Over 400 students and alumni members from universities across America have expressed solidarity with Jamia Millia Islamia university and Aligarh Muslim University students lathi-charged by Delhi police during the protests that turned violent against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
In a statement signed by scholars from universities including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford and Tufts, the students said they condemn the “brutal police violence unleashed against students at Jamia Millia Islamia University and at Aligarh Muslim University on 15 December 2019 as a gross violation of human rights under the Constitution of India and International Human Rights Law.”
Read the full text of the statement below.
We express full solidarity with students across universities in India who are peacefully protesting against the recent passing of the unconstitutional and discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act.
‘Unlawful and Reckless Tactics’ Used Against Students
The statement further reads that although the right to protest is a cornerstone of a constitutional democracy and is safeguarded as a fundamental right under the Constitution of India, reports and accounts by journalists and students have revealed horrific and excessive use of force by police against students.
“By every account, it appears that police and paramilitary, both at Jamia Milia Islamia University, and at Aligarh Muslim University, have used violence and pursued unlawful and reckless tactics against student protesters in violation of protections under the Constitution of India and International Human Rights law.”
According to the statement, the entry of police personnel into university premises and their use of tear gas shells represent the use of “brutal force” against the people and can only shock the conscience of any democratic society.
The statement adds that “most victims of this brutality were Muslim, these incidents stand out as shocking instantiations of targeted violence against a minority group”.
Students Condemn Police Action in Assam
In their statement, students have also condemned the way the police handled the protests in Assam, where five have died, including two minor boys, after being allegedly shot by the police.
“This combined with the unlawful denial of access to the internet in the state, has completely blocked news reports of events on the ground, including the ability of the protesters to represent their demands and report unlawful police action.”
The statement reads that the students are well aware that their words may “offer little succour” to those affected by the violence, the students have gone onto list the following demands.
‘Home Minister Amit Shah Must Curb Police Brutality’
- We demand cessation of violence by the police and their complete withdrawal from the university premises.
- We demand an immediate, independent, and robust investigation into the abuse of power by the Delhi Police, Uttar Pradesh Police, and the Central Reserve Police Force.
- We demand that student protesters be allowed to continue to protest peacefully in exercise of their fundamental rights under the Indian Constitution without any threat of use of force by the police or other law enforcement agencies.
- We call upon officers of the Indian Police and Administrative Services to fulfill their duty to uphold the Constitution of India, and to resist any political demand to act in abuse of the powers that have been conferred upon them; and, to ensure police forces under their command act strictly in accordance with the constitutional, legal and ethical constraints that bind them.
- We call on the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr Amit Shah, to immediately take these necessary steps to curb police brutality.
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.
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, is blatant and goes against the fundamental ideals of “equality, liberty, pluralism and secularism enshrine din the Constitution”.
Romila Thapar, Noam Chomsky Condemn CAA
Another letter, signed by over 10,000 students, teachers and academics from across the world, has condemned in the “strongest possible term police brutality in Jamia and AMU.” It states:
“The statement signed by prominent scholars including Romila Thapar, Noam Chomsky, Judith Butler, Nivedita Menon, Sudipta Kaviraj, Veena Das, Uma Chakravarti, Partha Chatterjee, Akeel Bilgrami, Tanika Sarkar, Mahmood Mamdani, Sheldon Pollock amongst others, says that the CAA ‘contravenes the right to equality and secular citizenship enshrined in the Indian constitution. On the 15th at JMI, police fired tear gas.’”
“We stand in unconditional solidarity with the students, faculty and staff of Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University, and express our horror at this violent police and state action. With them, we affirm the right of citizens to peaceful protest and the autonomy of the university as a non-militarised space for freedom of thought and expression. The brutalisation of students and the attack on universities is against the fundamental norms of a democratic society,” read the statement.
It contravenes the right to equality and secular citizenship enshrined in the Indian Constitution, it added.