CAA protests spread, PM calls for calm

Students hit the streets over Jamia ‘crackdown’ | Cong, TMC take on Centre | SC hearing today

CAA protests spread, PM calls for calm

New Delhi, December 16

Protests erupted across the country today against the police crackdown in Jamia Millia Islamia here and the controversial citizenship law as students and political leaders took to the streets, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi called these protests “deeply distressing” and appealed for peace.

Congress’ Priyanka Gandhi Vadra holds a sit-in at India Gate. 
Manas Ranjan Bhui

The lines between anger at the police action against Jamia students and the protests over the Citizenship Amendment Act, which will grant citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, blurred into a unison of protest — from Uttar Pradesh to Kerala and Maharashtra to West Bengal.

The police clampdown on Jamia students became yet another rallying point for the Congress-led Opposition, which is already up in arms against the Modi government over the CAA since its passage last week by Parliament. Apart from the Congress, leaders of four other political parties held a joint press conference to demand an inquiry by a Supreme Court judge into the Sunday evening incident on the campus.

“It is the Centre which is solely responsible for the violence in the country for bringing a law that is being opposed all over the country and by all Opposition parties. Had the government not brought this law, there would not have been any violence,” said Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said.

Jamia students raise slogans during a protest in New Delhi. PTI

Congress leaders, led by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, held a silent protest from 4 pm to 6 pm at India Gate to press home their point. While Priyanka said “an attack on students is an attack on the soul of India”, her mother and party chief Sonia Gandhi issued a statement later, accusing the BJP of creating instability in the country. “The BJP is mother of violence and divisiveness,” Sonia alleged in the statement.

Student protesters also demanded a probe into the use of teargas inside the Jamia library as well as police entering the campus without permission from university authorities. Country's premier institutions - IIT Kanpur, IIT Madras and IIT Bombay - which are not the regular ones to join any agitation, came out against the police action.

In West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee took out a rally in Kolkata and declared the CAA and NRC could be enforced in the state only over her “dead body”, while daring the Centre to dismiss her government.

The protests snowballed into a major flashpoint in the state with highways and railway lines blocked and incidents of arson and loot reported from many places.

In Kerala, rivals UDF and LDF, in a rare show of camaraderie, protested jointly against the police action.

Stepping in to quell the unrest, the Union Home Ministry asked states and Union Territories to take steps to check violence.

Life was thrown out of gear in several places in the North-East with trains between West Bengal and the North-East coming to a halt as the Railways suspended all services to the northern region of the state, officials said.

Several Delhi University students boycotted exams and held a protest outside the Arts Faculty in North Campus to express their solidarity with the movement.

At ground zero of the student movement, thousands of students took to the streets in the national capital against the police crackdown at Jamia with demonstrations at the university and Delhi University campuses amid heavy police deployment.

Fifty detained Jamia students were released early on Monday but tension continued on the campus. Jamia Vice-Chancellor Najma Akhtar supported the students, saying police entered the campus without permission. “We will not tolerate police presence on campus. They scared our students with police brutality,” she said, adding the university would file an FIR over damage to property and police action on students. She also demanded a high-level inquiry from the government.

In Lucknow's Nadwa College, students gathered in the hundreds to protest as police tried to control the situation. They briefly hurled stones at the police who threw the missiles back over a campus gate.

In Hyderabad's Maulana Azad Urdu University, students held a march post midnight in solidarity with the Jamia students. There were angry demonstrations at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in Varanasi and at the Jadavpur University in Kolkata. Students from Mumbai University and Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) also protested on the streets. - PTI

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