New Delhi: At 9:30 in the evening on Sunday, December 15, thousands of people gathered in the freezing cold in front of the old headquarters of Delhi Police in ITO, to take part in an “emergency” protest demonstration against the brutal police attacks on the students of Jamia Milia Islamia following violence during a protest against the amended Citizenship Act. Slogans and beats of daphli kept echoing through the crowd of students, activists, and members of civil society as more and more people continued to join the protest with the clock approaching midnight.
The protesters were demanding immediate release of JMI students who were brutally beaten up and then arrested by the police and kept in custody without medical treatment a few hours earlier. The protestors numbers grew as the night passed.
The protest ended after almost seven hours, at about four in the morning, when an announcement was made by Deputy Commissioner of Police (South Delhi) MS Randhawa that all the detained students of Jamia had been released. The demonstrators began to disperse as the police removed the barricades and unblocked the road.
The protest was called by Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union, and was joined by students from Jamia, Ambedkar University, and Delhi University. The protesters raised anti-police slogans and demanded action against officials who entered the Jamia Milia.
During the protests, the one slogan that was heard again and again was ‘Jamia tum sangharsh karo, hum tumhare saath hain’ (Jamia, keep fighting, we are with you). The police personnel, clad in riot gear, who had been deployed in large numbers stared blankly from a distance as the huge crowd chanted ‘Delhi Police down down’.
Talking to NewsClick, Bhumika Saraswati, a student of Convergent Journalism in Jamia, described the predicament of the students stuck inside the campus. She said, “"One of my friends was locked inside the washroom, and she was calling us from there, and she was crying. She didn't know what to do. Had she stepped outside the washroom, Delhi Police would have beaten her for absolutely no reason. Jamia is going to keep protesting against countrywide NRC (National Register of Citizens) and CAA. We don't believe in the CAA."
Another student of Mass Communication from Jamia, Srijan Aggarwal, told NewsClick, “Police barged into our campus gates, they brought teargas into our campus, they hit silently studying students. They have broken down a masjid. I am a Hindu, and I am protesting against the Citizenship Act because it is unconstitutional.”
Communist Party of India (Marxist) politburo member Brinda Karat and Communist Party of India General Secretary D Raja also reached the spot and condemned the police action.
Karat told Newsclick “The North East is totally up against this attack on the Constitution and their accord. The rest of Indian citizens are also supporting the protests in the North East and believe that this is a straight attack on the Constitution of India. And this is not a Hindu-Muslim issue, the way the BJP is trying to project it. This is basically an issue of the Constitution of India and the definition of who can be a citizen.”
Condemning police action and questioning the Home Ministry’s role under which the Delhi Police directly functions Karat said: “When the protests were going on today, the police went into Jamia without the permission of the university authorities. They went inside the campus because there was violence outside it. We are not for that kind of violence, but the police went into Jamia without permission, they used tear gas, rubber bullets, batons, lathis, they went inside lavatories, hostels, libraries and dragged people out. This is barbaric and this could only have happened if the home minister had given them permission.”
Accusing the police of “lying” to justify the brutal violence, the CPI(M) leader: “The police are now spreading lies in an attempt to justify their actions. No lies can justify their brutal assault on the students. Are our students prisoners of war that the cops are making them put their hands up and beating them up with lathis? The police, the government should be ashamed.”
CPI leader D Raja told NewsClick, “The BJP and RSS have together created a civil war-like situation in the country by passing the Citizenship Amendment Bill. Now the North East is boiling. There is uproar across the country. The Modi government should understand why students are so angry.”
The Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), which was also a part of the protest, said in a statement, “It was only after six hours of protest outside the Delhi Police HQ - when over a thousand students and youths and other concerned citizens had occupied the road outside the main gate - that the students were released. However, the fight is not yet over - and will not be - until the restoration of normalcy in Jamia university, which is currently under police occupation, and the scrapping of the unconstitutional Citizenship Amendment Act.”