No shot would have been fired had police not stood around leisurely, say protesters
New Delhi: No shot would have been fired and no one injured had the police shown some “urgency”, instead of standing around “leisurely”, when a 17-year-old boy began brandishing a gun and threatening to shoot protesters outside Jamia Millia Islamia Thursday afternoon, said eyewitnesses. The police “inaction” has drawn sharp and widespread criticism on social media.
A video of the incident showed that nearly a dozen policemen stood just a few metres away from the attacker, but no one made a move for about 10 seconds. By the time one of them did approach the attacker, the suspect had already shot and injured Shadab Farooq, a 22-year-old first year MA student of Jamia Millia Islamia.
Videos also showed an injured and bleeding Farooq climbing over the police barricades to reach the hospital. “Police did not even care to remove the barricades to let Farooq get medical help. He had to climb the barricades using his bleeding arm for support,” Farooq’s friend and varsity student, Midhat Samrah, said.
Mohammad Anas, a Jamia alumnus and eyewitness, said he saw a group of policemen standing back leisurely while the attacker, pointing his gun at protesters, started yelling. “The policemen were just 10-15 metres from him when the shot was fired. Some of them were standing with their arms crossed. Even the policeman walking towards the attacker moved so slowly,” Anas said.
Praveer Ranjan, special commissioner of police (crime branch), who will be heading the probe, said the police hardly had any time to react since the attack happened quickly. He said the problem was compounded by the fact that the attacker emerged from among the protesters.
“Initially, the police thought that he was one of the protesters. The policemen were facing the students. Had they fired in the attacker’s direction and missed, there was a real danger of some student getting hit,” Ranjan said.
When Ranjan was told about the video that showed policemen standing inert for several seconds, Ranjan said personnel couldn’t understand the situation for several seconds as camera-wielding journalists were moving parallel to the attacker.
“We thought he was one among the protesters. When we realised what was happening, we immediately disarmed him and arrested him. It took fewer than 30 seconds, so there wasn’t any delay really,” Ranjan said.
On Thursday evening, a statement released by the police said barricades couldn’t be immediately removed to make way for Farooq since they were tied to each other to block the marchers.
Ranjan said, “It was a chaotic situation there, but every attempt was made by the police to move him (Farooq) quickly to the hospital.”
Chinmoy Biswal, deputy commissioner of police (south-east district), told the BBC that the policemen have been maintaining a distance from Jamia protesters since mid-December as they would turn aggressive whenever the police got close to them. “We weren’t standing close to them because of the nature of protesters,” Biswal said, while putting the onus of safety on protesters.
“The large gathering of protesters must also keep a watch on miscreants who can misuse the crowd,” Biswal said.