Hindu tradition puts educators on a very high pedestal. They are seen not only as imparters of knowledge but as upholders of truth and as role models. Therefore, when the Hindu community comes across academics who knowingly and maliciously partake in promoting blatant lies, it finds it hard to process it. This article is about one such incident.
On 18 December 2019, academics across the world came together to sign a petition. It was published in Firstpost and claimed that over 10,000 academics had lent their signatures to it. This list of signatories included prominent academicians like Romila Thapar, Noam Chomsky, Sheldon Pollock, and Nivedita Menon, amongst others. While the long list of 10,000 academics is used to give weightage to the petition, what catches our eye in the petition is not just the long list of prominent names that have signed the petition but the blatant lies and partial truths which fill the statement of the petition.
Here is the petition quoted in its entirety:
We, the undersigned, condemn in the strongest possible terms the police brutality in Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi, and the ongoing illegal siege and curfew imposed on Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh.
On 15th December 2019 Delhi police in riot-gear illegally entered the Jamia Millia campus and attacked students who are peacefully protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act. The Act bars Muslims from India’s neighboring countries from the acquisition of Indian citizenship. It contravenes the right to equality and secular citizenship enshrined in the Indian constitution. On the 15th at JMIU, police fired tear gas shells, entered hostels and attacked students studying in the library and praying in the mosque.
Over 200 students have been severely injured, many who are in critical condition. Because of the blanket curfew and internet blockage imposed at AMU, we fear a similar situation of violence is unfolding, without any recourse to the press or public. The peaceful demonstration and gathering of citizens, does not constitute criminal conduct. The police action in the Jamia Millia Islamia and AMU campuses is blatantly illegal under the constitution of India.
We stand in unconditional solidarity with the students, faculty and staff of Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University, and express our horror at this violent police and state action. With them, we affirm the right of citizens to peaceful protest and the autonomy of the university as a non-militarized space for freedom of thought and expression.
The brutalization of students and the attack on universities is against the fundamental norms of a democratic society. As teachers, students, scholars and members of civil society across the world, we are watching with extreme concern the situation unfolding at Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University. We refuse to remain silent at the violence unleashed on our colleagues (students, staff, and faculty) peacefully protesting the imposition of a discriminatory and unjust law.
For the sake of clarity, let me first list the key statements of the petition again.
- “On the 15th at JMIU, police fired tear gas shells, entered hostels, and attacked students studying in the library and praying in the mosque.”
- “Because of the blanket curfew and internet blockage imposed at AMU, we fear a similar situation of violence is unfolding without any recourse to the press or public. The peaceful demonstration and gathering of citizens do not constitute criminal conduct.
- “The police action in the Jamia Millia Islamia and AMU campuses is blatantly illegal under the constitution of India.
- “We stand in unconditional solidarity with the students, faculty, and staff of Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University and express our horror at this violent police and state action.
- “The brutalization of students and the attack on universities is against the fundamental norms of a democratic society.”
Now, let me address the above points line by line:
- “Students studying in the library and praying in the mosque”– They were not. We shall see video evidence in the next section.
- “Peaceful demonstration and gathering of citizens do not constitute criminal conduct” –The demonstrations were not peaceful. We already saw video evidence as well as police statements.
- The police action in […] campuses is blatantly illegal under the constitution of India – Chasing down stone pelters and rioters is not illegal. The reasons are as follows:
- Under Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) sections 129-132 – “Maintenance of Public Order and Tranquility”, which deals with unlawful gathering and dispersing of such a gathering by our police personnel and armed forces, the police have a right to use force for dispersing any gathering which endangers the lives of innocent public.
- According to the Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 99-106, which deals with the right to self-defense, which also extends to police personnel, the police had the right to use force and fire at the rioters who were pelting stones at them.
- Under the “The Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984”, damaging public property listed under sections 2 and 3, which includes “means of transportation” (in our case, a school bus) and public buildings, is a criminal offense. If the damage is caused using fire or explosives, it is a non-bailable offense. Under this section, the police have a right to try and prevent any such damage and arrest the people involved, even using force.
- “The brutalization of students and the attack on universities is against the fundamental norms of a democratic society.” – Chasing rioters who entered the campus is neither a brutalization of students nor an attack on universities. If anything, one should ask why the rioters ran into a university to hide. What protection did they expect? From who? How? Answering some of these questions will help deduce why the rioters were mingling with students and students were hiding rioters amidst them. Also, which fundamental norms of democratic society are they talking about? Are they merely throwing in big words to sound like intellectuals?
- Most importantly, this petition signed by these 10,000 “academics” carries this line – “The Act bars Muslims from India’s neighboring countries from the acquisition of Indian citizenship,” – which is a blatant and outright lie. The Act does not bar anyone from seeking citizenship of India legitimately, as is seen from the original text of the act cited above. This is the crux of the whole lie—The Act does not bar anyone from seeking citizenship of India “legitimately.”—So what, then, was the purpose of the petition? Were the academics unaware that the act did not bar anyone from seeking citizenship legally? O were the academics knowingly endorsing a lie?
Academics Lie by Omission
If endorsing a blatant lie was not bad enough, what makes this petition even more dangerous is what was omitted from being mentioned, and perhaps deliberately so. Here are a few things not mentioned in the petition:
- Their statement does not mention that the students were violent and had burned buses, that they had pelted stones at the police as well as a public transport vehicle, including one school bus with school-going kids in it.
- Their statement does not mention that these so-called “students” had involvement in the principal opposition party INC, as well as its student wing. This is significant, as INC is a political party and was opposing CAA purely for political reasons. So, the students’ wing of a political party participating in the protests as innocent students moved into protesting out of a sense of justice is a distortion of the truth. They had a political motivation. This is not all; INC leaders themselves then spread lies and
- The statement does not mention that these “peacefully protesting students of Jamia” were backed by PFI, an organization banned in many parts of the country, and under the scanner of law enforcement for its link to ISIS. 
- Their statement does not mention that sheltered by the so-called students of Jamia, a 50-year-old man hurled a petrol bomb at the police.
- Their statement, alleging that 200 students were injured, fails to acknowledge that, due to the violence by these students and other rioters across the country, over 260 police personnel were injured, and 15 lost their lives.
What makes this whole situation tragic is that nowhere in the statements by these 10,000 prominent academics is the plight of the Hindus, Sikhs, and other non-Muslim minorities of Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, who are the beneficiaries of the CAA, even mentioned. Not only is this petition fraught with blatant lies, it actually disregards the plight of the non-Muslim minorities of neighboring countries. Nowhere do we see even a mention of persecuting the minorities of these countries. Do the lives of these Hindus do not matter at all? Even if we accept that the lives of Hindus do not matter to these academics, what about the lives of the Christian, Jain, Buddhist, Sikh, and Parsi minorities of these Muslim countries? Do their lives or their human rights not matter either?
A simple look at the demographic history would explain what was being deliberately left unsaid. From 1947 to date, the combined non-Muslim population of Pakistan and Bangladesh (East Pakistan) has decreased from 23% to less than 3%.
More Video Evidence Emerges
As if this were not enough, on 15th February 2020, the hashtag “Jamia Violence” again trended on social media after a gap of quite a few days. On investigating the hashtag, viral footage of about 48 seconds was found being circulated. That footage was seen flashing across many prominent news channels in India. The video showed some cops entering the Jamia library and beating up what seemed to be innocent students. The footage was made public by a handle on Twitter that called itself “Jamia Coordination Committee.” There was a link to the footage. This social media handle associated with the JCC has since been hidden from public view using the protection feature of Twitter. Here is a related news link.
A few hours later on the same day, India Today, a prominent mainstream news channel, broadcast much longer footage of another CCTV camera from Jamia Library, which showed students entering the library with stones in their hands and then rearranging the desks and tables around the library before sitting down in poses, which seemed quite like what was seen in the previously released viral footage. The full CCTV footage was later released by Delhi Police. If we look at all the available CCTV footage together, it becomes nearly indisputable that the so-called police violence against ‘innocent-looking students – who were just studying in the library’, was doctored and did not give the entire picture. As the “staging” of the video became apparent, an outrage ensued from those condemning the violent protests, resulting in the Jamia University Officials releasing statements saying that the earlier viral video was not released by them and that they had nothing to do with it. “It has come to our notice that some videos regarding police brutalities in Dr. Zakir Hussain library are in circulation. This is to clarify that the video has not been released by the university,” Jamia Millia Islamia University administration said in a statement. The university officials went on to say that the JCC is not even an officially elected student body. Besides the video mentioned earlier, another video surfaced  where they were seen pelting stones at the police from inside the Jamia campus and entering the campus after rioting outside.
We thus see from the video evidence that the students were not innocent, nor were the protests as peaceful as the academics would like to portray. In all likelihood, at least some of the academics knew the truth about their respective campuses. Yet they signed a lie.
- The CAA Act was not only just but long overdue. It was a promise made to the Hindus of Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan at the time of Independence.
- The protests were not at all peaceful, as the video evidence clearly shows.
- The so-called ‘innocent students’ were anything but innocent, and as we have seen, they certainly were not “studying in the library” or “praying in the mosque”.
- The police action was restrained and well within the bounds of the applicable laws.
- Tracking down people throwing petrol bombs at the public and indulging in rioting and arson is not an attack on the universities or a democratic society.
One wonders why these “academics” were so eager to put their signatures to such blatantly false propaganda and cared so little for the facts. At the very least, they could have waited for the full picture to emerge before issuing statements. Are they merely woefully ignorant or maleficent and willfully blind? What credibility must we attribute to such academics and their writings? I leave it to you to decide.
- “The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019,” The Hindu Center, December 19, 2019, https://www.thehinducentre.com/resources/article30327343.ece.
- Farahnaz Ispahani, “Cleansing Pakistan of Minorities,” by Farahnaz Ispahani, July 31, 2013, https://www.hudson.org/research/9781-cleansing-pakistan-of-minorities.
- Samir Kalra, “VICTIMS OF HISTORY: The Untold Story of Pakistani Hindu Refugees in India.” Hindu American Foundation, March 31, 2013 https://www.hinduamerican.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Victims-of-history-untold-story-pakistani-hindu-refugees-india.pdf.
- “Why Pakistani Hindus Leave Their Homes for India,” BBC News (BBC, October 28, 2015), https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-34645370.
- Associated News Network, “Citizenship Act Fulfills Promise Made to Minorities in Pakistan by Gandhi, Nehru: Kerala Governor: India News – Times of India,” The Times of India (TOI, December 21, 2019), https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/citizenship-act-fulfills-promise-made-to-minorities-in-pakistan-by-gandhi-nehru-kerala-governor/articleshow/72920246.cms.
- Arvind Ojha, “Delhi Police Names Former Congress MLA Asif Khan, 6 Others in FIR on Jamia Violence,” India Today, December 17, 2019, https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/former-congress-mla-named-accused-in-jamia-university-violence-1629170-2019-12-17.
- “Delhi Police: Delhi में पकड़े गए 3 ISIS Terrorists का Popular Front of India से संबंध,” Zee News, Jan 3, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_c2hSpxJ7aM.
- Inderjit Kundu, “Citizenship protests spread to Bengal, protesters torch 5 trains, 3 railway stations, damage property”, India Today, Dec 15, 2019, https://www.indiatoday.in/mail-today/story/citizenship-protests-spread-to-bengal-protesters-torch-5-trains-3-railway-stations-damage-property-1628370-2019-12-15.
- Arvind Ojha, “CAA Protest: 3 Buses Torched near Delhi’s Jamia Nagar, Police Resort to Tear Gas, Lathicharge,” India Today, December 15, 2019, https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/caa-protest-3-buses-torched-delhi-jamia-nagar-police-resort-tear-gas-lathicharge-1628469-2019-12-15.
- OpIndia Staff, “Watch: Jamia ‘Students’ with Stones in Hand Taking Shelter in Library before Police Barged in during Anti-CAA Riots,” OpIndia, February 16, 2020, https://www.opindia.com/2020/02/jamia-students-library-viral-video-stones-delhi-police/.
- FP Staff, “Full Text: 10,000 Academics, Members of Civil Society Sign Petition to Protest Police Action at Jamia Millia, Curfew at AMU,” Firstpost, December 18, 2019, https://www.firstpost.com/india/full-text-10000-academics-members-of-civil-society-sign-petition-to-protest-police-action-at-jamia-millia-curfew-at-amu-7796171.html.
- Karan Pradhan, “Jamia Millia and Amu Solidarity Statement – Signatories List,” Scribd (Scribd, December 2019), https://www.scribd.com/document/440193101/Jamia-Millia-and-Amu-Solidarity-Statement-Signatories-list.
- Italicized for emphasis.
- See the section “More Video Evidence Emerges”
- See the section “More Video Evidence Emerges”
- Associate News Network, “Ex-Congress MLA Served Notice in Connection with Violence during Anti-CAA Stir,” Yahoo! News (Yahoo!, January 24, 2020), https://in.news.yahoo.com/ex-congress-mla-served-notice-connection-violence-during-033958890.html.
- Business Today, “Popular Front of India Mobilised Rs 120 Crore to Fund Anti-CAA Protests, Claims ED,” Business Today, January 27, 2020, https://www.businesstoday.in/current/economy-politics/ed-says-pfi-mobilised-money-to-fund-anti-caa-protests/story/394730.html.
- Niharika Prabhakar, “Jharkhand Govt Bans Popular Front of India for ISIS Links,” Inshorts, January 1, 1970, https://inshorts.com/en/news/jharkhand-govt-bans-popular-front-of-india-for-isis-links-1519275720470.
- Kabir Taneja and Mohammed Sinan Siyech, “The Islamic State in India’s Kerala: A Primer,” ORF, October 2019, https://www.orfonline.org/research/the-islamic-state-in-indias-kerala-a-primer-56634/.
- Web Desk, “ISIS Terrorist’s Confession Exposes Popular Front of India: ‘PFI Leader Encouraged Me to Join ISIS’,” Organiser (Organiser, October 6, 2019), https://www.organiser.org/Encyc/2019/10/6/ISIS-terrorist-confession-exposes-Popular-Front-of-India.html.
- General News, “Anti-CAA Protest: Man Who Hurled Petrol Bombs at Cops near Jamia University Identified,” Business Standard (Business-Standard, December 19, 2019), https://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ani/anti-caa-protest-man-who-hurled-petrol-bombs-at-cops-near-jamia-university-identified-119121900866_1.html.
- India Today Web Desk, “Anti-CAA Stir: 15 Dead, 263 Police Personnel Injured since Dec 10, Says UP Top Cop,” India Today, December 21, 2019, https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/up-anti-caa-citizenship-law-violence-clashes-dead-police-injured-ig-1630398-2019-12-21.
- Refer to footnote number 7
- Times Now, “Jamia Violence: New CCTV Footage Shows Delhi Police Attacking Students in Library,” The Economic Times, February 16, 2020, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/jamia-violence-new-cctv-footage-shows-delhi-police-attacking-students-in-library/videoshow/74157538.cms.
- “Watch Video of Jamia Library Violence,” India Today, February 16, 2020, https://www.indiatoday.in/india/video/watch-video-of-jamia-library-violence-1647050-2020-02-16.
- India Today Web Desk, “Jamia Distances Itself from Video Showing Police Lathicharge inside Library, Says Not Released by Us,” India Today, February 16, 2020, https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/jamia-distances-itself-from-video-showing-police-lathicharge-inside-library-says-not-released-by-us-1647042-2020-02-16.
- OpIndia Staff, “Watch: CCTV Video Shows Stone Pelting from inside the Jamia Premises during Riots,” OpIndia, February 18, 2020, https://www.opindia.com/2020/02/watch-video-jamia-riots-stone-pelting-on-delhi-police-from-inside-campus/