In a statement of solidarity, 538 alumni of National Law School of India University, Bangalore, have condemned “the state sponsored violence against students of Jamia Millia Islamia, Aligarh Muslim University, Delhi University, Cotton University and other educational institutions across India over the past few days”.
Saying that the time for “political fence-sitting” has come to an end, the former law schools students have also criticised the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National register of Citizens.
“We believe that the CAA and NRC are unconstitutional, contrary to the guarantee of equality before the law and contrary to the secular and pluralistic values of the Indian republic. We extend our unconditional support to all those who choose to exercise their fundamental right to speech and assembly to express dissent against the CAA and NRC,” the statement reads.
The alumni members have demanded that CAA be repealed and NRC be withdrawn. They have also demanded that police and any and all paramilitary forces be withdrawn from universities around India and that an independent inquiry be launched into the recent violence at Jamia Milia Islamia, Aligarh Muslim University, Delhi University and other campuses.
Just a few days ago, the NLSIU Bangalore student body had passed an “unequivocal condemnation” of the police’s “assault on the rule of law, morality and democratic ethos and tradition that is fundamental to dignified living”.
In the statement, the students had also “beseeched the judiciary to take due cognizance” and added that they believed that CAA was “completely against the foundational values that the Constitution of India is built upon, and which we so cherish”.
The students had noted:
“The act is discriminatory, devoid of any reasonable classification, and at its base uses religion as the basis for granting citizenship. In its form and design, it is clear that the law is intended to directly target inter alia the Muslim minority community and is a classic example of a brute majoritarian preference aggregation impinging on the secular fabric that is woven into our founding document. We do not support this legislation, and call upon influential members of the legal fraternity, both on the bar and on the bench to join us in rejecting this morally bankrupt law.”
Read the full statement put out by NLSIU alumni below:
We, the undersigned alumni of National Law School of India University, Bangalore, unequivocally condemn the state sponsored violence against students of Jamia Millia Islamia, Aligarh Muslim University, Delhi University, Cotton University and other educational institutions across India over the past few days. Reports of police brutality against unarmed students are deeply troubling. Such brutality suggests an objective of targeted persecution and violent repression of dissent.
As former students of a fully residential university with a student body drawn from different viewpoints and backgrounds, we too have called a university home. We know well the value that a university holds not only as a place of learning but as a place for growth, exploration and broadening of viewpoints. Universities of a truly national and interdisciplinary character provide such spaces not only for the students and faculty, but all communities who choose to engage. We condemn attempts to clamp down on this essential function of universities through the abuse of state machinery. We do not condone violence in protests. We stand in solidarity with students and other protestors who choose to exercise their right to express dissent peacefully.
As professionals trained in the law, we are deeply cognizant of the impact that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) will have on the poor and religious minorities. By purporting to extend citizenship to only certain religious communities while excluding others, the CAA cannot claim to be a secular legislation. Together with the proposed NRC, this would mean that Indian Muslims who are unable to establish their citizenship through the onerous documentary requirements will be stripped of their citizenship rights.
Indians of other religions have a path available to them of regaining citizenship, but the onerous requirement of proving citizenship through historical documentation coupled with vulnerabilities of misinformation, illiteracy and poverty make it highly likely that this citizenship verification exercise will be a crushing burden for vulnerable Indians across religious lines.
We believe that the CAA and NRC are unconstitutional, contrary to the guarantee of equality before the law and contrary to the secular and pluralistic values of the Indian republic. We extend our unconditional support to all those who choose to exercise their fundamental right to speech and assembly to express dissent against the CAA and NRC. We believe it is particularly important to defend and safeguard this right across the country, including within academic spaces.
But before we are lawyers, we are human beings. It pains us that our fellow citizens, fellows of our community, are being systematically alienated from their identity as Indian. The CAA has torn apart the concept of Indianness, and created fear in the hearts of people who rightly call it home – what the makers of the Indian Constitution intended to prevent. To sit silent in the face of this would be tantamount to being complicit in this abuse.
It is imperative in the light of present events that the Constitution is preserved and upheld. Political fence-sitting and toeing safety lines by not speaking truth to power is unacceptable. There are few who may yet stand in the way of a breakdown of India’s secular fabric. It is imperative that they do. The CAA and the proposed NRC are unconstitutional and run afoul of the ethos of the Constitution and the tenets on which this nation was built. We demand:
- Repeal of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 and withdrawal of the proposed National Register of Citizens;
- Withdrawal of all police and paramilitary forces from university campuses;
- Independent inquiry and accountability of police and paramilitary officials involved in the crackdown on university campuses including JMI, AMU, DU, Cotton University and others, and those under whose command the crackdowns took place;
- Co-operation of all university administrations in securing spaces for their students to exercise their fundamental rights; and
- Withdrawal of all prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to ensure that the fundamental right to dissent is respected and protected.
Featured image credit: Reuters