At a time when the country is going through dark times, when its Constitution is being undemocratically dismantled under the pretense of “One Nation, One Flag, One Law,” when the stakeholders of the nation are not allowed to speak for themselves, the progressive students of the University of Hyderabad on August 5, 2019 decided to gather under the banners of SFI, ASA, MSF, DSU, TVV, AISA, SIO and JKSA in solidarity with the people of Kashmir, whose right to have a say in decisions concerning them was taken away brutally by the NDA government.
Two hours after the protest call was given, the SFI received calls from the police officials who informed us that Section 144 has been implemented in the city and warned us with legal action if we went forward with the protest. The university too issued a notification informing us of the imposition of Section 144 and “prohibiting all protests, agitations and assembling of five or more persons with immediate effect.”
Following this imposition, police officers forced a group of Kashmiri students who were sitting together, having tea to disperse and when questioned showed them the notification of the imposition of Section 144.
Despite this, the progressive student community went ahead and started gathering at the venue, seeing which the security personnel of the university started assembling in large numbers. As the number of students started increasing, the police too came in. They refused to let the students gather in numbers more than four and ordered the banners and posters of different organisations to be taken away.
When we questioned them about the implementation of Section 144 in university spaces, they showed the students the notification issued by the Cyberabad Police Commissionerate and started confiscating the protest posters and effigies. They threatened us that we would be arrested if we did not disperse. Still, the students remained unmoved and refused to disperse.
Meanwhile, some students belonging to the ABVP (Akhila Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad), the student wing of the BJP, started pointing out students who were part of the protest and asked the security and police officers to make us disperse. Soon, even CRPF officers had assembled at the protest site and started asking students to disperse.
Finally, due to the pressure of the state machinery, the protesting student community decided to disperse after a short gathering in which, representatives from different organisations condemned the actions of the NDA government and extended solidarity to the people of Kashmir and the Kashmiri students in the campus. While the gathering was underway, the ABVP karyakartas started sloganeering and mocking the protesting students of the campus following which, the protesting students too raised slogans.
But, the security and the police tried to stop only the protesting students and did not raise even a finger against the ABVP karyakartas, which shows the clear-cut policy of the state and the administration.
After going through this confusing and frightening experience, the students were further baffled when they got to know through news articles that there was, in reality, no Section 144 imposed. The enquiry by students only led to further confusion, as the Cyberabad Commissionerate reiterated the story they gave to the media, while the SI of Police, Gachibowli, informed us that it is imposed. Amidst all this, the students continue to suffer from uncertainty as just yesterday, the ABVP called the security officials on Kashmiri students were gathered informally at the University Shopping Complex.
The progressive students here are worried as it is not only the state that is against them but also the obviously right-wing university administration and the right-wing student organisations on the campus. All trying to manipulate them and prevent them from voicing their dissent.
The students ask: was the Section truly imposed? If yes, then why is the Commissionerate denying it now? If no, then what were the police and CRPF doing inside the campus? Questions to which they still haven’t got answers.
The imposition or the apparent imposition of Section 144 on university spaces is a clear warning of the times to come. It is the right of every citizen to protest against and question the policies of the government, but this government imposes Section 144 to curb the rights of the people without any provocation from them.
The state trying to prevent a peaceful protest against its policies should be enough to prove to the citizens of India the dictatorial rule that this government is trying to impose. If there is any person who believes that this dictatorial method that the government has also used in scrapping Section 370 and Section 35(A) is exclusive to Kashmir, and they will remain untouched are living under a delusion. Today, Section 144 is imposed on the University of Hyderabad but tomorrow, it will be on every dissenting space. And this reality is not very hard for us to imagine as the horrors of the Emergency period is still fresh in our minds.