Dubai: “We are not going to let them alter what India has always been — a land that has embraced faiths and cultures of all kinds’, said Jaya Lakshmi, a Masters student of Jamia Milia Islamia, Delhi and a member of the Jamia Coordination Committee which coordinates the Anti-CAA protests in her university. The youth of the nation had a rude awakening when the students of Jamia Milia Islamia University, Delhi and Aligarh Muslim University, Uttar Pradesh were attacked for staging peaceful protests against the CAA. Reacting to the brutal violence, universities across India rose up in protest against the attack on university students as well as the CAA and since then, there has been no going back.
The CAA or the Citizenship Amendment Act, which came into force on 12 December, 2019, grants citizenship to immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who entered India before 2015 but has notably excluded Muslims as well as immigrants from other neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka and Myanmar. Jaya Lakshmi, speaking to Gulf News, stated that when the state machinery started sending in troops that incited violence even within educational spaces, the students were literally left with no choice but to resist. Speaking about the continuous resistance against the CAA, she also said: “What’s happening in India today is a deepening of our democracy. It is helping all of us realise the power we have had all along — to act as the nation’s conscience when its government has gone blind with its adherence to the ruling party’s hateful, divisive agenda.”
Stating that things would never again be the same for them, Amal Devasia, another student of Jamia Milia Islamia University, said that the walls of Jamia had not only become a form of expression for a lot of graffiti artists in and around the campus but also a new mode of protest by the students as they believe art can be effectively used to create awareness.
Stressing on the universities that were victims of state-sponsored violence, the re-naming of cities and states that took place over the recent years and the exclusion of Muslims from the CAA, Merlin, a former student of Jesus and Mary College, Delhi, said that the ruling party’s bias against Muslims were evident. She also said: “The rejection of CAA is synonymous with upholding the Indian Constitution, one that our ancestors fought for, irrespective of their religion. The legacy of dissent and secularism will continue.”
The new year of 2020 started off with yet another attack on JNU students by a masked mob who were rumoured to be members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a student wing affiliated with the ruling BJP. The attack seems to have been carried out in response to the student protests against a hike in hostel fees. Zaira, a final year student from Jesus and Mary College, Delhi, said: “The brutal attacks in places like Jamia and JNU have triggered students in particular because the educational spaces were the only safe spaces one could rely on.”
Tasha Joseph, who is currently pursuing law from Delhi, said: “The display of student anger is fuelled by the attack on students in university campuses — spaces that promote the idea of unbiased learning, democratic values and questioning of political, social and cultural narratives, to name a few.” She also added that by the introduction of a draconian law such as the CAA, “a clear, blatant attack on secularism has been made by a hyper nationalistic government, seeking to reshape India as a Hindu nation.”
Stressing on the importance of the secular nature of India, Angela Abraham, a student currently pursuing MA Linguistics from English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, said that the exclusion of a particular section of society was detrimental to the whole social fabric of the country and that no matter how much the current powers insisted that no ‘Indians’ would be affected, the problem was that the very definition of ‘Indian’ was currently being revised. She also said: “Today’s students are the generation that will grow up to live in the divided society that the CAA is all set to usher in. The student protests are the very categorical refusal of the students to even bring that divided society into being.”
Note: Anjana Jolly is an intern at Gulf News