Not just CAA, it’s a struggle against authoritarianism: Academics unite against police brutality

21 December 2019
On 15 December, the Delhi Police detained over fifty students of the Jamia Millia Islamia and forced the unarmed students to march to the vans waiting outside the campus with their hands drawn up, treating them as criminals. The police had forcibly entered the campus, lathi charged students who were protesting peacefully and lobbed tear-gas shells at them.
Adnan Abidi/Reuters
On 15 December, the Delhi Police detained over fifty students of the Jamia Millia Islamia and forced the unarmed students to march to the vans waiting outside the campus with their hands drawn up, treating them as criminals. The police had forcibly entered the campus, lathi charged students who were protesting peacefully and lobbed tear-gas shells at them.
Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Over a week after the Indian government passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, university campuses across the country are doubling down on their opposition to the legislation. The controversial act has been variously described as draconian, discriminatory, bigoted or downright unconstitutional. While the currents protests against the act first began in Assam, on 4 December, before the bill was passed into law, student protests gained momentum 13 December onwards—the day after the act came into force. Over the next three days, as campus after campus declared their defiance, several states, most of them ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party, unleashed their police forces on students protesting peacefully. This included Delhi too—the Delhi Police comes under central rule and reports to the ministry of home affairs, helmed by Amit Shah.

By late evening on 16 December, as reports of the crackdowns and students accounts of police brutality reached nationwide, at least forty universities across 17 states had joined the resistance. That day, a statement of solidarity “condemning the recent police action and brutalization of students at Jamia Millia University and Aligarh Muslim University” started to circulate in various international academic networks.

In Delhi, the Jamia Millia Islamia had borne the brunt of police action—two consecutive days of lathi charges and tear-gas shelling—while the Aligarh Muslim University, in Uttar Pradesh also witnessed similar police atrocities. Other campuses were also policed, but nothing compared to what the students of JMI and AMU endured. Nivedita Menon, a professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University and a signatory, told me, “It’s very clear that the students of Jamia and AMU are being targeted as Muslims—as Muslims who do not have the same rights that Hindus have.”

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    Amrita Singh is an assistant editor at The Caravan.

    Keywords: Citizenship (Amendment) Act Jamia Millia Islamia Aligarh Muslim University BJP
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