We, the undersigned faculty, post-doctoral researchers, and members at Azim Premji University, Bengaluru, are writing this letter as concerned people of India to express our distress over the recent events in our country over the past few months. We write this letter in our individual capacities. The views do not reflect the views of the University.
The passage of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Population Register (NPR) and a possible countrywide National Register of Citizens (NRC) has resulted in peaceful protests across the country. While 19 lakh people were left out of the NRC process in Assam, 29 people have already died in the Detention Centres in Assam. The CAA is in direct violation of Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution, is patently divisive on communal lines and is spreading fear among several communities. The poor, who are also document-poor, especially women, are likely to be the most affected if a nationwide NPR-NRC is rolled out. The vengeful state repression that these protests were met with, especially in BJP ruled states, is deeply concerning. The brutal attacks by the Uttar Pradesh (UP) police on innocent protestors, and their usage of stun grenades in Aligarh is reprehensible. 18 people have died and at least 1200 people have been arrested in UP. In Mangalore, not only did the police use teargas inside a hospital, they also killed two people. The Delhi police has also used tear gas on students in the Jamia Millia Islamia library. Apart from these universities, students and teachers from other institutions (e.g., IIM-Ahmedabad, Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Bengaluru) have had to face intimidation for practising their constitutional right to dissent peacefully. The sedition charges against students of Mysuru University for merely holding a placard saying ‘Free Kashmir’ presents another grim picture of the complete breakdown of basic freedoms in India.
We appeal to the Government of India (GoI) to set up an independent body to impartially look into cases of campus violence that are being projected as ‘clashes’. We urge the GoI to repeal the CAA, and pledge not to implement the NPR-NRC, which have caused immense fear among minority communities and the poor across the country.
The undemocratic manner in which the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has dealt with the fee hike protests in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) is also horrifying. The attack by masked goons in JNU on 5th of January 2020, as various news reports show, was abetted by both the Delhi police and the JNU administration. We also urge the GoI to listen to the students of JNU who are demanding the resignation of their Vice Chancellor, who has failed to protect his students and has lost all moral authority.
None of these events can be understood in isolation. The ongoing internet blockade in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is a clear violation of the fundamental rights of the people of J&K. Further, according to a report of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries, businesses in the Kashmir Valley alone have incurred a loss of Rs 18,000 crore since August 5th 2019 and nearly 5 lakh people have lost employment4. Moreover, about 3.5 to 5 lakh migrant labourers from other parts of India had to leave the Kashmir valley immediately after August 5th 2019. The situation will be much worse if we include the populations of Jammu and Ladakh in the calculation. Their elected representatives, lawyers and civil society activists are still under arrest. With regards to J&K, we appeal to the GoI to withdraw the internet blockade immediately, restore democratic practices, and release all the political prisoners.