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Why Students Across India Are Taking to the Streets to Oppose the Citizenship Bill

After police allegedly barged into the Jamia university campus, detained students, fired tear gas and even set tyres and buses on fire, and blamed the protestors for it, a widespread movement in solidarity with the affected students is gaining steam.
SJ
Mumbai, IN
December 16, 2019, 10:25am
Students are taking to the streets to protest CAB
Protesters shout slogans during a demonstration against the Indian government's Citizenship Amendment Bill in New Delhi on December 14, 2019. Photo: Jewel Samad / AFP

It all started on the morning of December 15 at Delhi’s prestigious Jamia Millia Islamia University, where more than 2,000 students gathered to protest against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), which seeks to provide citizenship for persecuted minorities in neighbouring nations but is being criticised for being unconstitutional and excluding Muslims. In a gathering that was initially meant to be peaceful and raise awareness about the new law, the Delhi police force reportedly barged into the college campus and violently clashed with the student protesters. At some point, students were beaten up, while at others, tear gas was fired directly at them.

The situation that is unfurling in Delhi is a part of a nationwide response to CAB. In Guwahati, the capital city of Assam, the protest involved arrests, detentions and even death of four civilians caught in police firing. The state saw a curfew alongside mobile and internet blackout. And clashes of similar intensity are cropping up across the country, steadily and with magnitude.

In Delhi, the clash saw the police blaming the protesters for the violence, stone-pelting and burning public buses. Sources, however, say that the stone-pelting was actually done by local thugs, and not the students who are being implicated.

Over the last few hours, several videos have cropped up on social media that show the police force burning tyres and buses themselves. There are also doctored videos and messaging all over social media against the protesters. In one, students from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in Uttar Pradesh, where the protests have picked up as well, were seen raising anti-Hindu slogans. “The grave of Hindus will be dug on the chest of AMU,” said the video. The real video, however, shows the students actually shouting, “The grave of Hindutva will be dug on the chest of AMU…”

However, photos and videos of the ongoing protests have overtaken social media. The police can be seen charging at students, even those who claim they were quietly reading in the library or praying at the mosque. Several photos show injured protestors and the floors of the university campus covered in blood stains.

There are accusations that the police set hostel rooms on fire, girl students were sexually abused after all the lights were switched off so that the CCTV cameras couldn’t catch it, and more than 60 students inside the AMU campus were attacked despite cooperating with the cops.

The last few hours of deadly violence against students has prompted more student protests across India. Students from Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) mobilised people at the Delhi police headquarters for an all-night protest to get the students caught in violence and subsequently detained, to be released.

Students at Hyderabad’s Maulana Azad Urdu University and Varanasi’s Banaras Hindu University have also raised their voices against the violent dismissal of dissent.

Meanwhile, students of Mumbai’s Indian Institute of Technology and Tata Institute of Social Sciences held a candlelight march, vociferously chanting the famous Urdu poem 'Sarfaroshi ki Tamanna', a popular slogan that has deep associations with revolutionaries from the Independence struggle, and is a modern-day cry against all forms of oppression.,

Similar movements are taking place in Kolkata and Puducherry. However, in cities like Lucknow, police are reportedly intervening and trying to prevent the protestors from carrying on.

“After seeing the situation in Jamia, we gathered last night to stand in solidarity with them,” 19-year-old Sana Ummeed, a Second Year BA student at Lucknow’s Nadwa University, where students are currently under siege for allegedly promoting violence at the protest, told VICE over the phone. “Around 10 AM today, police came and began lathi-charging students, despite the protests being peaceful. They have now locked about 500-1,000 students in the university itself, and all internet connection has been cut off.”

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Protestors at Lucknow's Nadwa University have been detained and are being held by the police on the grounds that they are inciting violence. Photo: Sana Ummeed.

Following the violence that has shook citizens across India, the Supreme Court has agreed to investigate the claims of unrestrained violence against students, but on the condition that peace is maintained and all the protests are called off. Meanwhile, riots have taken over the Northeast as well, where the internet has been cut off and citizens are more concerned with protecting their own state from being overrun by illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and other neighbouring countries.

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