Bengaluru: Social media videos of students being beaten with sticks by police at Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University have got student communities across the country to step up in solidarity and protest the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019.
At the Indian Institute of Management (IIM-B) in Bengaluru, students and some of the faculty sent an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday as they geared up for a peaceful demonstration in tandem with other campuses in the city.
On Tuesday, police detained nine students from several other colleges in the city at Bengaluru’s Town Hall and Freedom Park around noon. The Town Hall has been the site of demonstrations since Sunday evening, when more than 1,000 people turned up to protest the law and read from the Constitution. On campuses across the city, events of the last few days and the idea of citizenship and freedom have been at the centre of discussions.
The open letter expressed support for students around the country protesting the Act. “We call upon you to not trample the democratic rights of citizens to peacefully protest an unjust law," reads the letter. “Non-violent civil disobedience is at the heart of our republic’s founding. We urge you to ensure that students can protest peacefully, and that violence is not incited by anyone including custodians of state in positions of great authority and responsibility."
Students of institutes like IIM-B rarely voice their opinions openly and are usually not politically active. But they said the images coming out of the Jamia campus were chilling, and the controversial law and Sunday’s violence have dominated conversations.
“Previous batches probably resisted the temptation to protest and speak out, but now if we don’t act, maybe tomorrow violence will come to our doorstep," said a student who signed the letter, but did not want to be named.
“This time, we felt like we have to do something," said another student, also requesting not to be named. Students have formed a WhatsApp group, Protest In Solidarity, to organize a peaceful demonstration later this week. About 180 people have signed up to attend the protest.
The students are clear that while their opinions on the law may differ, they stand together to condemn the police action that followed.
Protests, which began in Bengaluru on Sunday, have continued since the alleged violence against students at Jamia and Aligarh Muslim University. Sunday’s gathering was the largest in Karnataka so far, and speakers included historian Ramachandra Guha, MLA Sowmya Reddy and Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Gowda, also a professor at IIM-B. Police were present, and the protests remained peaceful, though there was no doubt where people stood on the controversial law. On Monday, hundreds gathered at the Town Hall again in a show of solidarity with the students of Jamia and Aligarh Muslim University, who were injured by police during Sunday’s protests.
On Tuesday, students from several colleges chanted slogans and planned a march but were stopped by police. Some were detained and later released.
Social media calls for citizens to join more protests that are being planned over the next few days are doing the rounds. “Bring your acoustic instruments to jam to songs," reads one of the posters on social media in Bengaluru. Students say they are determined not to let opposition political parties hijack the protests.
“This is Howard Zinn’s ‘moving train’ moment, and you cannot be neutral on the moving train," said Deepak Malghan, an associate professor at IIM-B, who signed the letter but makes it clear that he did so in his individual capacity. Malghan was referring to the US historian and activist, whose autobiography is titled You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times.