“Wild baton blows”, “communal slurs”, “dragged out of the campus with hands raised up”… This was all Abdul Rehman could mutter when asked about the violence unleashed upon him by the men in uniform. With his left arm nearly broken now, Abdul, a B Tech student in Jamia, was one of the students who were detained here on Sunday evening. He was studying in the university’s library when the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel along with the police entered the space, “vandalised” it and picked him up and others.
As many as 50 students were detained in the same process, with several hundreds left injured during the Sunday protests at the Jamia Millia Islamia. All of them were allegedly beaten and taken out from the university’s library and “they were not even part of the protests”, revealed the detained students to NewsClick.
“Students’ protests were taking place outside. The forces entered the university campus and started raining lathi hits on the students sitting in library, including on women. They also ravaged the campus property,” said Anjum Hussain, a third year B. Sc (honours) student, who was also detained.
The students in the library, who were in hundreds, were surrounded by the forces from all sides, he added.
“There is only one exit to the campus library and the CRPF personnel occupied that gate,” said Shahrukh, another Jamia student, who was detained. He was sitting on the second floor of the library when forces entered the area and according to him, “more than 20 of them took their positions at the staircase”. “I fell once while running down the stairs,” he said, “however, they didn’t stop hitting me.”
“Somehow, I saved myself and started running towards the Masjid exit gate. But the policemen present there caught me,” he added.
According to Abdul, many students took refuge in the library as the police fired tear gas on the streets against the protesting students and it got difficult for many to breathe oxygen. However, “we didn’t know the police would enter the central university”. “All the inhumanity that has been inflicted upon us can be viewed in the CCTV footages,” Danish Khurshid, another detainee, told NewsClick.
Adding to the violent beatings, the detained students were also “harassed” by the police forces. “Communal slurs were thrown at us while the CRPF personnel charged at us with batons,” said Danish. “They made us say expletives forcefully, directed towards our friends! It was part of their torture technique,” Abdul told NewsClick.
The detained students added that while exiting the campus space, the police forces used the university students as “human shields” against the angry mob.
“Ten-fifteen of us were encircled by the forces. They asked us to raise our hands. They made us do one round of the whole campus and used us as a shield to save themselves from any attack by the mob outside the campus,” said Anjum.
‘I don’t know whether he is injured or how bad is the injury’
Out of the 50 students detained, 35 were held at the Kalkaji police station and the other 15 were kept at the New Friends Colony police station. Of the 35 who were at Kalkaji Police Station, four were severely injured, out of whom two students were then referred to Apollo Hospital and the other two were sent to AIIMS Trauma Centre in the night.
Several other university students, who were caught in the police lathi charge, have reported injuries and are being taken to the hospital.
As reports started mounting in the evening of the crackdown on the Jamia Millia Islamia University, the episode roused concerns and confusions for the relatives of the university students—as to whether they are safe or not.
“I called Maaz, my nephew, at four in the evening. When he picked up the call, he told me that he was in the library and not at the ongoing protests,” said Salim Khan, “Next, I made a call to him after an hour; his phone was switched off.”
Salim told NewsClick that with no clarity on whether Maaz is safe or not, he made numerous rounds to the hospitals and police stations. “I saw reports on TV which said that the forces entered the campus.” “I left at around 7.30 in the evening for Al-Shifa hospital where I saw ambulances arriving, bringing many injured students.”
According to Salim, upon getting news that many students were detained as well, Salim decided to visit the police stations. However, his questions remained unanswered there as well.
“The police stations have been locked here and no one is allowed to enter inside,” said Salim, “I don’t know whether he is injured or how bad is the injury.” “I don’t even know whether he is here.”
For many hours, the detained students were not allowed to meet their relatives or lawyers, despite the law demanding otherwise, as complained by groups of human rights activists and lawyers who thronged the gates of both the police stations.
Things only pacified after Harsh Mander, an eminent social activist, along with an advocate was allowed to visit the detainees first at the Kalkaji police station. At around 11 in the night, he returned with a list of the students who were detained and kept at the Kalkaji police station, a copy of which was accessed by NewsClick. Maaz, along with Abdul, Anjum, and Danish among others were named in the list.
Subsequently, some time post midnight, relatives were allowed to meet the detained students. “I just returned after meeting Maaz,” said Salim, “though he is not injured, he is scared.” “We don’t know when they are going to release our children. It has been a dreadful night for all of us.”
Other relatives, advocates and activists, all in total a handful of them, who managed to meet the detained students informed NewsClick that students, some of whom even had head injuries, had received only primitive first aid. The students, however, have not been beaten inside the police station and were provided with tea, they added.
‘No Guidelines Were Followed’
Taking cognizance of the issue, Delhi Minorities Commission issued a late night emergency order on Sunday directing the police station to release the injured university students without any delay. “SHO Kalkaji PS will be personally responsible for any complications to the injuries of the held students,” the order said. A compliance report has also been demanded by the Commission by 3 pm the next day.
Finally, the students were released at three in the night with assurance of no charges to be levelled against them. Around this time, students from the New Friends Colony police station were also released. They were then taken to hospitals for preparing a medico legal case report—required to fix the responsibility regarding the causation of the injury or ailment.
Dr. Zafarul-Islam Khan, chairman of Delhi Minorities Commission, who came to meet the aggrieved relatives at the Kalkaji Police Station, called it “human rights violation” of the protesting students, while speaking to NewsClick. “The citizens of this nation are being deprived of their democratic right to protest peacefully,” he said, adding that the episode only shows the consequences of raising a dissenting voice in today’s India, “which is getting beaten up”.
Similar were the opinions that were held by the civil and human rights advocates as well. “If a protest is launched and an individual is found to be breaking any law, there are DK Basu guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court of India, along with the CrPC in place,” said Advocate Ali Zia Kabir Choudhary.
According to him, the guidelines require the family of the arrested person to be immediately informed of the arrest and the arrested individual to be allowed to contact a lawyer of his choice.
What the police cannot do is keep the person as a “hostage” where nobody is allowed to meet him, whereas here, contrary to all this, “the police didn’t allow anybody to meet the detainees [for many hours],” he added.
On Sunday, the students' protest of Jamia Millia Islamia against the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) in Jamia Nagar and neighbouring area had turned violent after the escalation of the stand-off between the protestors and the Delhi Police.