On the eve of the government’s national security law rollout, students in Hyderabad gathered for a protest demanding the repeal of the law.
The students had been gathering at the city’s central Kallayoor area to voice their opposition to the law, which critics say could lead to an erosion of basic rights and freedoms.
However, the demonstration was met with violence by unidentified assailants, with many of the protesters being injured.
The protesters were demanding that the law be repealed on February 19, which is the day after President Pranab Mukherjee, who has the authority to amend or repeal the national security bill, holds a second round of talks with opposition parties.
On the heels of the protests, the government on Wednesday announced it had removed a section of the bill that criminalizes “any act which is considered illegal, harmful or detrimental to the security of the nation or the well-being of the people.”
A group of students took to the streets of Hyderabad’s central campus to demand the repeal, calling the law an “ill-advised measure.”
The law allows for the imprisonment of anyone who is deemed guilty of any offence or who “obtains” information or documents pertaining to an offence, and allows the government to arrest and detain anyone deemed a security threat or “an enemy of the state.”
The National Human Rights Commission, the law’s original proponent, has said the law is a measure to protect “the sovereignty of the State and the security and stability of the country.”
The protests were a response to the government issuing the National Security Act, 2016, on February 16, which the opposition parties have said violates the right to peaceful assembly and the right of students to free expression.
Students have also protested in Hydera in the past, most recently on January 31, 2017, when a large crowd of more than 10,000 people rallied outside the city government’s headquarters to demand that the government immediately repeal the law that has been used to detain and arrest the activists.
Earlier in February, students staged a rally in Hyderbad, also in the state capital, to highlight the dangers of the National Defense Act, a law that the opposition says allows the security forces to arbitrarily detain people suspected of being involved in political activities.
“If we are not protected, we cannot live,” said the protest organisers.