In the past few days, the country has been witness to mounting protests against the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019, with students from across the country rising up in arms against the legislation along with civil society and human rights group. The legislation, protesting groups allege, is discriminatory in determining the citizenship of any person. The act, which became a law after receiving Presidential assent on December 13, seeks to provide citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Jain, Buddhist and Parsi refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, but leaves out Muslim refugees from seeking citizenship of the country.
The protests have already engulfed the North eastern region of the country and were also observed in several universities across the country including Delhi University, Ambedkar University, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University in the National Capital, Indian Institute of Science and Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, Indian Institute of Technology and K C College in Bombay, Films and Television Institute of India and Fergusson College in Pune, Indian Institute of Management and Indian Institute of Human Settlement in Ahmedabad, Maharaja's College and Farooq College in Kerala, Hyderabad Central University and Osmania University in Hyderabad, Punjabi University in Patiala, Punjab, and Jadavpur and Presidency University in West Bengal. This apart, the protests were also seen in Seelampur and Daryaganj in Delhi, parts of Jharkhand and Odisha.
Following the anti-CAA protest by students of Jamia Millia Islamia and the subsequent brutal crackdown by police, students from Delhi University, Ambedkar University and Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University poured out on the streets to protest against the act. Similar protests were also seen in the Seelampur Jafrabad region in the National Capital. Himanshu, a student of Hansraj College in Delhi University said that the act is violative of the basic tenets of the Constitution. Talking to NewsClick, he said, “We are citizens of India and the country as a secular society cannot accept this law. The same constitution also gives us the right to expression under which the students of Jamia were protesting. However, the action against the students was unimaginable and unprecedented. We have gathered here to protest the action as well as the law. This law must go if India needs to be an inclusive society.”
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The protests in Ambedkar University, too, echoed similar sentiments. A student who participated in a protest called by the Students' Federation of India (SFI), said, “The passage of the bill itself raises questions. When the majority of the opposition parties were demanding the bill to be referred to a select committee, it was vehemently opposed by the ruling party. If they are saying that it will not affect any minority community, why the amendments introduced by the opposition leaders were not accepted in the Rajya Sabha."
Similar protests were also taken out in Darya Ganj. The protests in Seelampur created a brief spell of tension, resulting from a confrontation between the Delhi Police and residents.
Protests against CAA were organised in Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad and Indian Institute of Human Settlements (IIHS) where the students and faculty members expressed their outrage. In a statement, the students of the Urban Fellows Program of IIHS, said, “The impact of CAA needs to be read together with the National Register (Indian) of Citizens (NRC), a government formulated register of all "legal" citizens of India. The act and the register along with ongoing incidents of state-endorsed religious persecution undermine not only the Indian Constitution but are also blatant violations of India's commitment to the United Nations International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and Convention for Elimination of Racial Discrimination."
The students and faculty of IIM, Ahmedabad, issued a condemnation letter, which said, “The act in its current form, is also likely to harm the interests of the indigenous people of India's North East. India, as a signatory to UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous People, has a responsibility to protect the land, culture and linguistic rights of the indigenous people. We advocate a comprehensive asylum law while protecting the legitimate rights of the indigenous people."
Students of the Fergusson College in Maharashtra's Pune city took out a rally on the campus and held a signature campaign against CAA and NRC. One of the posters held by protesters said, “Hindutva nahi, Bandhutva Chahiye (We want brotherhood, not Hindutva)”. A similar protest was was also organised in the prestigious Films and Television Institute of India. The student’
association of FTII said, "FTII Students’ Association solemnly condemns CAA, CAB, and NRC, and stands in solidarity with the students’ movements in Jamia Millia University, Aligarh University, and all the others who have stood up in these times of grave crisis. (sic)"
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The students of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, also expressed their solidarity with the students of Jamia Millia Islamia who braved the unprecedented police action. Boycotting the classes, the students raised slogans against Home Minister Amit Shah. Visuals of a march within the campus showed a large gathering where protesters held posters reading, “We are not Second Class Citizens". Other peaceful processions were also organised by the students of Mumbai University and Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.
Kerala remains one of the first states which refused to implement the controversial Act soon after it was passed in the Rajya Sabha. The state has witnessed numerous protests where the students and youth hit the streets in large numbers. The students of Maharaja's College and Farooq College raised slogans and burnt the effigies of Amit Shah. They also burnt the copies of the Act.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said, “Such an unconstitutional law will have no place in Kerala and such a law will not be implemented in Kerala. Our state cannot accept something that is unconstitutional and that would divide the people on the basis of religion."
Thousands of protesters including farmer leaders, student activists, dalit leaders and persons with disabilities hit the road in Odisha against the new Citizenship (Amendment) Act, NRC and the attack on Jamia students. They also submitted a memorandum to Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Pattnaik and Governor Ganeshi Lal.
The Kargil Chowk in Patna witnessed a huge gathering of students of Patna University along with other members of the civil society, who raised slogans against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and Janata Dal-United. JD(U) had extended its support to the legislation. However, other office-bearers of the party – Prashant Kishore and Pavan Verma had questioned the move. In another protest in Purnia, Communist Party of India leader Kanhaiya Kumar said, “People have understood that the Act was brought to suppress vital issues confronting the country and wants everyone to stand in the queue to prove their citizenship...I want to make it clear, if this government does not consider us citizen, we do not consider it as our government."
The capital and other key cities in Jharkhand also witnessed anti-CAA protests. In one of the protests, the participants covered their mouths with black cloth, while some others held placards denouncing the law and the NRC.
The state witnessed intense protests by the students of Lucknow University and Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama. The protests turned violent in Mau, Sharanpur and Aligarh. At least113 people have been arrested for protesting against CAA in the last few days across the state. Dalit rights activist Sushil Gautam, along with 20 others, were detained from Nauchandi police station in Meerut district, allegedly for giving a call for protest against CAA and brutal assault of police on Jamia and AMU students.
The students of Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Loyola College and New College hit the streets on Monday against the act. Several students held placards displaying, 'Muslim lives matter', 'We condemn CAB, NRC', 'Stop police brutality'.
The students of Madras University continue their sit-in protest which began on Tuesday morning. The police and university administration refused to permit the students without identity cards to continue in the protest venue. In a move to dilute the protest the university administration had announced indefinite closure. The two students who were arrested in the morning were released late last night. The police is continuing to camp in the university campus.
The opposition parties in the state in an all party meeting convened by the Dravidain Munnetra Kazhagam has called for a protest rally and hunger strike in Chennai on December 23. The meeting demanded the addition of Muslims and Sri Lanka in the amendment thereby clearing the fear of the minority community and the Tamil refugees.
Hundreds of people from different civil society groups staged a sit-in at Hyderabad’s Dharna Chowk to protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The students’ union of Hyderabad Central University also organised a torch rally demanding immediate roll back of the act.
The eastern state witnessed widespread protests by the students of Presidency University and Jadavpur University. Similar protests were seen in Howrah and Murshidabad where the protesters reportedly obstructed trains. The Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, although reluctant earlier, has now decided to oppose the law.
Tripura witnessed large-scale violence against the Act after the bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha. Following clashes, the administration banned the internet in the state and deployed troops to control the situation. The Indigenous People Front of Tripura (IPFT) has opposed the act.
Thousands of people hit the streets on the protest call for a 3-day peaceful Satyagraha given by the All Assam Students’ Union. On December 17, thousands of protesters were detained in Guwahati while they were marching, but were released later.
Left Parties Call for Protest Against CAA
A number of left parties, including Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)-Liberation, All India Forward Bloc and Revolutionary Socialist Party- have called for a nationwide protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act on December 19, 2019. In a statement, the parties said, "The passage of this Bill, along with the proclamations by this Modi-Shah BJP government to extend the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to the entire country, is the twin combination."
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It added,"On this day, December 19, 1927, Ram Prasad Bismil, who rendered the stirring patriotic call rousing the Indian people in the freedom struggle, Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna (desire to sacrifice for revolution) was hanged at the Gorakhpur jail. Ashfaqulla Khan, a co-accused, was hanged at the Faizabad jail and another co-accused Roshan Singh was hanged at the Naini jail. This unity, overriding religious affiliations won India its freedom from the British. This, today, is being ruptured by the RSS-BJP."
Amid the students’ protests across the country, artists, poets and theatre actors are also uniting to show solidarity against the implementation of CAA. A group of artists gathered at the Shri Ram Centre in Delhi today from various theatre groups – National School of Drama, The Little Theatre Group, among others to voice their concerns against the communal nature of the Act.
(With inputs from Damayantee Dhar, Abdul Alim Jafri and Neelambaran A)