New Delhi: A day after Sunday evening's violence over the new citizenship law at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), at least 22 students from the campus are reportedly missing or suspected to be detained by the police, reveals a preliminary fact-finding committee report by a team of three lawyers, who visited AMU on December 16 .
The team, comprising Advocates Aman Khan, Fazal and Fawaz Shaheen of Quill Foundation, a research advocacy on social issues, visited AMU and held detailed open-ended conversations with a number of students in their hostels (individual and groups), victims admitted in the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College (JNMCH) and their attendants, student leaders, administrative staff at the medical college, university security guards and faculty administrators of two residential halls have come up with glaring realities of the missing students.
In a release issued by the Foundation, the team found that "a large number of students were found to be missing or suspected to be detained. However, neither the university nor the district administration gave any details regarding missing or detained students. The team was given scattered information regarding missing or detained students by their friends and hostel mates.”
The fact-finding team said it also received unconfirmed reports that 22-25 injured students were detained at Malkhan Singh Hospital in the Rasal Ganj area of Aligarh. By afternoon the team also received unconfirmed reports that the detainees had been taken to four different police stations, including Civil Lines, Gandhi Park, Khair and Tappal.
“Overall, a situation of anxiety and suspicion prevailed all over the campus regarding the missing students, along with apprehensions of their being victim of untoward incidents,” the release added.
The preliminary report also includes a tentative list of names of “missing” students, as reported to the team. However, the team reiterated that “the list is by no means comprehensive and many more students are suspected missing or detained," the release said.
According to the report, on the day of the violence, one missing student, Syed Mohammad Mehdni's (resident of Morrison Court hostel, room no 46) room was set on fire by police action and along with Mehndi, two other students in the room were beaten up and detained. Since then, they have gone missing, it claimed.
A student, Zeeshan, who went to find his bike did not return. The report says another student Abdul Mannan was last seen hiding in the washroom of guest house no 2.
Speaking to NewsClick, Advocate Fawaz Shaheen of Quill Foundation said: "The list has been compiled by talking to friends, hostel mates or anyone who knew somebody who could not be found. We are also trying to verify if they were detained or they have been found or released but till now two people, named Shabbir Hussain and Gulzar have been released out of 22 persons.”
Shaheen said a lot of people were been released this morning (December 17). He said the list could be longer, as both district and university administration were not telling them anything. “The university administration is saying they do not have any information regarding missing students. We also approached provost of hostels and they do not have any information as district administration is not informing," he added.
"The entire incident is a shocking display of police brutality and impunity in the face of peaceful democratic protests by AMU students. The police actions seem not only brutal but also vindictive motivated by a desire to ‘show students their place," the release added.
Both district and university authorities refused to share numbers or details of missing students, and the students only spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. There was a particularly widespread fear that anyone who speaks up will be charged under the National Security Act.
"There is fear of reprisal among students and pressure that if any student speaks regarding the incident, he will be booked under the NSA. When we reached the university, we saw a very strange sight that a small tractor was picking up bikes parked around the university and throwing them onto a truck parked in front of the Maulana Azad Library, on the main university road. (the vehicles belonged to students, which were vandalised by armed forces during their aggravated violence). We could not understand why this happening or is it a strategy that UP Police uses they pick up bikes and will file cases against the owners," Shaheen added.
NewsClick also approached the AMU Proctor Afifullah Khan for his comments on “missing” students. "It's a rumour going on that 22 students have gone missing. I haven't received any such report of missing students so far but I have received only three different applications of missing students seeking to locate them. I don't have information regarding missing students."
Pressure to Vacate Campus
On December 16, the university administration announced winter vacations with immediate effect till January 5. By afternoon, officials from the university were urging students to vacate their hostels, which is contrary to general practice during vacations at AMU.
According to the fact-finding report, pressure from the university coupled with the environment of fear created by brutal police action the previous night has resulted in a virtual exodus of students from the campus.
The fact-finding team told Newsclick that the university administration was “forcing” students to vacate hostels.
The protest in AMU turned violent on December 16 night after police entered the campus and hostels, fired teargas shells and baton-charged students, even in the reading room. The violence left at least 100 students reportedly severely injured.