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Jamia erupts after shooting at protest

UPDATED ON JAN 31, 2020 12:55 AM IST

New Delhi:

Jamia Millia Islamia erupted again on Thursday with over two thousand people, comprising university students and local residents, facing off with the police near the university on Thursday after a man fired at a group of anti-CAA protesters, injuring a student before walking away while waving the firearm over his head shouting “Yeh lo aazadi”.

Thursday’s incident echoed the tensions of December 15 when the police entered the campus and beat up students, following protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Several students and others were injured.

Massive protest broke out on Thursday with agitated students and others gathering near the university, breaking barricades and clashing with police personnel. Some demonstrators, including a woman, could be seen being forcibly taken away. Many sang the national anthem. With the standoff showed no signs of ending, police officials announced from across the barricades, “Today is Gandhi ji’s day. Please do not resort to any violent activity.”

Mohammad Anas, a former student of the university, who was among the protesters, said: “We had come to participate in a peaceful march when this student was shot. As the attacker kept shouting slogans like ‘Come I will give you freedom’ with a weapon in his hand, police stood at a distance with their arms crossed. They nabbed him only after he fired.”

“Just this week, BJP leaders like Anurag Thakur, Kapil Mishra, and Parvesh Verma were shouting slogans like “shoot the traitors”. This incident is a direct result of this as attackers get encouraged by such statements,” he added. The varsity’s alumni association too has filed a police complaint at the New Friends Colony Station against the attacker and BJP leaders Anurag Thakur, Kapil Mishra and Pravesh Verma for their alleged “hate speech”. On Tuesday, in Shaheen Bagh, a man armed with a gun entered the protest area but was overpowered.

Jamia vice-chancellor Najma Akhtar condemned the incident. She said, “If the miscreant had been nabbed by the police on time, this deplorable incident could have been averted.” She also said she was proud of the students for their “Gandhian principles of non-violence” and “wise avoidance of retaliation”.

Asif Ahmad, a Jamia student, said, “Police have time and again failed us. They kept looking at the attacker as if they were watching a circus.”

A police official said they had been requesting the protestors to disperse since 4 pm. The university’s proctor and professors had also tried to persuade them to disperse but to no avail. Residents of the area formed a human chain, trying to push the protesters back. “We have been requesting students to go back to their home and hostels. We are urging them not to engage with police,” said Jamia Teachers Association secretary Majid Jamil.

The protesters held fort behind police barricades near Holy Family hospital till evening. The protesters dispersed late evening after multiple requests from the university administration, teachers, and members of several students’ groups.

A protest was also reported from outside the police headquarters at ITO.

Thursday’s march was among the several protests being carried out by Jamia students since December 13. While violence broke out on December 15 injuring several students, the protests have remained peaceful since.

Students and teachers across the university condemned the incident. “For a while, I actually wondered if the attacker was holding a real gun or a toy pistol. But when we heard him raise slogans, we understood that he is not from among us. He then shot at Shadab Farooq who was actually asking him to stop and talk instead,” said Meherbaan, a student from Jamia’s AJK Mass Communication Research Centre.

Another student Sameer Alam, who stood waiting to hear news about Shadab outside the hospital emergency, said, “I saw the attacker coming. He came in a car, parked it on the other side of the road, crossed over and started saying things like ‘You want azadi? I will give you aazadi.’ I was a volunteer managing the crowd. When we saw this, we formed a human chain and stopped the protesters from going forward.”

Jamia Teachers’ Association (JTA) also condemned the incident and demanded “strong action against the culprit and book him under attempt to murder case immediately.” “The university is committed to extending all help including medical assistance to the injured student. All the safety measures have already been taken to make the campus secure. Students are being appealed to maintain peace,” said media coordinator Ahmad Azeem.

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