New Delhi: More than 400 students, alumni and academics from universities across the US — including Harvard and Yale — have written a harshly-worded statement condemning police action in Jamia Millia Islamia University and Aligarh Muslim University.
The statement expresses “full solidarity with students across universities in India who are peacefully protesting against the recent passing of the unconstitutional and discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act”.
Other signatories include those from Columbia University, New York University, Stanford University, the University of Michigan, University of Chicago, and Brown University.
The statement terms police action on 15 December as a “gross violation of human rights under the Constitution of India and International Human Rights Law”. It says “releasing tear gas in libraries, and brutal use of force against civilians is a blatant violation of the law and can only shock the conscience of any democratic society”.
The statement goes on to defend the right to peaceful protest as enshrined in the Constitution of India under Articles 19(1)a and 19(1)b, and writes that police excesses “indicate complete negation of every norm that guide the functioning of the police in a democratic society governed by the rule of law”.
“Seen further in the light of the fact that most victims of this brutality were Muslim, these incidents stand out as shocking instantiations of targeted violence against a minority,” says the statement.
“Any use of force by law enforcement must be within the strict confines of the principles of legality, legitimacy, necessity and proportionality under International Human Rights Law.”
Signatories called upon Home Minister Amit Shah to either take “necessary steps to curb police brutality, or resign”.
Among their demands is the withdrawal of police forces from the Jamia Millia University campus, Aligarh Muslim University campus and others, restoration of students’ rights to peaceful protest, and “immediate, independent, and robust investigation into the abuse of power by the Delhi Police, Uttar Pradesh Police, and the Central Reserve Police Force”.
Assam and CJI
Citing the deaths of five civilians in Assam, the statement also condemns violence against protesters in the state.
“This combined with the unlawful denial of access to the internet in the state, has completely blocked news reports of events on the ground, including the ability of the protestors to represent their demands and report unlawful police action,” it says.
The letter also expresses “concern” over the Chief Justice of India’s “terming these protests as ‘riots’ and characterising this situation as simply one for the police to handle as a law and order problem, without recognising the violation of the rights of protestors, and especially the degree of violence unleashed on them”.