People across the world took to social media to express digital solidarity against the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) and brutality against students. Many students across prominent universities in the world are taking the revolution to the streets.
Students from major universities from the US, North America and Europe are voicing dissent against the Hindutva agenda at large, and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in particular. Oxford, Harvard, Yale, MIT University, University of Toronto are some prominent names that took to the streets mostly in sub-zero temperatures. And they intended to express solidarity with students of Jamia Millia Islamia University, AMU and other Indian universities who are actively striving to preserve democracy.
Globally, there is a large population of Indian origin students in many of these countries to pursue education and work. In solidarity, the faculty across these institutions joined in as well, showing their support for the students. Hundreds of students used multiple modes of communicating their opinions from posters to revolutionary poetry and speeches by prominent student activists and researchers.
Students Find It Unconstitutional
First of all, the Act in itself embodies an unconstitutional character since it selectively applies the Act of citizenship based on religion. The intertwining of politics and religion is neither recent nor coincidental. This relationship occupies centrality when it comes to divisive politics, be it the partition of India-Pakistan, the Israel-Palestine conflict or the antisemitism in Germany in the past and the present. Therefore, the secular component of the constitution was a major theme across these movements. Also, the protesters frequently remembered and paid tribute to the architects of the constitution and prominent figures of the freedom struggle such as Ambedkar, Maulana Azad and Gandhi.
THE INTERTWINING OF POLITICS AND RELIGION IS NEITHER RECENT NOR COINCIDENTAL.
‘Shame, Shame’ was a popular chant conveying the extent to which the current fascist regime is puncturing the constitution. These chants condemned the Hindutva organizations such as RSS but also targeted directly, the prime minister, Narendra Modi and the home minister, Amit Shah. In chorus, people cried ‘Fascist Modi’, ‘Down-Down Modi-Shah’. Also, at the Harvard protest, demonstrators recited the preamble to the Indian Constitution. They also observed two minutes of silence to honour the demonstrators who died and sustained injuries. Protesters carried candles, Indian flags, and signs with slogans such as ‘Repeal CAA2019’ and ‘No human is illegal.’ In Berlin too, chants of ‘Berlin for India’, ‘We must resist, ‘Stand Against World Fascism’ were unanimous as the country has not-so-long-ago lived under a fascist ruler.
The Islamophobic Agenda of CAA-NRC
Continuing the stride of Hindutva supremacy, the very fabric of this Act prepares to move Muslims down to ‘second-order citizens’. This follows the tracks of the ongoing issue of the Kashmir genocide and the recently fast-tracked Ayodhya verdict. Apart from these institutional structures that promote hatred towards Muslims, there is the daily level of violence that we have seen in the cases of mob lynching by Hindutva forces. Additionally, the third pillar to this process of creating fear is the WhatsApp university that enrols billions of Indians who passionately engage in spreading fake images and anecdotes. This becomes one of the fundamental units of information for Hindutva supporters on complex historical processes as the partition, the Ayodha conflict as well as contemporary ones such as the Rohingya refugee crisis and immigration to India.
THE VERY FABRIC OF THIS ACT IS BUILT UPON MOVING MUSLIMS DOWN TO ‘SECOND-ORDER CITIZENS’.
The protests in unison also called for a boycott for NRI funding towards the Hindutva organization which formed a major share of BJP party funds for its election this year. It is with the curbing cash flow and lack of support from liberal expats that the majoritarian forces in political parties in India can be controlled.
All Against State Repression
Again, silencing the dissenters is not an unseen protocol of the fundamentalist and majoritarian party in the country, the BJP. However, the violent security forces, primarily the police in various states, took it to another level when it stormed the university campuses and peaceful spaces such as the libraries. Neither did this misogynist force spare private spaces such as girls’ hostels. In these situations and parallel many more across various Indian cities, many students were brutally injured and assaulted.
The protestors also voiced out that the implementation of NRC as a follow-up of CAA will normalize such state repression. Violence will be justified in the name of citizenship. Native students from Assam in Toronto openly shared the repercussion of NRC in the state and the exploits of the detention centre. The students from diverse backgrounds believe that the Act and the register would render stateless not just the Muslims, but also the transgenders, the atheists and the illiterate amongst many others.
STATE REPRESSION WOULD BE NORMALIZED WITH THE IMPLEMENTATION OF NRC AS A FOLLOW-UP OF CAA.
More than 400 students and alumni of 19 universities across the US, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Stanford, wrote a letter of support to students at JMI and AMU and condemned the ‘brutal police violence’ against them. Affiliates, in thousands in Toronto, wrote a petition to the Indian consulate and government supporting protests against India’s Citizenship Amendment Act.
Internet shutdowns is another action that the state takes to repress people’s freedom of speech. All the protests maintain that such shutdowns that are now on the rise in India more than ever are a clear indication of controlling mass consciousness. The shutdowns are specifically implemented in areas where protests by citizens are active.
No One is Illegal but Occupation Is
The CAA is not an isolated process according to any of these protests. Simultaneously, the other tools of the Hindutva agenda were under scrutiny amongst all these collectives. The Kashmir internet shutdown, mob lynchings of Muslims in India, injustice towards other minorities such as the Adivasi and Dalit populations in the country were all looked at in conjunction.
“From Turtle Island to Kashmir, occupation is illegal”, read one of the posters in a protest in Toronto. Turtle Island is the indigenous name for North America, and its mention is a conscious call to the ongoing settler colonialism in the region. Colonial processes of dispossession of minorities for development projects, occupation for the sake of proving military prowess, hijacking the land for resources are only snippets of the conditions of displacement, poverty and violence which minorities in India can resonate with very well. Though the two spaces are incomparable but the demand for powerful movements, mobilizing in support of decolonization and resisting imperialism inspired protestors to relate struggles that previously seemed unrelated.
Occupation of lands and territories is now pervading hearts and minds. Frequent incidents of crafting narratives that create a cognitive dissonance on issues is a typical character of BJP initiated policies. Misleading knowledge such as ‘CAA and NRC have nothing to do with each other’, and ‘Article 370 revoked in Kashmir is important for a united nation’ provides a glimpse into the dissonance I mentioned earlier.
OCCUPATION OF LANDS AND TERRITORIES IS NOW PERVADING HEARTS AND MINDS.
Globally, with the rise of right-wing populism, the student population is emerging as a big strength for socio-political movements. Climate change movements initiated by Greta Thunberg, student protests in Hongkong and gun violence strikes by students in the US have become prominent instances in the revolution against forces of religion, capitalism and colonial powers. Indeed, the common thread that binds students across these protests is that liberation must come from within our own communities and nations, being in solidarity with people who believe in ideals of fraternity and equality and not bestowed by people in power.
Featured Image Source: Bapujee Biswabandan