From Harvard to Oxford, Students Protest CAA in Freezing Cold

From Harvard to Oxford, Students Protest CAA in Freezing Cold

India

Video Editor: Vivek Gupta

Video Producer: Aparna Singh

Over 300 people, including students and alumni, gathered at Harvard University in the US, on Tuesday, 17 December, to protest the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and to express solidarity with their counterparts protesting across university campuses in India.

Students read out sections of the Indian Constitution to remind each other of the secular and democratic principles India was built on. This student gathering was preceded by an open letter issued by Harvard students to the Indian government a few days ago.

The protests were centred on concerns around how the content and spirit of the CAA threatens the essence of India’s social fabric. Protesters said that the combination of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens violates the principles of equality and secularism that the Indian Constitution enshrines. Protesters also expressed solidarity with the large number of university students across India who have taken to the streets to express their opposition to the CAA. While the protesters pointed out that they don’t condone violence which followed the protests, they said they were deeply dismayed by the police’s use of brute force even against peaceful demonstrations.

Braving cold, students protest at Harvard.
Braving cold, students protest at Harvard.
(Photo Courtesy: Harvard students)

Dr Ruha Shadab, a graduate student at the Harvard Kennedy School, said, “I take pride in being a representative of India here. Our country’s high global reputation stems from its ideals of democracy and equality. Several incidents over the past few months – including the CAA and now the violent suppression of student protests – have been hard to defend, especially since India is an emerging superpower and is looked up to by many countries.”

Another student who didn’t want to be named, said, “We are doing this out of love for our country and its people. Several of us here have worked in India across sectors such as education, health, and sanitation. We are committed to India’s success, and it is therefore our moral responsibility to stand up against laws and incidents that undermine the values that make our country powerful.”

The students saw the protest as a plea to the Indian government to take note of how its actions would affect India’s standing.

Students also read out sections from the Indian Constitution at the protest. 
Students also read out sections from the Indian Constitution at the protest. 
(Photo Courtesy: Harvard students)

The predominant sentiment at the gathering was that education is essentially about active citizenship, even when you’re thousands of miles away from your country. Sunaina Pamudurthy, another student, said, “As Indians studying far away from home, the least we can do is be good allies, educate, and organise in times like this. Being apolitical or silent cannot be an option.”

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Direct Attack on Democracy: Oxford Students

In a separate statement, the students and alumni members of the University of Oxford extended their unconditional support to those “exercising their fundamental rights to dissent” back in India.

Students protest against CAA at Oxford.
Students protest against CAA at Oxford.
(Photo: The Quint)
According to the statement, “The use of police force against students exercising their fundamental right to protest in university spaces and elsewhere is a direct attack on the foundation of a democratic society.”

Additionally, the statement also mentioned that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act provides preferential treatment and welcomes religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, while “explicitly excluding Muslims” from its scope.

This, according to the statement, goes against the fundamental ideals of “equality, liberty, pluralism and secularism enshrined in the Constitution.”

Open Letter to US Congress Signed by Ivy League Students

An open letter, signed unanimously by South Asian Student Associations of almost every major Ivy League University (including Yale, Harvard, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell, and Brown), was handed over to the United States’ Congress.

It demanded that, “the American House of Representatives immediately pass House Resolution 745, urging the Republic of India to end restrictions on communications in Jammu and Kashmir and preserve religious freedom for all residents,” and for Congress to condemn the Modi government.

It has been sent to representatives in the House. The South Asian organisations at these Universities have also pledged to join a protest against Hindu nationalism this coming festival of Holi, called #HoliAgainstHindtuva.

Anti CAA Protests Reach Berlin & Hague

Students across universities in Hague and Berlin protested the Citizenship Act. Huge rallies were organised with banners with a call to protect “secular India”.

Anti CAA protests organised by students in Berlin. 
Anti CAA protests organised by students in Berlin. 
(Photo: Sarosh Imam)
Students raised slogans and posters demanding a rollback of Citizenship Act. 
Students raised slogans and posters demanding a rollback of Citizenship Act. 
(Photo: Sarosh Imam)
Students in Hague, Netherlands protest against the CAA. 
Students in Hague, Netherlands protest against the CAA. 
(Photo: Sarosh Imam)

Anti CAA Protests in Seattle, California

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Seattle and California to protest and march against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act.

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