Ahmed (name changed), is a 24-year-old student of natural sciences at Jamia Millia Islamia. From Africa, Ahmed has spent the last six years on campuses in Delhi – a city, which he calls his second home.
However, his confidence stands shaken after the December 15 incident, when the Delhi Police barged into the campus and left several students injured. “I haven’t witnessed such a violent incident ever before,” he says.
Like Ahmed, several students from across nationalities feel insecure, as campuses in India have become nerve centres of the ongoing political movement.
The protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act have turned violent on some occasions, affecting not only the citizens but also the international students.
Then, there were two cases of firing in Jamia within a week, despite heavy police deployment.
All of this have shaken the confidence of international students.
On the night of December 15, when students at Jamia were trying to escape the campus, many ran inside the International boys’ hostel – home to over 70 international students from over 10 countries.
The hostellers panicked and feared they might get dragged in the violence.
“The situation turned very serious. Some of the protesters were trying to flee from police. We shut the lights of our rooms and hid ourselves,” says Jahan, a PhD scholar from Iran.
Some of these students have never experienced any kind of violence in their lives before.
Even after around two months since the protests turned violent on the campus, these students haven’t completely come to terms with the situation. Posts on social media, reports on television channels and newspapers and graffiti on campuses make them even more anxious.
“The post-protest campus affects me psychologically, it makes me feel that these events have affected the credibility of the university as well,” adds Jahan.
Some of these students belong to war-torn countries and they have come here to pursue higher education, thinking that the country is relatively safer. However, the protests and the environment have emotionally affected them, often reminding them of the trauma they experienced in their home country.
“I will not be able to forget that night when the protesters surrounded our hostel. I did not sleep because of fear. I could hear the shouting outside the hostel, and it reminded me of the violence that took place long before in my country while I was at school,” says Ahmed.
According to the students, respective embassies came to rescue them from protest areas. However, students allege that the Afghanistan embassy didn’t pay any heed to their students even after repeated calls.
“It was about half-an-hour later that the Iran Embassy came and took us from the hostel. Palestine was the first embassy to get their students out of the hostel,” says Jahan.
The Afghan students at Aligarh Muslim University also said that they were denied any assistance and left on their own. “As an international student, during the protests we didn’t get any help or security, neither from the Indian government nor from the Afghanistan Embassy,” says a student from Afghanistan on condition of anonymity.
Apart from the psychological impact on students, the protests have severely affected the studies. Several students at Jamia gheraoed the vice chancellor’s office demanding the exams to be postponed. It has been almost thrice in a matter of a month that the authorities have rescheduled the exams.
“My semester was supposed to finish last month but I haven’t been able to take last semester’s exam because of the current situation. We, international students, want to take our exams on time, but due to some students’ interference the exams stand cancelled,” Ahmed added.
Like Jamia, the authorities in AMU shut the university and cancelled exams in the aftermath of the violence on the campus.
The internet clampdown in the campus, which lasted for about 3-4 days, is another cause of concern.
“We could not recharge our phones. My wife and I could not contact our relatives for many days,” says the Afghan student.
India, for the students, had largely been safer until now.
Their parents, living miles away from India, have been urging their sons and daughters to come back to their native countries if a situation of emergency arises in India.
Moreover, the extensive reporting by international media has added to the anxiety.
The deportation of Jakob Lindenthal, a German student from IIT Madras, for participating in an anti-CAA protest in Madras, has forced the students to stay away from the ongoing protests.
“We denied the requests made by our friends to join the protests,” the AMU student added.
Komal Wadhwa and Fahim are students at AJK MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia
Featured image credit: PTI