to dissent is respected and protected.
The NLSIU alumni are among the many university students across India and the world who have condemned the police action against student protesters in JMI, AMU and others. Students from many US universities, including premier institutions like Harvard, Yale, Columbia, University of Sussex in the UK, also issued statements in protest against the police action on the students.
Over 10,000 academics from across the world have also signed a statement condemning police action in these places. The signatories include names like Judith Butler, Romila Thapar, Noam Chomsky, and Partha Chatterjee among others.
“The brutalization of students and the attack on universities is against the fundamental norms of a democratic society. As teachers, students, scholars and members of civil society across the world, we are watching with extreme concern the situation unfolding at Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University,” they said.
Protests against CAA and NRC intensified have across the country in the last few days with not only students of many colleges and universities joining in, but people taking to the streets in protest across Indian cities, despite orders prohibiting the assembly of five persons or more being in place in many cities and states including Karnataka, UP and parts of Delhi.