Over a thousand students from various institutes in Pune marched from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) to the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) in solidarity with students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), and to protest the violence perpetrated by a masked mob at JNU on Sunday night. The students carried placards and signboards condemning the violence, opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) of India, and on other issues.
Leading the march, FTII Students’ Association General Secretary Rajarshi Mujumdar said it was high time that all the citizens of the country also participate in the movement, along with students. “We, students, are the voice of the nation. It is our right and duty to protest against injustice. Everyone else must also take to the streets,” said Mujumdar.
The march was organized by the student unions of FTII and SPPU. Students of several other institutes like Fergusson College, ILS Law College, Flame University, Bharati Vidyapeeth, Azam Campus, and members of groups like Yuvak Kranti Dal (Yukrand) also participated in large numbers.
Rohit Kumar, a final-year student of FTII, said that he and other students had formed a co-ordination group, and invited students from other institutes to participate in the march.
“All the volunteers were briefed that the march should not inconvenience commuters and should remain peaceful.. They were instructed to remain calm and focussed even if there was some provocation from miscreants,” said Rohit. He said the organizers had obtained permission from the Deccan Police for the march.
Police personnel were seen video-recording the march, and maneuvering protesters through busy cross-sections amid heavy traffic.
Swati D, part of a group of students from Flame University that was distributing pamphlets to bystanders, said, “We distributed about 500 pamphlets on Monday. Today, we have printed 1,000 pamphlets and are trying to hand them over to everyone who accepts them”.
Members of the group also engaged with people who agreed to spare a few minutes of their time. “We try to tell them how CAA is against the Constitution of the country and how NRC will hit poor families the most. They listen, some show willingness to think… but many refuse to agree,” said Swati.
Satish Gore, another co-ordinator from SPPU who also participated in the march, said students were ready to protest for as long as it takes for the government to listen to them. “Since last month, we have been protesting peacefully, and no untoward incident has taken place in the city. This shows that students are upholding the Constitution more than those in power. We are ready to protest for the next six months, or even longer if necessary,” said Gore.
Ramesh Awasthi, 70, and an alumnus of IIT-Delhi said, “The BJP is in pursuit of redefining citizenship on the basis of religion, which contradicts the secular spirit of the Constitution of India. While the government is not attentive to the people’s voice, it is trying to suppress students, especially in prestigious institutions like JNU…”.
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