New Delhi: Jamia Millia Islamia witnessed the worst ever police crackdown on the evening of December 15 when hundreds of policemen along with the Central Reserve Force barged into the central university campus from Southeast, firing tear gas shells and allegedly even live bullets, ransacking the libraries and indiscriminately beating up students.
Both the Jamia Vice Chancellor and Proctor have said on record that Delhi Police entered the campus without official permission. Incidentally, the Delhi Police is directly under the jurisdiction of the Union Home Ministry, headed by Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah.
On Sunday, police also entered the central library’s reading rooms, fired tear gas shells suffocating and brutalising students who were studying and preparing for their examinations. They reportedly even entered hostels, including the J&K Hostel, where male cops allegedly thrashed and even manhandled girl students, said some students.
Hundreds of students suffered injuries. A majority of them were discharged after first aid, while a few of them sustained serious injuries, such as broken legs, hands and ribs or some internal and external injuries and are admitted at nearby Holy Family, Al-Shifa and Apollo hospitals. Two of them with injuries in eyes have been referred to Trauma Centre of All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS).
How the Events Unfolded
This all started after the December 13 protest in Jamia Milia Islamia against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, which is seeing country-wide opposition. The protest in Jamia turned violent after the agitating students broke barricades erected at the exit point of the university, following which the police used “excessive force” by baton-charging them. The police action provoked a section of the students who, along with locals, began pelting stones at the security force, following which they were met with teargas shells, that left scores of students injured, including some mediapersons.
Following this long skirmish, the situation was brought under some control after senior police officers, Jamia teachers and Okhla MLA and Aam Aadmi Party leader, Amanatullah Khan intervened.
Condemning the police violence, the students then held protests at all corners of the Jamia Nagar residential locality. December 14 passed peacefully with several such protest marches in different parts of the locality and Jamia campus.
On December 15, around 10 AM, the students took out a massive rally in the area — Batla House, Zakir Nagar, Shaheen Bagh and other adjoining areas — marking their protest against CAA, which seeks to give citizenship to all non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
Sunday’s mobilisation was huge, said eyewitnesses. There was a complete shutdown in the entire neighbourhood, shops were closed, and residents hit the roads. The Jamia students, after mobilising residents, returned to their campus at around 3 PM. The protests outside were peaceful and under control. In campus, the students said they were only chanting slogans. That’s when a huge number of people from the locality started marching towards New Friends Colony (NFC). That was around 4 PM. The protesters were stopped near Surya Hotel, where the road on both sides of the divider was blocked by the police, who had set up huge barricades. The agitators were soon joined by a section of students, while most of them remained inside the campus, said a student.
After chanting slogans against CAA, the government and Delhi Police, most of the protesters dispersed as they could not march ahead, said a student. Till then everything was under control. However, when the protesting people were returning, some of them, including a few students took a left turn from Sarai Julena and moved towards Mathura Road. That’s where they were stopped and baton-charged by the police.
Some of the protesters said the police chased them with lathis, and started beating everyone indiscriminately. A disturbing video, that has gone viral, shows men in riot gear, some with covered faces, pulling out a multimedia journalist working with a website — Maktoob — from the ground floor car parking of a bungalow somewhere in NFC —thrashing him with sticks and hurling abuses. He is seen shielded by few girls, who can be heard shouting and threatening the police to stay away.
Meanwhile, teargas shells were fired at regular intervals, leading to all the protestors returning and trying to escape from whichever way possible. In the meantime, a bus belonging to Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) was set ablaze, as also a few vehicles. But who did it? The answer is not known.
“Yes, we were moving towards Mathura Road but dispersed by the police amid brutal lathi-charge and tear gas shelling. There was some firing too. I raise a question here, that when there was a chaos everywhere and people were being beaten up, how come the buses parked behind the police were turned into ashes,” Shariq Usman, a PhD scholar at Jamia Millia Islamia, told NewsClick.
But, the police maintains that the buses were torched by the protesters, following which they had to use “mild force” and fire teargas shells to disperse them.
Several video clips — which could not be independently verified by NewsClick — have emerged, raising questions over the police’s role. Even Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, while retweeting the purported video, has called for an impartial probe into the buses being set afire.
Following the crackdown near Mata ka Mandir on Mathura Road, the protesters were reportedly chased back to the road leading to the Jamia campus and adjoining areas. Another DTC bus was also vandalised at Sarai Julena red light. The protesters halted near Jamia Milia Islamia’s exit where they were joined by a large number of people from the locality. This was purely a local crowd without any involvement of the varsity students.
Notably, Jamia does not have a closed campus. Two sides of the premises are separated by a bylane — which is a lifeline for locals and has heavy traffic through the day, especially during peak hours.
The scuffle between the protesters and the police continued. As it was getting dark, a large contingent of the police force, along with personnel of the reserved police, became more aggressive. There was continued firing of teargas shells. It became difficult to breath in the entire area, say local residents.
Firing teargas shells, the police continued to push back the protesters. By now, the police had reached the middle of the campus.
At around 7-7:30 PM, the police barged into the campus from gate number 4, which has a huge iron grill gate. It was reportedly broken down by the police. This is the complex where several departments, including the library is located. The police then beat up students who were sitting in the complex and fired several rounds of teargas shells. They then forcibly entered the library and reading room and vandalised it. The students were beaten up. Multiple videos by scared students, appealing for help went viral soon after.
One such video from inside the library shows the entire room filled with teargas smoke. Several students can be seen hiding under chairs and tables.
A few students also hid themselves in toilets, which were also reportedly vandalised and some students, including girls, were allegedly beaten up. Some students who managed to escape from the rear gate, then took refuge in the Jamia Jama Masjid. But the police reportedly entered the mosque premises, breaking the glasses and beating students, claimed some residents.
The detained students were made to sit on the road with their heads down. They were later released after activists and leaders intervened. In pictures flashed on TV screens and mainstream media, students can be seen moving out of the campus with their hands raised, under close vigil of the police force.
Several students who were badly injured were later evacuated after they made frantic calls of help to their relatives and acquaintances. Activists and several civil society leaders went to the campus and got the students evacuated with the help of ambulances. It was a tough time for paramedical teams and ambulances to evacuate the injured students as the police were allegedly not letting them enter the campus.
Other departments, including the Urdu Department, of the university also came under attack. Its library, where several students were either studying or hiding to protect themselves, was reportedly vandalised. Teargas shells were also fired there.
The police, justifying the crackdown, said they entered the campus because the locals had entered there and were pelting stones at the police. But this argument does not hold ground as the Jamia campus is protected by huge iron grills that cannot be easily climbed or jumped over, as it has sharp spikes on top. Someone jumping over this amid the chaotic situation is next to impossible, say local residents.