New Delhi: The Delhi police on Sunday entered the Jamia Millia Islamia campus, where students had been protesting for thee days against the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, fired tear gas cannons in confined spaces including the library and lathi charged students to disperse the protests.
A number of students have been grievously injured. Videos doing the rounds on social media and those shot by media houses including The Wire show students bleeding badly, lying on the ground and being beaten anyway. There have also been unconfirmed reports of police firing, though the police has denied this.
The police also reportedly dragged students out of the library and campus mosque, and marched them out with their hands in the air and detained them. At least 100 people were reportedly injured in Sunday’s violence.
In at least one instance that The Wire was able to record, police constables were seen beating a male student who was not resisting arrest.
Before the police entered the campus, four public buses and two police vehicles had been set on fire in New Friends Colony. According to the police, these protestors entered the university campus, which is nearby, on being chased by the police. Students later issued a statement dissociating themselves from the violence.
As the Jamia vice-chancellor Najma Akhtar has pointed, the police did not take the university administration’s permission before entering campus. “Police were after a huge group indulging in things near Jullena. When they went after them, some people entered the university for safety. So police entered after them without our permission,” she told the Indian Express.
Akhtar said the usage of tear gas cannons was wrong. “Students are scared and this is wrong. We have spoken to everybody. My registrar has spoken to the joint commissioner on the entire matter.”
Fifty students from the university were detained during the day at two different police stations – Kalkaji and New Friends Colony. They were released late on Sunday night.
Activist Harsh Mander and advocate Choudhary Ali Zia Kabir met the students detained at Kalkaji police station, after the police first tried to stop anyone from going in to meet them. In a statement they released after their meeting, the two said that students told them the campus was “stormed” by the police – and that they were not involved in the violence outside.
Several students were badly injured, they said, including ones who claimed not even to be part of the protest. “One student reported that ge is suffering from a heart problem and is not being provided medicine. He was simply studying in the library wherefrom he was picked up and assaulted along his way to the police station. He identified himself as Chandan Singh s/O Lakshmikant Singh. He requested that the CCTV cameras in library and the campus would reveal CRPF and Delhi Police being violent, CRPF more so. All students agreed with him. Later Chandan had fits, fell off from the chair while he was offered food and started gasping for breath. On request of the intervenors he was taken to the hospital by the police,” their statement says.
Mander and Ali have also quoted the students as saying that the police deliberately turned lights off in certain areas so that the campus CCTV cameras would not capture the violence. Female students were also sexually abused, the statement says.
“Wherever lights were switched off sexual abuse was shocking. Lights were switched off to prevent any recording in the CCTV cameras, but we are confident that some cameras would still have recorded sexual abuse. As to violence, the footage might run into several hours recording continuous assault,” Mander and Ali say in their statement.
For large parts of Sunday, several metro stations around the university campus were sealed. They were reopened only on Monday morning.
Reports of police violence have also been coming in from Aligarh Muslim University, including allegations that the police is trying to enter locked women’s hostels.
Police violence is being reported at AMU as well.
In this video, an ambulance driver says that the police attacked the wounded while in the ambulance and were refusing to let them go.
— The Wire (@thewire_in) December 15, 2019
As news of the violence and detentions made rounds of social media, large numbers of students from across Delhi gathered at the Delhi police headquarters at ITO to protest. The hundreds who gathered shouted slogans and demanded the immediate release of all detained students, as well as action against the police for the campus violence.
In IIT Bombay too, students gathered to protest against the police violence and show solidarity with their fellow students in Jamia and Aligarh Muslim University.
— Abha Goradia (@AbhaGoradia) December 15, 2019
After the detained were released, Jamia students thanked all those who came out in support of them and appealed for peace. “As the Jamia community, we are thankful to students from other universities and members of civil society who have come out in our support and those who are still protesting across the country. We are thankful to the section of the media who have stuck to the fact. We appeal to the people of India to continue to protest the onslaught on our rights in a peaceful manner,” a statement they issued read.