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COLOMBO : Students wield transformative power not through bullets, but with their united voices, and in the spirit of activism for change. Their unwavering vigor ignites movements, rallying others to their cause and inspiring collective action.

Columbia University, the epicenter of the nationwide campus movement supporting Palestinians, has long been renowned for its vibrant academic community and its history of student activism.

In echoes of Vietnam War protests some five decades ago, Columbia University finds itself once again at the center of student activism. Presently, an encampment has taken root on campus, reminiscent of the fervent demonstrations of the past.

The students are protesting against injustice and pro-Israel institutional policies, with the encampment serving as a symbol of their commitment to activism and their determination to challenge the status quo.

As history repeats itself, Columbia University once again becomes a battleground for the ideals and aspirations of its student body.

The recent wave of protests at Columbia campus erupted on April 17th when students demanded a cease-fire in Gaza, where Israel’s actions have resulted in the loss of more than 35,000 lives, with 70% being women and innocent children.

Additionally, they insisted that universities divest from military weapons manufacturers that support Israel’s siege on Gaza. It has come to light that several influential hi-tech companies, including Microsoft, Amazon, and Alphabet, have entered into cloud computing agreements with the Government of Israel

These demands reflect a broader shift in public opinion, with increasing numbers of people recognizing the urgent need to hold Israel accountable for its actions. These efforts have served to amplify Palestinian voices, challenge mainstream narratives, and foster dialogue on a topic that is often marginalized or misrepresented in mainstream discourse.

The students are exercising their constitutional rights, as the First Amendment guarantees freedoms concerning the freedom of speech, expression, assembly, and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. They are not engaging in any anti-Semitic hate crimes, but the police force is brutally suppressing the students’ rights in an undignified manner.

Since April 18, over 2,000 students from more than 30 university campuses across at least 23 states have been arrested, amplifying concerns over police brutality and violent repression. Disturbing videos depicting law enforcement treating students as criminals have captured global attention.

Demonstrations in solidarity with Palestinians under Israeli siege in Gaza have spread to Canada, the UK, France, Germany, and even India, transcending religion, nationality, and politics in recent weeks.

Large-scale encampments are happening across UK campuses, including prestigious institutions like Oxford University, London University, and Manchester University. In Paris, pro-Palestinian protests erupted at Sciences Po University, an elite institution whose alumni include French President Emmanuel Macron, and the Sorbonne University.

Encampments and protests have swept across Canadian campuses, including McGill University, University of Toronto, and the University of British Columbia. In Australia, many pro-Palestinian camps have mushroomed, including at the University of Queensland in Brisbane and the University of Sydney.

In Germany, pro-Palestinian activists set up encampments in front of Germany’s Parliament to protest the Israeli genocide in Gaza and the unconditional German support for it. In the Middle East, students are protesting at the American University of Beirut. Similarly, protests have been held in India at the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi.

 The Inter-University Students’ Federation (IUSF) of Sri Lanka has formally expressed its condemnation of the recent arrests and repression of university students in the United States. In a gesture of solidarity, the IUSF delivered a letter to the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Julie Chung, articulating their firm opposition to the actions taken by US law enforcement.

Currently, there is a growing wave of sympathy towards the protesting students. For instance, the University of Vermont has committed to transparency by agreeing to disclose a list of its investments. Meanwhile, at Brown University, students have agreed to dismantle their encampments in exchange for the opportunity to vote on whether to suspend funds from companies financing Israel’s military operations.

The United States, a major supporter of Israel’s military arsenal, stands as the sole nation to wield its “Veto” power thrice against cease-fire efforts in Gaza. This pattern reflects a history of collaboration between the US administration and Israel, often obstructing peace initiatives.

However, recent student movements worldwide have ignited a collective awakening of moral conscience, demonstrating the potency of solidarity in confronting arrogance and intolerance. As aptly stated, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Columbia University’s encampments and protests mark the nascent stages of a burgeoning movement for change and justice, poised to ripple outward and inspire transformation across campuses and communities worldwide.

The day of reckoning is not far off!

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