Aligarh Muslim University relay hunger strike
Students of Aligarh Muslim University have started a relay hunger strike against the new citizenship matrix and also to mount pressure on the vice-chancellor and registrar to step down amid continuing outrage over the varsity’s decision to call police to quell a protest last year.
The relay fast began on Friday evening at the Bab-e-Sayed, the institute’s main gate, and the students have warned of a “full-fledged” hunger strike if VC Tariq Mansoor and registrar Abdul Hamid did not resign.
AMU students had started a dharna against the Citizenship Amendment Act on December 15 and are furious with the VC for allowing the police to enter the campus the same evening.
Police and paramilitary forces had entered hostels and the varsity mess and tear-gassed and baton-charged students, leaving many injured.
Proctor Afifullah Khan had resigned on February 4 under pressure from the students.
Among those on relay hunger strike are Arif Tyagi, Raves Ali Khan and Mohammad Muzzamil — third-year students of the department of social sciences — who have written to the district authorities and the university administration informing them of their fast.
They have also said a full-fledged, indefinite mass hunger strike would be started after 72 hours — from Monday evening — if their demands were ignored.
“Initially, we had started a sit-in against the amended citizenship act but the university authorities succumbed to pressure from the Yogi Adityanath government and gave written permission to the police to target the students,” Faizul Hassan, a student leader, said.
“The VC and other senior staff proved by their action that they were anti-student and anti-democracy. We cannot accept those elements on the AMU campus who cannot protect the students.”
The VC has admitted that he had written to the local administration to rein in the protesting students. The Uttar Pradesh government too has, in an affidavit in Allahabad High Court in a related case, said the VC had requested local police to enter the campus.
On Saturday, the 70th day of their protest, the students said the government appeared to have underestimated their resolve. “The government believes that it can frustrate us by ignoring our demands. What they fail to see is that our agitation is growing. From a routine dharna, it has turned into a relay hunger strike and now we are preparing for a full-fledged mass hunger strike,” said Mohammad Akhlaq, a student.
Elsewhere in Aligarh, over 1,000 women who were on dharna on the Shah Jamal ground for the last 25 days against the CAA, National Register of Citizens and the National Population Register marched to Kotwali police station on Saturday and sat on dharna there.
“The police prevented us from putting up a shamiana at the dharna site. So we marched to the police station and sat here,” a woman protester said.
An officer said the police had requested Khalid Hamid, the shahar-e-mufti (chief cleric), to request the women to return to the Shah Jamal ground.
“The government believes the dharna would end if the protesters are ignored. We are merely following instructions,” the police officer said.