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NLS student body votes against ‘brute majoritarian’ CAA • NUJS joins 8 NLUs slamming cop violence post minor controversy

NLS student body votes against CAA, calls on SC to look into police violence
NLS student body votes against CAA, calls on SC to look into police violence

Following a joint statement by the elected student representative bodies of eight national law university, opposing a police crackdown on student protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019, the NLSIU Bangalore student body as a whole has passed an “unequivocal condemnation” of the police’s “assault on the rule of law, morality and democratic ethos and tradition that is fundamental to dignified living” (see picture above).

In the statement the students also “beseech the judiciary to take due cognizance” and adds that the students believed that the CAA was “completely against the foundational values that the Constitution of India is built upon, and which we so cherish”, noting:

The act is discriminatory, devoid of any reasonable classification, and at its base uses religion as the basis for granting citizenship. In its form and design, it is clear that the law is intended to directly target inter alia the Muslim minority community and is a classic example of a brute majoritarian preference aggregation impinging on the secular fabric that is woven into our founding document. We do not support this legislation, and call upon influential members of the legal fraternity, both on the bar and on the bench to join us in rejecting this morally bankrupt law.

The statement was passed unanimously at a general body of students, attended by more than the quorum of 25% of the entire body, according to its student bar association (SBA).

Many NLUs make statement but not all

It follows the NLSIU SBA and the elected representatives of seven other NLUs (NUALS Kochi, Nalsar Hyderabad, MNLU Mumbai, MNLU Nagpur, HNLU Raipur, NLU Odisha, NUSRL Ranchi) having put out a similar but more cautious joint statement earlier yesterday.

That statement was put out without a general body vote from students at those universities and was also far softer than NLSIU’s, merely condemning the police for its apparently disproportionate use of force in cracking down on civilian protests and being completely silent about the CAA (see joint full statement below, via Facebook).

Nevertheless, mirroring the intentionally deep divide caused by this and other recent political issues, not all NLU student bodies initially got behind this statement.

Notable by its initial absence, perhaps, was NUJS Kolkata, which was not in the initial joint resolution that was published by eight NLUs.

However, NUJS’ general body of students passed a resolution yesterday night unanimously, by show of hands, and the Student Juridical Association (SJA) released its statement on its website in support of the other NLUs’ statement, noting:

NUJS stands in complete solidarity with the students of Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University and is proud to be a part of the Joint Statement made by the Student Bodies of NLSIU, NALSAR, HNLU, NLUO, NUALS, NUSRL, MNLU-Mumbai, and MNLU-Nagpur.

We further strongly condemn the disproportionate and atrocious exercise of force by the police and extend our unconditional support to the students of these colleges and all other colleges in the exercise of their constitutional rights. We sincerely urge other National Law Universities to come together to join the Statement.

Teacup tweetstorm

As too often in this day and age, all this did not pass without getting noticed on Politico-Legal (tm) Twitter, where it kicked off a minor controversy.

One self-described “conservative” lawyer practising at the Supreme Court tweeted (we have not included names and Twitter handles, so as to avoid further pointless fanning of flames):

My intern & [senior office bearer SJA] of #NUJS, Kolkata, [...] is being targeted by his fellow students both on campus & on social media for his stand again violence by #Jamia students. They’ve been FORCING him to issue a solidarity statement in favour of Jamia & AMU. Please share!

We have not been able to corroborate that there has been any coercion or force used, but the lawyer included a screenshot of the following tweet by another NUJS student:

quote-tweeting because I must, and because [...] is the NUJS [SJA office bearer]. is it any wonder that the SJA was apprehensive about putting out a solidarity statement?

That student had “quote-tweeted” the SJA office bearer, who self-identifies as “conservative” and “Hindu” on his Twitter profile, whose tweet had said:

Mindless vandalism by stds at Jamia Univ shows how opposition tries to incite violence and vandalism among universities. Govt. cannot be blamed or targeted for passing a law within it’s consti. powers, challenges to amndmnt must be entertained by the SC, vandalism is disgraceful

Following the tweet by the Supreme Court lawyer, the (presumably non-conservative) NUJS student in turn responded to the lawyer with:

It’s so completely ridiculous of you to accuse me and other NUJS students of forcing [SJA] to issue a statement. He is a student body representative, and nobody forced him to take up the job. It would be great if he could speak for himself, without an army of trolls.

Derailing discourse

This is probably not a unique narrative on law school (and other campuses).

A tweet by the same conservative Supreme Court lawyer was cited by the self-described right-wing Swarajya blog, which carried a story headlined “NALSAR Law Student Allegedly Being Hounded For Pro-CAA Statement By Varsity’s ‘Liberal’ Students And Teachers”.

The Nalsar student had told the website that: “CAA has been challenged in the Supreme Court and as students of law we must submit to Court of Law for further decision making. However harassment and intimidating social media reaction on my personal opinion fails the objective of a liberal campus with free speech.”

Again, no evidence was provided that there was actual harassment for pro-CAA views in either case and we have not been able to independently confirm that there was any harassment.

That said, it’s certainly feasible that being in favour of the CAA is an unpopular opinion on law school campuses these days. Such views could even conceivably attract some social opprobrium from fellow national law school students, who tend to be imbued with an idealism encouraged by fresh knowledge of India’s secular constitutional values and the rule of law; meanwhile, online, such idealism is increasingly treated and harassed as being “anti-national”.

So, while these Tweets may just be tiny storms in teacups, they show that even law school students and campuses are not immune from the larger national narratives that are intentionally derailing fact-based discourse by the day, which end up making things more about emotion than the law.

Continuing to keep emotion and the law separate will be the only way the latter can survive.

Joint statement by 8 NLUs against police action (via Facebook)
Joint statement by 8 NLUs against police action (via Facebook)

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