No detention centre big enough to house those opposing CAA and NRC: Arundhati Roy at Jamia

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Writer Arundhati Roy with Jamia students in front of gate 7 of the varsity’s campus on Saturday. (Express Photo: Praveen Khanna)

Expressing solidarity with protesters opposing the CAA and NRC at Jamia Millia Islamia, author Arundhati Roy Saturday said that “no detention centre was big enough” to keep people who are raising their voice against the new citizenship law across the country.

Roy spoke briefly in front of gate seven of the university, which has come to be known as Jamia Square, where an agitation against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has been on for nearly a month.

“I have come here to tell you that I am with you. Now that we have all come together, no detention centre will be big enough to fill us in,” Roy said. “I hope that a day will come when this government, which is trying to break the nation, will be in the detention centre and we will be azaad.”

The crowd joined Roy in chorus as she raised slogans such as ‘Inquilab zindabad,’ ‘Jamia zindabad,’ ‘JNU zindabad,’ and ‘Desh ki janta zindabad,’ after which she left the stage saying “we will not back down.”

The area outside the university has become ground zero for protests against the new citizenship law and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC). The name Jamia Square is reminiscent of Tahrir Square, which was the focal point of the 2011 Egypt revolution.

On December 15, the university witnessed a brutal crackdown after police barged inside the campus library and mosque and allegedly attacked students with lathis and teargas in order to control anti-CAA protests.

An artwork on the iron railings that go along the campus next to the main road has photographs of how the violence unfolded at Jamia, along with those of protests that have raged across the country since. Recent attacks on students inside the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus also feature on the railing.

The national flag, placards and other artwork are also affixed to the railings, and walls are painted with political artwork and anti-CAA and anti-NRC graffiti.

A sense of community exists at the site, which can be noticed in the small tea and biscuit stalls residents from nearby areas and students have set up along the main road outside campus. There is no charge for refreshments, but people still contribute to donation boxes at the stalls.

Pushing forward the demand of a rollback of CAA, former Jamia student Zayed Khan distributed several thousand copies of draft letters addressed to the Chief Justice of India as well as the President, calling for the repeal of the “discriminatory” and “unconstitutional” law.

“I have received back 2,000 signed copies of the letter to the President and about 1,500 copies of the letter to the CJI. I will be posting them soon,” Khan said.