Citizenship Bill: Police crack down violently on Jamia Millia protest, Aligarh students go on hunger strike
Campus Politik

Citizenship Bill: Police crack down violently on Jamia Millia protest, Aligarh students go on hunger strike

At Jamia, over 50 students were detained. At AMU, more than 500 students face police cases.

By Jaishree Kumar and Ismat Ara

Published on :

University students across the country continued to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill on Friday. At some places, the protests took a violent turn. 

The Bill grants Indian citizenship to undocumented immigrants belonging to Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Parsi, and Christian communities from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. The Bill has received flak for being “unconstitutional” and has been called “the gravest threat to India’s secular democratic constitution since India became a republic.”

On Friday, the Jamia Teachers’ Association called for a protest against the Bill and the National Register of Citizens. Around noon, an e-rickshaw fitted with a loudspeaker went around urging the people of Jamia Nagar to participate in a long march against the legislation from Jamia Millia Islamia to the Parliament House. At around 3 pm, about a thousand people –most of them students of Jamia — assembled to join the march.  

Citizenship Bill: Police crack down violently on Jamia Millia protest, Aligarh students go on hunger strike

But the area from the Jamia Nagar police station till the Jamia Millia Islamia had been barricaded, and the police deployed in numbers to halt the progress of the march. 

The march, therefore, came to a halt at Jamia Millia Islamia. The students were determined to march against the Bill, which they called “discriminatory”. They refused to give in to the police’s demand to disperse. This resulted in clashes between students and the police. 

Students who tried to jump the barricades were detained. The police stated that the students also pelted stones at them, forcing the police to use teargas shells to disperse the crowd. About 30-40 teargas shells were reportedly lobbed, injuring several students. According to the students, over 50 protestors were detained by the police. 

Sadiq Hasan, a student of Jamia Millia Islamia, said, “We are being lathicharged and detained by the police for voicing a fact — that the CAB and the NRC are discriminatory against the Muslim community.”

Hasan added, “By using teargas and lathicharge against students, the police are instigating us to cause violence. But we will stick to our core value of ahimsa.” 

Ajmal, another student protestor, said, “For me, the CAB is not just discriminatory, but a cause for an existential crisis. My entire family and I are scared. We are looking for proof of our citizenship in a nation where we were born and spent our entire lives.” 

Citizenship Bill: Police crack down violently on Jamia Millia protest, Aligarh students go on hunger strike

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation had announced in a tweet that train services at Patel Chowk and Janpath metro stations would be suspended as a precautionary measure in view of the protest.

Members of the Jamia Teachers’ Association too participated in the protest. However, according to students, when the protests intensified, the teachers dissociated themselves from the students saying, “Whatever the students are doing is not our responsibility.”

Kumail Zaidi, an alumnus of Jamia Millia Islamia, said, “A lot of teachers had assembled for the protest but as the protest gained momentum, they left saying that their protest is limited to whatever is happening inside the campus, not outside and that they aren’t responsible for what the students are doing.” He added, “The students didn’t do anything wrong. As youth, they are doing what they should — protest against arbitrariness and discrimination.” 

Citizenship Bill: Police crack down violently on Jamia Millia protest, Aligarh students go on hunger strike

Kuldeep Bhattacharya, an Assamese student at Jamia Millia Islamia, said, “The Bhartiya Janata Party doesn’t believe in secularism. Its sole purpose is to divide and rule. It only believes in Hindi, Hindu and Hindutva.”

Rahul Ramagundan, director of the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Jamia Millia Islamia, said, “Ye paanch saal ki aayi sarkar mujhsey poochegi ki apni citizensgip ke dastavez do toh I will deny.” If this government asks me to submit my citizenship documents, I will refuse. “As a Hindu, I say that this nation belongs to everybody including Muslims.” 

Tasneem Kausar, a student of Jamia, said, “It’s not just about the Muslim community. Today it’s us, tomorrow any other community can be under fire.”

An alumni group of Jamia Millia Islamia released a statement condemning the behaviour of the Delhi police towards the students. “Ample evidence through photographs, videos and ground reports confirms that the police injured several students with batons and tear gas. By some accounts, police even hurled stones at the students.” 

Meanwhile, students at Aligarh Muslim University have announced a hunger strike against the Citizenship Bill and the National Registry of Citizens.

As a symbolic protest, the students served a showcause notice to the administration and the faculty members over their silence on the Bill. The notice calls it “a well-planned Nazi-esque bill” and gives the administration and the faculty members 24 hours to voice their support for the protests, or else be considered complicit with the government and face a boycott from the students. 

Citizenship Bill: Police crack down violently on Jamia Millia protest, Aligarh students go on hunger strike

On Wednesday, the dining halls of the hostels remained shut as the students went on a day-long hunger strike to protest against the bill. 

Mansi Singh, a student at AMU, said, “This protest is important for the sake of protecting our fundamental rights. This protest is not about Hindus or Muslims. Students from all communities are here to protest. We cannot stick to the small protests in our hostel rooms and social media. We had to resort to confronting the authorities and taking a stand.”

An FIR has been filed against 21 named and 500 unnamed students for protesting and violating Section 144. However, according to students, Section 144 was never imposed in Aligarh. 

Amirul Jaish, a student of AMU and a member of All India Students Association, was one of the 21 students mentioned in the FIR. He said, “I have worked in the poorest of Muslim slums. I know that poor people won’t be able to prove their legacy or have their documents. What do we do about them? The government has tried to stifle our voices but we’re here to fight back. We found out about the FIR through a local newspaper.” 

Sharjeel Usmani, a protesting student, said, “This isn’t the first FIR against me. An FIR was filed against me on December 6 for calling a public meeting on the demolition of the Babri Masjid. We haven’t been summoned to the police station yet and we have told them that if they’d like to speak with us, they can come to the campus. We have issued showcause notices to the teaching and non-teaching staff, along with the vice chancellor. We shall decide our future course of action in today’s GBM.”

In a press statement, the Aligarh Muslim University’s Student’s Union condemned the FIRs. “We call upon police administration to immediately revoke the FIR or face mass protests against the police high-handedness. We have rejected this bill and called its proponents anti-national and enemies of India.” 

Citizenship Bill: Police crack down violently on Jamia Millia protest, Aligarh students go on hunger strike

The students discussed an examination boycott but decided against it. 

Wardah Beg, a third-year law student, said, “I have my exam tomorrow but I still chose to be here all night to protest. If we don’t speak up today, we won’t ever get the chance to. We requested the controller of examinations to postpone the exams but he decided against it. We plan on making this a mass movement with several other universities. The hunger strike is just the beginning, we plan on continuing with more modes of protest.”

On December 12, female students of Indira Gandhi Residential Hall and Abdullah Hall broke the locks to join the protest at Bab-e-Syed gate. In the early hours of December 13, students received notifications that internet services in Aligarh would be cut soon. The students had a mass rally planned for the day. 

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