Last night, on the 15th-16th of December, 2019, a protest was organised by various students’ organisations hailing from different universities in Delhi. This was a protest to condemn police brutalities, sponsored by the right wing BJP government, against Muslim students who were peacefully protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), now updated as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), after the Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha, last Wesdnesday. The police, a fundamental body that secures legalities, illegally infiltrated the campuses of Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia University, where they almost fatally injured these students, in order to disrupt their protests. They fired rounds, lathi charged, threw tear gas in the open as well as closed spaces like the library, sexually assaulted women and heckled at the students who were showing their disapproval towards the CAA, NRC (National Register Of Citizens Of India) and NPR (National Population Register), by sloganeering and singing songs of dissent and revolution.
These protests turned really violent, really soon, with students running around with bruised bodies and tearful eyes to help one another escape the situation and take shelter in their respective hostels or homes. However, the police did not stop there. Their intention was not simply to disperse the protesters, but to physically follow them to their houses and batter them with their sticks, that were tainted with the blood of many. They abused them with slangs like “behenchod (sister-fucker)” and aggressively interrogated their audacity to question the Modi-Shah government. The university space, which is home to so many students were turned into spaces of terror and hostility. In such difficult times, the question that arises and remains is – who are the people who actually turned the peaceful protests violent?
Who Were The Police Saving?
On Sunday, Delhi police, without any discussion or the permission of Najma Akhtar, the Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia University, entered the University space, a home to many students, and violently used their arms – lathis, tear gas bombs, guns – to attack and terrorise the unarmed students and the university staff. The institution and its administration could have mediated between the police and the students, or at least warned them about the impending violence, but the police ensured that there was no space for mitigation. In case of Aligarh Muslim University, it has been difficult to even understand the extent of militarisation in and around its campus, due to the internet shutdown that has been enforced in the area by the government.
The treatment of these students by the police was unconstitutional, as these people in uniforms made a havoc out of a protest where Muslim students were exercising their right to express dissent against their government forces, which far from protecting them, are seizing their human rights and citizenship. They are enforcing a culture of fear, that would terminate any criticism against the government. These students were marked both as victims and criminals at the same time. Such a ruthless and reckless sample of violence by the police makes us wonder : Who were the police saving, and from whom? Why did they disrupt the protest through state-enabled police violence, if the students themselves did not do anything disruptive?
The “second class-ness” of these groups or individuals are reinforced every time the country has a situation of crisis, whereby their existence through citizenship or human rights are held up for debate. And due to this very uncertainty which has been structurally constructed by dominant groups, the police are able to use their power illegally over them.
The police is a body that is empowered by the state to protect the lives, liberty and possessions of the citizens of a country. However in India, the police have always treated its “second class citizens” (Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis, Queer people) with violence, regardless of whether they were asked to mitigate a situation or not. The “second class-ness” of these groups or individuals are reinforced every time the country has a situation of crisis, whereby their existence through citizenship or human rights are held up for debate. And due to this very uncertainty which has been structurally constructed by dominant groups, the police are able to use their power illegally over them.
Activists on the internet claim that such a specimen of brutality would never happen in “secular” universities like Jawaharlal Nehru University, or Hindu universities, like the Banaras Hindu University, since the majority of the students are Hindus in these institutions, unlike Jamia Millia University or Aligarh Muslim University. This is mainly because, the “secular” is no longer an ethic of religious tolerance or co-existence in India. The “secular”, in the present-day context, is defined by the Hindu dominance, and therefore the consequent absence of Muslim people.
Structural Changes And A Big Hit To Democracy
The minoritization of any group or community is not simply demonstrated by numbers or stats, but it is a continuous process of dehumanising initiatives by authoritative bodies such as the state, legislative or religious leaders.
If we do not speak up now, the country will suffer structural changes that will subject its people to a grave state of mock democracy. People will no longer be allowed to question its government, demand their rights, express themselves or exist without surveillance.
Since 2014, the BJP government has attacked the Muslims in a number of ways. They have pretended to be the “saviours” of Muslim women from Muslim men in the case of the Triple Talaq Bill, they have created a “lynchistan”, where mobs all around the country have mercilessly killed Muslim men, they had implemented the NRC, in order to list down “illegal” Muslim migrants in Assam thereby increasing surveillance and denying citizenship and very recently, due to the overwhelming atmosphere of Hindutva, the Supreme Court conveniently passed the Ayodhya judgement, that declared the Babri Masjid ahistorical, without any punitive measures for the demolition and vandalism that was filmed and documented in 1992. And now with the CAA, the government has unabashedly declared their hostility towards the Muslim people of India, by refusing to include them in the amended Citizenship Act.
These state-sanctioned measures were introduced in an attempt to slowly, yet steadily make India a Hindu nation and destroy its democracy. Today, acts of vandalism on non-human things are taking precedence over vandalised bodies of Muslims and women. The police defended their unforgivable and heinous act of barbarity on grounds of protecting the property of Jamia Millia Islamia University. But who will defend the Muslim bodies that are being targeted and threatened through such vehement acts of terrorism?
If we do not speak up now, the country will suffer structural changes that will subject its people to a grave state of mock democracy. People will no longer be allowed to question its government, demand their rights, express themselves or exist without surveillance. The citizenry will have to prove their citizenship at every step of their lives. The governments will tweak their laws and legislations, in ways that are convenient to sustain their dictatorship.
The pictures have been provided by the author herself.