Students protested without permission; tear gas was “avoidable”: NHRC report on Jamia violence

The Commission, in a shocking report, has seemingly absolved the police for using brute force in unarmed students and blamed the students for destroying public property and for protesting without permission.

jamia protest

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in its report disposing complaints against the police for inflicting violence on students of Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) University, has majorly held students responsible for holding protests without permission, and has let the police off the hook despite observing that there were some serious violations at their end.

The Commission had initiated a probe into the violence that took place in Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) University in December 2019, when protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act were raging across the country. The NHRC had sent its team led by Ms. Manzil Saini, SSP, which visited the campus and recorded statements of students as well as the Jamia administration. It is pertinent to note here that Jamia administration had condemned the police brutality while saying that the police was not given any permission to enter the campus while also describing their acts as “unprovoked targeting of innocent students”.

The report mentions the findings of the team sent for inquiry which observed that on December 15, 2019, students and local residents were protesting without permission and they became violent, thus damaging public property and indulged in burning down of buses, attacking police with stones, petrol bombs, blocking traffic on the roads and so on. The report states that this was deemed as an unlawful assembly by the police and they were “law bound to contain the activities of these unlawful assembly to maintain law and order”. This statement is followed by an assertion that the police used tear gas shells and lathi charge which almost seems like a justification being given in the report for police action.

It further states that the unlawful assembly, consisting of students entered the JMI campus and started pelting stones at the police and then “seeing no other alternative, police also entered inside the campus to contain the violent/unruly mob and to remove them from campus.”

“However these protestors entered inside the libraries and blocked their way as to prevent the police. As to remove them, police broke open the doors of libraries which.(sic) However, some of the police personnel especially RAF personnel hit students/protesters despite their pleadings. The beating inside the library was avoidable. At the same time in another library no student was beaten by the police. Further, some remains of tear gas shells were also found from the library which is an irresponsible action of the police and could have been avoided.”

The report declares that the protest of the student was not peaceful, “If the protest was peaceful then there is no answer as to how a large number of private and government property were destroyed and many vehicles were burnt down.”

The report further states, “It is beyond doubt that students of Jamia Millia Islamia University, local residents, doubtful character, political leaders were actively involved in various violent protests in Jamia area.”

The report also points out the failure of the administration of JMI as “they did not try to share any development of discontentment of students with local police and also did not seek any assistance from them.”

While pointing to the failure of local police the report only calls it an “apparent failure” of local police “who failed to get timely information about the ongoing resentment of the students and local residents and their planning dated 15.12.2019”. The report points out that clashes between students and police had also taken place on December 13 at Gate No. 1 of the University which was successfully contained but the police put up barricades at arterial roads on December 15, instead of the University gate which led to breaches.

The report states, “There is need to uncover real actors and motive behind the overall protest and Jamia Millia Islamia which seems to be smartly and purportedly organized under disguise of students”.

It is apparent from one reading of the report that some contrasting statements have been therein with respect to the “perpetrators” of the violence. At one point it says students, local residents were involved in the violence and hence police had to lathi charge, on the other hand it says attacks were carried out by people disguised as students. Hence, no clear picture is given by the NHRC but the leeway given to the police is clear.

The report also quotes Article 19 of the Indian Constitution while stressing upon the reasonable restrictions I posed on these fundamental rights and states that there are constitutional limitations attached to these rights. The report further highlights that “law enforcing authorities are the best judge for meeting a situation prevailing in a particular locality based on which appropriate decision is to be taken either to grant permission to conduct meeting or protests or march in a particular place and a particular time.” Furthering the impunity it so blatantly intends to give to the police, it states, “It is a matter of fact that law and order is a state matter and it is the duty of the concerned authority to take a final call. Hence, assembly must be peaceful to get the benefit of this Article.”

While accepting the report submitted by its investigation, without contending it by any measure, the NHRC recommended as follows:

1.       Delhi Chief Secretary to provide compensation to those students who got injured in the violence, on humanitarian grounds;

2.       Centre to direct Delhi Police and CRPF to identify personnel who damaged CCTV cameras, who beat up students in the library and who used tear gas shells inside the library and initiate suitable action against them

3.       Police force to be sensitized to inculcate professionalism in handling such law and order situations

4.       Delhi police to investigate all related matters on merit and in a time bound manner while identifying the real perpetrators

5.       Delhi police to expedite administrative enquiry into alleged atrocities by Police inside the library and action to be taken promptly

6.       Delhi police to take special steps to curb rumour mongering and fake news on social media and to set up robust intelligence system to ensure better preparedness

7.       Authorities of JMI to establish a mechanism of better communication with student fraternity so that they are not influenced by outsiders and local goons or petty politicians.

8.       Ministry of Human Resources Development to submit action taken reports on letter sent by JMI Delhi requesting inquiry into the police action in the campus

These recommendations ask that action be taken against personnel who broke into the library and beat up students and used tear gas shells, there seems to be no real intention to ensure that any action be taken against these personnel. The report does nothing to reprimand these inhuman and unwarranted actions of the personnel nor does it, in any way stand up for the students who were mercilessly beaten up by security forces.

In fact, the report seems like a feeble attempt to only acknowledge all that was caught on CCTV, the footage being circulated widely and hence, cannot be denied outright.

Meanwhile, a Delhi High Court bench of Justices DN Patel and Prateek Jalan are hearing a batch of petitions seeking action against the alleged ruthless, and excessive use of force and aggression by the police and paramilitary forces on students and demanding setting up of a judicial commission. While the police have filed an affidavit saying that due procedure/ standard protocol was followed by the police authorities to control the unruly mob and to maintain law and order, the rejoinder of the petitioners will be considered by the court on July 6.

The complete report can be read here.



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