In yet another example of state machinery being used to terrorise dissenters, police virtually laid siege to the Jamia Millia Islamia University (JMIU) campus in New Delhi for several hours on Sunday. It all began in the afternoon when a group of students were holding marches and demonstrations against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in neighbourhoods such as Mathura Road, New Friends Colony, Jamia Nagar and Sarai Julena, located near the university campus.
That’s when police allegedly cracked down on protesters who were at least hitherto protesting peacefully. Police allege that the protesters started pelting stones and also allegedly set on fire six buses and 50 other vehicles. The police then allegedly forcibly entered the university campus and unleashed brutality on unarmed students for hours.
Police beat up students with lathis forcing many to take refuge in the library and urinals. But the police did not spare them either. They lobbed tear gas shells to smoke out the students. Here’s a video of what transpired in the library when police lobbed tear gas shells turning it briefly into a virtual gas chamber.
Spoke with a student inside Jamia who sent me this video along with other videos. He claimed that the students were stuck inside library with the library filled with tear gas smoke and they were having a difficult time breathing. And that some could finally get out of there. pic.twitter.com/1XaD9jPrdt
— Pratik Sinha (@free_thinker) December 15, 2019
Police also allegedly beat up students offering namaz in the campus prayer hall. As many as 50 students were detained, but let off late at night. Police also allegedly entered girls’ hostels and locked up the inmates. They also allegedly shut down power supply to the hostels temporarily. There were also allegations of police firing at students and some images appeared on social media of people with bullet injuries. There are unconfirmed reports of at least two deaths, but police claim there have been no casualties so far.
A video of women students who live at as paying guests outside campus valiantly shielding a protestor from police lathis has also emerged and shows how the police brutally attacked the male protestor and would have continued to rain lathi blows on him has the women not used their own bodies to shield the man.
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Eventually the police forced students to exit the campus with their hands up in the air, with many students still protesting saying police were treating them like criminals.
Wasim Ahmed Khan, Chief Proctor of the university, said that the Delhi Police entered the university premises without permission. University Vice-Chancellor Najma Akhtar told NDTV, “It is completely unacceptable the way the police forcibly entered the campus and beat innocent students with lathis. We will complaint against this brutality to the highest authorities.”
Hundreds of students from Delhi University (DU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) came together in solidarity with JMIU students and held a demonstration outside the Delhi Police Headquarters all night.
Police claim action against students was necessitated after protesters started pelting stones and injured police personnel, which triggered action against the protesters. MS Randhawa, PRO Delhi Police told reporters that when police tried to disperse protesters there was stone pelting from inside the university campus which is located on both sides of the road on which demonstrations were taking place. Speaking to reporters in the early hours of Monday Randhawa said, “In the violence and stone pelting by protesters, yesterday, several policemen including South East District DCP, Additional DCP (South), 2 Assistant Commissioner of Police, 5 Station House Officers and inspectors have been injured.”
But the bigger question is, was the police action proportionate to the alleged actions of the protesters? How can they justify entering a university campus without permission from university authorities? How can police justify beating students in libraries, urinals and prayer halls? How can we now tell students that university campuses are safe spaces?