Why Indian universities are watching students’ social media accounts
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Why Indian universities are watching students’ social media accounts

Why Indian universities are watching students’ social media accounts

Students in India are voicing their dissent and staging demonstrations across their campuses over parliament’s controversial passing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 (CAA) on Dec 12. 

The Act serves as a fast-track Indian citizenship for religious minorities, including Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who have lived in India without documentation. The new law makes no reference to Muslims.

Critics argue that the Act is unconstitutional as it bases citizenship on an individual’s religion, and violates the right to equality in the Constitution of India.

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Anti-CAA protests have been going strong. Source: Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP

With protests gaining traction on university grounds, the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) has reportedly asked all technical education institutes and universities to keep a tab on the social media accounts of students and teachers, reported The Print.

This includes monitoring Twitter and Facebook accounts of students and teachers, as well as WhatsApp groups, to stay abreast of campus activities following the passing of the CAA.

In an earlier circular, the ministry had asked students to connect their social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to the accounts of their respective colleges and that of the HRD ministry, to share “good practices” of the institutes.

At that time, the government had said it did not wish to monitor students but to “connect” with them, reported The Print.

Quoting ministry sources, The Print also said orders were reportedly issued to registrars and vice-chancellors of central universities and technical institutions to keep a tab on protests, and to ensure no repeat of untoward incidents, such as the Dec 15 incident in Jamia Millia University (JMI) and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in which students were attacked by police during a peaceful anti-CAA protest.

Students abroad stand in solidarity with protestors

Students at the University of Warwick, the London School of Economics and Cambridge University are among those who have also protested against the CAA, and shown solidarity with students in JMI and AMU.

This is in addition to a joint statement by over 400 students from different US universities who also expressed solidarity with JMI and AMU students, according to India Today.

Scholars from universities, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford and Tufts condemned the “brutal police violence unleashed against students at JMI and AMU as a gross violation of human rights under the Constitution of India and international human rights law”.

Meanwhile, a German exchange student at IIT Madras claimed that he was asked to leave the country “immediately” days after he attended protests against the CAA and the proposed National Register of Citizens on campus, reported The Indian Express.

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