Letter to the editor

Indian Universities Under Siege

Much like most of the world at this moment, India is in a fight against religious intolerance and against, as many in the country are now terming it without reservations, fascism. In the past few days, the matters have come down to the streets, with police forces entering university premises and bleeding out protestors. And this is not only in the capital city of New Delhi, but across the country from its north-most to its east-most to its south-most. 

On 11th December, 2019, the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) was written into the law. It allows persons who are Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian — all except Muslim — to immigrate to India and not be considered illegal migrants. This comes alongside the Indian government’s plan to extend something called the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to all of India. Under it, all Indians will have to “prove” their citizenship in the country by establishing ancestry in the country.

Together, both of these legislations provide a fertile ground for Muslims to be considered unlawfully present in India, the longer plan being to seemingly isolate the community. Detention camps are already being constructed in Assam, a state in the Indian north-east with a large migrant population.

These protests erupted almost spontaneously after the CAB was ratified by the President of India. Since then, New Delhi, the city to which I belong, has seen brutal police crackdown creating scenes not unlike those seen in images and videos of Hong Kong. The image here [from @PramodChturvedi] is from a widely-circulated video of police beating up protestors in the city. Reportedly, the police have also been burning and destroying public property to make the protests look violent and out of control, thereby justifying the crackdown. From the latest reports, they also entered the campus of Jamia Millia Islamia, one of the country’s most reputed universities, and viciously unleashed themselves on the students amid a slew of gunfire, stones, and tear gas, according to India Today. The students were forced to escape or to take refuge in restrooms, and over a hundred of them have been injured, some of them seriously. The police never had permission to enter the campus. Other universities in the country, such as the Aligarh Muslim University, are also being similarly targeted. 

As I write this, the protests are ongoing. And while students everywhere have a reason to be glad in that the protestors are not backing down, a lot of the students and teachers on the frontlines are my friends and they are unsafe in their places of work and education. They continue, however, because they’d rather have a country which is not unsafe and inhospitable to 14.2% of its entire population. The helplessness of an Indian graduate student in the U.S. is the position from which I ask for solidarity from our university as well.

Shantam Goyal