As protests against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) spread across the country, former President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday cautioned against a "majoritarian government", and said that a numerical majority in the elections only gives a political party the right to form a "stable" government.
Mukherjee also praised former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for "seeking to taking along everyone" at a time when the present government is being accused of dividing the country.
"A numerical majority in elections gives you the right to make a stable government. The lack of popular majority forbids you from (becoming) a majoritarian government. That is the message and essence of our parliamentary democracy," Mukherjee said while delivering the second Atal Bihari Vajpayee Memorial Lecture at the India Foundation here.
The former President also pointed out that while people have given "strong majorities" to various parties since 1952, not a single one has been elected with over 50 per cent vote share.
The BJP won 38 per cent of the total votes in the Lok Sabha elections in 2019.
Mukherjee called Vajpayee as a "visionary" with a good understanding of the country and its people.
"India and Indians intrinsically cannot digest bigotry and division over a sustained period. We are a nation of 12,69,219 square miles, practising seven major religions, speaking 122 languages and 1,600 dialects in their everyday lives... represented by the Constitution of India. Atalji accepted this reality. He shaped his vision for everyone, seeking to take everyone along even though many may not have agreed with his ideological inclinations," he said.
The former President's statements come a day after the police crackdown in Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi.
What happened in Jamia?
The chief proctor of Jamia Millia Islamia accused the Delhi police of forcefully entering the university campus, beating up and detaining around 100 students on Sunday, December 15. All the detained students were released around 3.30 am on Monday.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising mentioned Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University incidents before a bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde on Monday. Jaising asked SC to take suo motu cognizance of the issue saying "It's a very serious human rights violation all over the country."
The SC has agreed to hear the matter on Tuesday.
CJI SA Bobde said: "Just because they happen to be students, it doesn't mean they can take law and order in their hands, this has to be decided when things cool down. This is not the frame of mind when we can decide anything. Let the rioting stop."
Meanwhile, the police have claimed that no bullets were fired during the clash with the protestors. "Yesterday around 2 pm protest happened, locals also participated, our staff showed maximum restraint despite provocations. Around 4:30 pm some protesters went towards Mata Mandir marg and set a bus on fire," said Delhi Police PRO, MS Randhawa, addressing the media on Monday.
However, according to an NDTV report, two Jamia protesters were admitted at Delhi's government-run Safdarjung Hospital with bullet injuries. Two members of the Delhi police have also been deputed at the hospital for keeping a watch on the visitors they are meeting.
Solidarity pours in
IIM students, teachers against CAA
Over 1,000 students and faculty of premier management institutes, primarily the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), have issued a statement against the Citizenship Amendment Act, calling it "discriminatory and violative of the Constitution".
The online letter, signed and endorsed by as many as 1,053 students and teachers, says: "As citizens and members of the academic community, we write to register our protest at the recent enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019."
This letter marks another strong protest against the CAA as has been seen across the universities in the country.
"The Act is discriminatory and violative of the basic structure of the Indian Constitution. It is inconsistent with the cherished values of equality under law and secularism. It institutionalises preferential treatment based on religion which is in direct conflict with the inclusive spirit on which our nation was formed.
"Additionally, the Act is inconsistent with India's international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the international law principle of non-refoulement of refugees, irrespective of caste, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or political ideology," the letter said.
"The Act, in its current form, is also likely to harm the interests of the indigenous people of India's Northeast. India, as a signatory to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, has a responsibility to protect the land, cultural and linguistic rights of the indigenous people. We advocate a comprehensive asylum law while protecting the legitimate interests of the indigenous people," the letter added, slamming the CAA.
The letter is signed by students, alumni and faculty of IIMs-Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Indore, Udaipur, Ranchi, Raipur, Calcutta, amd Lucknow among others, as well as the XLRI and several premier management institutes like FMS Delhi.
At Jadavpur University, protests erupted against the police action on students protesting against the new citizenship law (CAA) in campuses, as students, teachers and researchers burnt effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and took out marches throughout Monday.
Displaying banners and posters decrying the "brutal, fascist" attack on students of Jamia Milia Islamia, Aligarh Muslim University and Delhi University, the students went round the campus and Aheld a protest meeting at nearby 8B bus stand.
Shouting in chorus "Hathe Hathe Comrade, gore tolo barricade (hold hands comrade, build up barricades)", workers and supporters of the Students Federation of India torched Modi's effigy and staged a demonstration.
Describing the police action as "state-sponsored terrorism", they chanted: "No NRC, No NPR and No CAB."
The Left Student-Teacher-Researcher Unity Employee Platform took out a march from gate number four of the campus to 8B bus stand.
University of Hyderabad
Students of the University of Hyderabad on Monday staged a protest march condemning the brutal police assault on students of the Jamia Millia Islamia and the Aligarh Muslim University on Sunday.
Raising slogans against 'autocratic' Narendra Modi government, 'unconstitutional' Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and proposed nation-wide National Register of Citizens (NRC), students marched from the campus to Gachibowli Stadium.
Carrying placards with slogans of 'Reject All India NRC' and 'Save Constitution', the central university students participated in the protest organised by the students union.
They demanded strict action against 'brutal' Delhi and UP police for 'barbaric assault' on campuses and rollback of 'unconstitutional' CAA and proposed all-India NRC.
Protests in Bhopal
The protest against the CAA and the NRC also reached Madhya Pradesh with hundreds of protesters gathering at the Iqbal Maidan in the old city area of Bhopal for a peaceful demonstration on Monday evening.
Students of the Motilal Vigyan Mahavidyalaya (MVM) who organised the protests, held placards demanding scrapping of the act. A large police contingent kept vigil as the protest continued. There have been no reports of any violence.
Though MVM students said in evening that they have planned the dharna in the Maidan from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., the protest continued till late in the night.
"I cannot say how long this protest will continue," said Asma, who led the students from the MVM. "Maybe, it may last for the entire night, given the support of citizens."
"We are opposing the crackdown by the police on the students of Jamia Millia in Delhi and of AMU in Aligarh. We demand judicial probe and action against officials guilty of attacking the students," she said and demanded that the CAA and NRC be withdrawn.
(With agency inputs.)