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Telangana Cops Serve Stale Notices To Students Over Peaceful Protests
HYDERABAD || Amal Jose, executive committee member of the National Students Union of India (NSUI) at Hyderabad Central University in Telangana, was part of thousands of students across the country protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act of December 2019 that introduced religion as a criterion for citizenship for the first time in independent India.
A student of political science, he protested peacefully with unions from other education institutions in Hyderabad, including Maulana Azad National Urdu University, in February this year. What he did not know, however, was that an FIR would be lodged against him for this protest.
Now, as police begin to serve notices on students after lodging an FIR against them, Jose is foxed. Fellow student Manikanta received a notice through India Post on October 10; tracking the post through the internet, it was found to have been dispatched on October 8. Yet, Manikanta had been asked, in the notice, to appear at the police station and offer an explanation for why he should not be arrested October 6!
Sonal Narayan, another student who was served notice to appear at the police station on October 6 says he received the notice only on October 14. “I had no clue an FIR had been lodged in the matter, and we are accused of disturbing peace. All we did was discuss the issue, which is what we are meant to do as students; we got together to protest, we made a few speeches. The policemen present at the site also appeared to understand that this was a peaceful protest, and besides ordinary crowd control measures and streamlining of the protesters, there was nothing else the policemen did that day – we were not even told we could not continue to protest. It was actually all quite peaceful that day.”
Fourteen students are named in the FIR lodged at the Raidurgam police station in Cyberabad on February 21, 2020 by sub-inspector S Muraleedhar. According to the FIR, the students “illegally gathered at Coffee Day shop”; they conducted a rally without permission, threatening to “break tranquility”. The FIR mentions “provocative lectures” and “slogans against the Central government”, and has been filed under Sections 143 (unlawful assembly) 188 (disobedience of order promulgated by public servant) and 34 (acts done in furtherance of a common intention) of the IPC.
National Students Union of India in a press release noted that the coordination committees of the students of the two universities had jointly and peacefully protested the Citizenship Amendment Act. The press release asserted that peaceful protests will continue, despite the harassment and the FIR.
After the lockdown, many students travelled home to other parts of the country; some worry that their prospects of public employment or further studies abroad may be marred by the FIR. A police officer,has been quoted by the media as saying : “We have only sent notices, we have not arrested them.”
-- Rosamma Thomas
(The writer is a senior journalist and a guest contributor with TNA)