Congress leaders led by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra held a sit-in at the India Gate on Monday in a show of solidarity with the protesting students from Jamia Millia Islamia and several other universities across the country, and alleged that the amended citizenship law was intended to destroy the Constitution.
After a two-hour 'silent protest' from 4 pm to 6 pm, the Congress general secretary hit out at the Modi government over the citizenship law, saying the police crackdown on Jamia students on Sunday was an attack on the soul of India.
"When the government goes inside the varsity campus and beats the students, then the entire country is hurt. I can understand this as I am a mother and these students were of my children's age," she said.
She said the citizenship amendment law was against India's Constitution and that it was brought to "destroy" the Constitution.
"The Bharatiya Janata Party government has attacked the Constitution, it has attacked students. This is an attack on the soul of India. The youth are the soul of the country and they have a right to protest and raise their voice, granted by the Constitution, she said.
The Congress leader said the youths go to universities to get education."Then why do they beat them up inside the library. Ours is a democratic country, not a dictatorship," she said,
"This act is totally against the the Constitution and it is an act of destroying the spirit of the Constitution. Every Indian should fight against this," she told reporters after the dharna.
Each and every Congress leader and worker will fight for the Constitution and against the "dictatorship" of the Modi government. They will seek answers and will stand with the students, she said.
Priyanka Gandhi wondered why Prime Minister Narendra Modi was "silent" on assault on women, economy, joblessness and what happened against the students.
"The prime minister should speak on the atrocities on women being committed everyday, on unemployment, what happened yesterday in the university, whose government and police beat up the children. the prime minister should speak on the falling economy.
"In the Unnao rape case after a local court held BJP legislator Kuldeep Sengar guilty, why does the prime minister not speak on this. His party MLA has committed rape with a minor girl, still the prime minister is silent today," Gandhi said.
She also paid homage to those who laid down their lives for the liberation of Bangladesh. She wanted to pay her respects at Amar Jawan Jyoti but could not do so due to the swelling crowds at the India Gate.
"This country belongs to those who gave their supreme sacrifices to save the Constitution, of those women against whom atrocities are committed, of students who were beaten up yesterday.
"That is why we have to together save the Constitution and we have to fight against any attack on the Constitution. We have to together raise our voice against this government as it was doing injustice," she said.
The Congress general secretary was joined at the protest by leaders like Ahmed Patel, A K Antony, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Randeep Singh Surjewala, besides hundreds of party workers.
"The country's atmosphere is bad. Police are entering university to beat up (students). The government has tinkered with the Constitution. We will fight for the Constitution," she said.
Congress spokesperson Surjewala said the two-hour protest, which began at 4 pm, was to express solidarity with students from Jamia Millia Islamia University and other places.
Thousands of students across India took to the streets demanding a probe into the alleged use of teargas inside the Jamia library as well as police entering the campus without permission from university authorities on Sunday.
Jamia turned into a battlefield on Sunday as police entered the campus after a protest against the amended citizenship law near the varsity turned violent.
Earlier, Congress and several opposition political parties condemned the alleged police "brutality" against students of Jamia and demanded a judicial inquiry into it.
"How could the police enter Jamia and unleash such brutality on the students when the university authorities did not allow the police to enter it," Azad asked.
Congress's Azad and Kapil Sibal, Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI's D Raja, Rashtriya Janata Dal's Manoj Jha, Samajwadi Party's Javed Ali Khan and Sharad Yadav condemned Sunday's police action against Jamia students.
The leaders said that they will raise the issue with President Ram Nath Kovind as it was related to unrest in central universities which are directly under his control.
The meeting is likely to be held on Tuesday evening, sources said.
Azad also rejected the charges levelled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the Congress was behind the violent protests. "It is wrong to make such accusations and we condemn it," he said.
Yechury demanded a probe by a Supreme Court judge in the incident. "Whoever gave the permission to allow the police to enter the Jamia campus should be brought to book and punished," he said.
He said it was not a Hindu-Muslim issue and asked people not to fall prey to rumours as the Act was an affront to the Constitution.
"It is the ruling party and Government of India which are behind the violence. Had the government not brought in this law, there would not have been such violence. It is the prime minister, home minister and the Cabinet who are responsible for this violence," he alleged.
Photograpsh: Ravi Choudhary/PTI Photos