Students had envisioned an open library, where anyone can come and read. They had even brought books to distribute.
Outside Jamia Millia Islamia’s gate number 10, 25-year-old MA student Sahil Ahmed saw close to a hundred people gather Wednesday. The organisers encouraged onlookers to sit down and read, handing out copies of Mahatma Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj and The Story of My Experiments with Truth in Hindi, English and Urdu.
“We invite students to come sit with us and read; they can choose to read anything they want. I understand some people have exams to prepare for. This initiative is in response to the violence on campus when police entered the library on December 15. Our library has been shut ever since, but that cannot stop us from reading,” said Ahmed.
Students of JMI and area residents have held a protest outside the university each day since December 13. On Wednesday, many speakers spoke on the secular history of the country and said that the CAA and the NRC went against the idea of the nation.
“When RSS and the Muslim League were spreading their ideologies of a nation based on religion, the pioneering leaders such as Nehru and Gandhi said India will not be a Pakistan-like nation but a secular republic, like it has been for around 1,000 years,” said Qurban Ali, a journalist.
Social activist Swami Agnivesh was also present at the protest and said the BJP had no right to ask the people, who are the real patriots, for certificates of citizenship.
Another student, Salan Riaz (22), dressed up as Santa Claus and distributed copies of the Preamble to the Constitution.
“Students from all over India, followers of different religions, study here. By celebrating Christmas together, we are showing our respect,” he said.
Father Suman Sarin from Sukhdev Vihar Church said: “Jesus was not from Bethlehem, but from Galilee, and his parents had to go to Bethlehem as there was a census. In that sense, Jesus was a person fighting for citizenship. His message is justice, peace and hope. And we find this message in the Preamble, in which ‘We the People of India’ includes people of all religions, caste and creed.”
Some people were seen reading out to others, teaching them. Others brought books to distribute. Sharique Raza (25), who was in the library on December 15, was seen reading a copy of the Indian Constitution.
(Shaardhool Shreenath is an intern with The Indian Express)
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