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Flag-bearers of dissent

Flag-bearers of dissent

Students have recently been on streets in large numbers to demonstrate their dissent in the wake of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act as well as the National Register for Citizens. Sparking from Jamia Milia Islamia University in December, the agitation is to complete a month as petitions challenging the constitutionality of CAA are yet to be heard by the Supreme Court. Past three weeks have crafted a new low in this government's administration as sporadic protests across the country hit the streets demanding a rollback of the legislation. Student protests are not unknown to this country yet the recent episode of student agitation has a new ring to it. While it is common for universities and institutions with active political engagements to demonstrate dissent, what raises eyebrows is the emergence of apolitical varsities, offering solidarity and peacefully strengthening the agitation. Protests by St. Stephen's College, Ashoka University, Sonipat, IIT Delhi, etc., only show the extent of agitation. Given that these colleges have very less political engagement, the sheer presence of their students protesting shoulder to shoulder with JNU speaks for the situation. Students stand aware of the decaying order of society. Last month's police brutality at Jamia and Aligarh Muslim University was widely condemned by student protests across the country and JNU episode only adds fuel to that flame. On the bright side, these student-led protests are producing perhaps the most beautiful sight of youth stepping up to protect the country's Constitution and democracy. Given the receding space for dissent in society, students' resolve for their right to expression is empowering. With the University of Delhi joining the protest on JNU attack, the National Capital has been mired with agitation for a good part of the winter. That winter leads to Delhi Assembly election due on February 8, 2020. Going by the current situation, where the government has not even initiated any dialogue with protestors, the only respite is the Supreme Court's hearing of as many as 60 petitions against CAA on January 22. The Supreme Court's stance will change the tide of these protests. The apex court's Constitutional review of the legislation is what remains the remedy-in-sight since the government has not shown any signs of repealing the act. In an environment of spineless opposition, spectating government, powerless police and mute adults — especially a large section of eminent personalities, it has been the students who have carried the burden of dissent. And, it is not hard to comprehend the reason for students perhaps are the only ones with 'nothing to lose' as they fight for 'everything' on stake. For them, it is the democracy that matters and its features that they've been taught about. If today we see students protesting on roads, the only surprise should be an indifferent government not lending an ear to the people of India.

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