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Police disperse protesters during a demonstration against the citizenship law in Ahmedabad on Thursday. AFP
Police disperse protesters during a demonstration against the citizenship law in Ahmedabad on Thursday. AFP

IIM-A students sign pleas, take social media route in show of support

On Thursday, protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act intensified across the country as students gathered to show solidarity with their counterparts who have faced violence. Mint is running a series on what students on campuses across the country have to say on the issue

On Thursday, as police lathi-charged citizens and detained many who had gathered in Ahmedabad to protest peacefully against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, a group of students and faculty at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM-A) met to work out ways to use social media to better connect the student community across the country and raise awareness about the legislation. This comes against the backdrop of IIM-A students and faculty being among those detained earlier this week for holding a protest outside the campus.

The group has met everyday to discuss the Act since it was passed last week. The Act paves the way for granting citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Jain, Buddhists, Parsis, and Christians, from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh who fled from religious persecution in their countries.

For those who cannot attend marches, social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as messaging app WhatsApp, have emerged as a medium for expressing solidarity.

“I have been actively sharing my opinion about how discriminatory the Act is on Instagram. Most of the information I have gathered is from social media. My friends from the North-East have shared their struggles. The government has locked down areas, cutting off food supply and internet access. It’s shocking and must be opposed," said a student of IIM-A, requesting anonymity.

Students and faculty at IIM -A have also followed the lead of those at IIM Bangalore and released an open letter condemning the Act as it “institutionalizes preferential treatment based on religion which is in direct conflict with the inclusive spirit on which our nation was formed". The letter, being circulated online, has got more than 2,000 signatures from students and faculty at the Indian Institutes of Technology, IIMs, and various universities and colleges across the country.

The letter states that the Act, in its current form, is likely to harm the interests of the indigenous people of the country. The signatories advocate the framing of a comprehensive asylum law, while protecting the legitimate interests of indigenous people.

“We will wait for the Supreme Court hearing on 22 January. If we gather enough like-minded individuals, we may consider litigation as an option. We will approach our alumni for financing if we decide to go to court to oppose CAA," said a student on condition of anonymity.

“If we don’t stand up against such Acts now, the government will feel that such fundamental changes can be made in this country without any resistance. Dividing the population on the basis of religion and ethnicity is downright scary," said a second-year student of IIM-A who was part of the protest on 16 December. “Tomorrow, the government can come up with an algorithm that can make me a minority and that scares me," the student said.

One student said the government should have held a public consultation before introducing such legislation in Parliament.

“We are informing students and making them socially aware through our course work, which includes programmes on indigenous people, worker rights, culture, and governance. If students choose to speak up, we support them and that is what is happening right now," said Navdeep Mathur, a professor at IIM-A who was detained during the 16 December protest. “With social media, everyone is more aware of what is happening around them and so students are rising up," Mathur said.

On 17 December, around 1,000 students from Nirma University, GLS University, National Institute of Design, and St Xaviers, among other colleges, along with faculty and members of the civil society gathered at Sabarmati Ashram to express their concerns about the Act, calling it “unconstitutional and discriminatory". The demonstration was organized a day after nearly 60 people, including academicians, students, social activists, and members of the civil society, were detained by the police outside the IIM-A campus during a protest.

On Thursday, activists had planned a non-violent march from Shivaranjani Cross Road from 5pm. “The police denied permission to protest but we went ahead and were ready for detention," said Dev Desai, an activist. “We will continue to protest every alternate day and are working on various creative non-violent ways to express our dissent," he said.

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