As students from across the country — New Delhi to Kerala and Gujarat to West Bengal — came out Monday to protest against the police action in Jamia Millia Islamia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for peace and said that “no Indian has anything to worry” over the amended citizenship law, which has triggered a nationwide agitation.
Posting a series of tweets the morning after at least 100 protesters were injured when police stormed the Jamia campus in Delhi, Modi said the “violent protests” were “unfortunate and deeply distressing” and pointed to “vested interests” who “divide us and create disturbance”.
Modi’s comments came the day after he accused the Congress and its allies of fuelling the unrest over the issue, and claimed that those “spreading the fire” could be “identified by their clothes”.
Signalling a concerted government move to address the protesters, the Prime Minister’s tweets were echoed by key members of his Cabinet, including Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank.
Shah asked the protesting students to “go through” the Citizenship Amendment Act and not fall in the “trap” laid by “some parties” who are “spreading rumours and inciting violence for their political interest”.
Sitharaman warned of “jihadists or Maoists or separatist movements” entering the students’ movement. And Nishank appealed to students to “stay away from violence” and “not do anything that goes against the interest of the nation”.
Meanwhile, students from across the country, including those from premier institutes such as IIT-Bombay and IIT-Chennai, and Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru, took part in protests against the Delhi police’s action.
At Jamia, students and residents of the locality protested against the police action while another protest was held at the Delhi University arts faculty. In the evening, hundreds of students gathered at India Gate to protest against the new law, and read out the Preamble to the Constitution.
On Monday evening, over 1,000 students from Mumbai University gathered at the Kalina campus to condemn the police action. After students of IIT-Bombay staged a protest on campus late Sunday night, sources said HRD Ministry officials spoke to the institution’s director to “get the facts” about the agitation. On Monday morning, students from TISS boycotted classes and assembled in Chembur.
In Tamil Nadu, at least half-a-dozen protest meets were held in Chennai where groups of students from the University of Madras burnt copies of the Act. Students also held protests at railway stations in Chennai, Madurai and Coimbatore.
In Bengaluru, a small group of students at the IISc staged a day-long sit-in on campus against “the anti-human NRC, communal CAA and the police brutalisation against students” in Jamia.
At the Puducherry Central University, over 300 students led a march after boycotting classes.
In West Bengal, protests were held in Jadavpur University while several student groups across party lines took out a rally inside the Presidency University campus in Kolkata.
In Ahmedabad, around 50 persons gathered outside IIM-Ahmedabad to express solidarity with the students of Jamia. Among those who took part were students from the National Institute of Design (NID) and Gujarat National Law University.
Across Kerala, members of several student organisations held marches and laid siege to central government offices and blocked trains. Students at the Central University in Kasaragod, University of Calicut, Mahatma Gandhi University in Kottayam and Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) took part in the protests.
In Lucknow, students clashed briefly with police even as heated protests were held at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in Varanasi. Another protest was held in Hyderabad’s Maulana Azad Urdu University.
Taking to Twitter to address the protesters, the Prime Minister posted: “Violent protests on the Citizenship Amendment Act are unfortunate and deeply distressing. Debate, discussion and dissent are essential parts of democracy but, never has damage to public property and disturbance of normal life been a part of our ethos.”
“The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 was passed by both Houses of Parliament with overwhelming support. Large number of political parties and MPs supported its passage. This Act illustrates India’s centuries old culture of acceptance, harmony, compassion and brotherhood,” he said.
The need of the hour is for all of us to work together for the development of India and the empowerment of every Indian, especially the poor, downtrodden and marginalised.
We cannot allow vested interest groups to divide us and create disturbance.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 16, 2019
“I want to unequivocally assure my fellow Indians that CAA does not affect any citizen of India of any religion. No Indian has anything to worry regarding this Act. This Act is only for those who have faced years of persecution outside and have no other place to go except India,” the Prime Minister said.
“The need of the hour is for all of us to work together for the development of India and the empowerment of every Indian, especially the poor, downtrodden and marginalised. We cannot allow vested interest groups to divide us and create disturbance,” he said.
“This is the time to maintain peace, unity and brotherhood. It is my appeal to everyone to stay away from any sort of rumour mongering and falsehoods,” Modi said.
Addressing an election rally in Jharkhand, Shah said: “I would like to appeal to the students to first read the CAA… it has no provision to snatch citizenship from anyone. This act is to give citizenship to unfortunate brothers from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who have been victims of religious persecution.”
According to government sources, the HRD Minister has spoken to the vice-chancellors of Aligarth Muslim University, Jamia and JNU, and urged them to engage with the agitating students. V-Cs of all central universities have been asked to keep the HRD Ministry in the loop about protests on campus.
Senior Home Ministry officials, meanwhile, sought to clarify that the amended Act does not make immigrants Indian citizens automatically.
“The central government will frame rules… No migrant from these communities will become Indian citizen automatically. He will have to apply online and the competent authority would see whether he fulfils all the qualifications for registration or naturalisation as Indian citizen,” a senior official said.
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