Puducherry: Rejoining after a semester break, Pondicherry University students renewed their protests against the controversial citizenship and population registration moves of the centre. Prominent activists, including Kannan Gopinathan, former IAS officer who had resigned from the civil service to protest against the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir, participated in the protests organised on the campus especially against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
"Democracy tends to become an autocracy if citizens of a country never question the ruling government. At this point in time, those who keep silence are anti-nationals," Gopinathan told students.
The former IAS officer termed CAA as an 'existential issue.'
"CAA and NRC (National Register of Citizens) are explicitly targeting a particular community in India. This is the apt time to come out and say no to government's fascist approach. I congratulate the students in PU for standing up against dictators," Gopinathan said at the gathering.
PU Coordination Forum organised the talk with Gopinathan; Ayesha Renna, the leader of CAA protests in Jamia Milia Islamia; and Raniya Zulaikha, a CAA opponent from the Delhi University.
The university has been organising strong protests on campus ever since the anti-CAA agitation commenced in other prominent educational institutions up north in the county. PU student community has been boycotting academic hours, but after the semester holidays students decided to make their stand against the implementation of CAA by holding an interactive session.
Gopinathan also slammed the University administration for not granting permission to hold democratic discussions inside campus. He opposed the entry of police officials into the campus.
Ayesha Renna and Raniya Zulaikha, meanwhile, urged the students to continue their fights and protest against CAA and NRC without paying heed to right-wing activities.
"At this point of time we should give less importance to criticisms on slogans and should focus on the complete roll back of CAA and NRC. We all have a common enemy so we should fight against it without any split. CAA supporters are trying to deviate from the real issue by tagging us 'Jihadis,'" Ayesha Renna told Onmanorama.
More than 200 students and research scholars took part in the gathering at Ponlait Bhim Centre in University amidst slogans in support of CAA by right-wing activists. University officials had restricted three prominent speakers from giving talks on CAA and NRC. Nevertheless, student community stood up in support of them as they explained the perils of these policies.
Ashok Sadasivan, a member in PU Coordination Forum, termed the CAA protests as "a fight for re-defining secularism in India."
"Secularism has been defined by ruling elites and Brahmanical classes. With the Constitution in one hand and Quran in other hand Muslims can come out for protest. When they attacked Dalits we resisted as Dalits, when they attacked women we responded as women. So when they attack Muslims, we will resist as Muslims. The Constitution has given full freedom as well to do so," Sadasivan told Onmanorama.