Heeding a call for a long march to Parliament House, a large number of students gathered at Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia on Saturday to take part in it. The Delhi police had barricaded the protest route, but that didn’t dissuade the students. They turned the university’s campus into a protest site instead.
The university’s students have been protesting against the new citizenship law since it was passed by the parliament early this week. They say the law, which gives Indian citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, discriminates on religious grounds and is thus unconstitutional.
In view of the protests, and the Delhi police’s violent crackdown that led to several students getting injured Friday evening, the university postponed the semester exams and declared holidays till January 6. The exams will be rescheduled once the university reopens.
The students had earlier called for a boycott of the exams scheduled for Saturday in protest against the citizenship law and the police’s violent crackdown on their demonstration on Friday. Fearing that the boycott might actually happen, the administration postponed them.
“All exams postponed. New dates to be announced in due course of time. Winter vacation declared from 16th December 2019 to 5th January 2020. University to open on 6th January 2020,” announced the university’s PRO, Ahmad Azeem.
The decision to declare holidays was criticised by the students, who saw it as an attempt to contain the protests. Hashmat Naiyareen, a student, said, “Jamia Millia Islamia declaring winter holidays like an emergency shows how scared the administration is of the students’ spirit of resistance. This very clever technique of shutting down the university is meant to affect the involvement of students because once there is a holiday declared, the students living in hostels will be called back home by their families.”
She added, “This also shows the silence of the university administration regarding the students who were injured by yesterday’s lathi-charge and teargas shelling by the police on the campus.”
Faheem Hasrat, a student in the Turkish department who had decided to boycott his exam today, said, “We had decided not to give the exams because many students who were injured yesterday by the brutality of the police wouldn’t have been able to sit for their exams.”
“What the police did yesterday, lobbing teargas shells into the university premises was in clear violation of the university regulations”, he added.
Many students were injured in the police lathi-charge and were admitted to nearby hospitals. Some students claimed that the police had also fired in the air to scare them away.
Akhtarista Ansari, a student of sociology, said, “Jamia has been protesting the Citizenship Amendment Bill for the past four days. But how we were dealt with by the Delhi police yesterday needs to be investigated and questioned. Even though it was my last paper today and I wouldn’t have got my degree until a year later if I didn’t take it, I would still have not appeared because we must resist such laws.”
The Jamia Teachers’ Association president, Majid Jamil, expressed solidarity with the protesting students. He told them, “Hum aapke saath hain. Exam postone karwa dia hai, aaram se tayyari kijiye.“
Shyista, a student of Chemistry, said, “We will fight this law till the very end. It is discriminatory. Muslims will suffer. Assam is already burning.”