Students at the University of Manchester, issue this statement of solidarity with the brave students and citizens protesting India’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Over the last few months, the Government of India, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bhartiya Janata Party, has engaged in a series of undemocratic and unconstitutional measures aimed at quelling dissent against the discriminatory CAA and the NRC – a pair of legal instruments that threaten to disenfranchise millions of undocumented Indians, especially Indian Muslims and other disadvantaged groups within India. Associating religion with citizenship undermines the secular character of the Indian Constitution.
Spontaneous protests against the NRC and CAA have erupted across India, especially led by students in university campuses. The government’s response to civil and democratic protests has been to unleash violence and terror. Multiple reports have documented the use of riot gear, tear gas, batons and live ammunition. This state-sanctioned terror has now entered universities – notably, Jamia Millia Islamia, Aligarh Muslim University and Jawaharlal Nehru University. Unarmed student protesters have been attacked severely: their bones broken, their heads split open. To add insult to injury, police reports have been filed against the victims while the perpetrators – often non-state actors enjoying implicit political patronage – have gone scot-free.
This is happening at a time when India faces its highest unemployment in over 40 years, a growth rate in steady decline leading to increasing economic hardships, and in Kashmir the longest internet shutdown in the history of any democracy in the world (150+ days and counting). In Uttar Pradesh, police violence has targeted Muslim neighbourhoods, resulting in the deaths of at least 25 people. This Islamophobic violence against citizens has become a harsh reality of the Modi regime.
Fascism does not announce its arrival. It creeps on us riding the coattails of indifference and silent complicity. At extraordinary times like these, it becomes doubly important to stand up and be heard, to hold truth to power, to hold the government accountable to its excesses – in other words, to defend democracy.
We strongly condemn the violence against citizens and put forth these demands to the Government of India:
Unequivocally repeal the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens, with the assurance that similar legislature will not be introduced in the future
Officially acknowledge the excessive use of force and launch an independent investigation into the matter, especially focusing on non-state actors who barged university campuses
Uphold the rights of its citizens to peacefully mobilise, protest and express their dissent in all manner – online and offline
As a corollary to point 3, repeal the brazenly used Section 144 (barring assembly of four or more persons) across India, restore internet and telecommunication services to all areas, and prevent further communications blockade everywhere.
We stand against fascism, Islamophobia, discrimination and violence. We stand for citizens’ rights to civil protest without being subjected to harm. In doing so, we join the global students’ community that has spoken against injustices and excesses before, and urge those who have hitherto not spoken up to join us.
Sara Khan (University of Manchester Students' Union Liberation & Access Officer)
Ayla Huseyinoglu (University of Manchester Students' Union Women's Officer)
Lizzy Haughton (University of Manchester Students' Union Activies and Development Officer)
Chloe Salins (University of Manchester Students' Union Education Officer)
Rana Phool (University of Manchester Students' Union Postgraduate Officer)