As protest returns outside Jamia, students ensure peace, cops keep safe distance
As an ambulance tried to make its way through many protesters on the road outside Jamia Millia Islamia on Monday afternoon, a young boy mouthing abuses picked up a piece of brick from the road and rushed in the crowd. The act was immediately noticed by a student protester who snatched the brick from his hand and reprimanded him before chasing him away.
This, a day after the Delhi Police were engaged in a pitched battle with demonstrators before barging into the university campus to allegedly assault students studying in libraries,
Monday’s protest outside the university lasted for over eight hours—all the while protesters ensured it did not spiral into violence.They were loud and unambiguous while voicing their angst against the previous day’s violence, and clear while raising their demands. All through the day, the police kept a safe distance.
“I could not even eat my food sitting at home thinking about Sunday’s violence. At least three of my friends suffered head injuries,” said Areeba Ziya, an undergraduate student who was a part of Monday’s protests. “How can I sit back and do nothing?”
The sentiment echoed among all students who had gathered outside the campus to protest against Sunday’s violence and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which has prompted country-wide protests. Armed with banners against the government and CAA and the possibility of a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC), protesters shouted slogans demanding “freedom from injustice”. Teachers’ groups across the campus also held meetings to ensure situation did not go out of hand and the protests did not take a violent turn like Sunday.
On the road outside, students and locals held hands and formed human chains outside the varsity to ensure protesters did not move towards New Friends Colony — an area that was rocked by violence on Sunday. While appealing for peaceful demonstrations, students allowed vehicles to pass by on Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar Marg.
Throughout the day, hostellers could be seen hurriedly leaving for their homes. University administration estimates that over 75% of students had left the hostels by Monday evening. While some students said they were leaving because of winter vacation, many others said they didn’t feel safe in the campus and had moved their plans to visit home ahead.
“I spent the last night at the Zakir Nagar home of a friend who I didn’t even know well. Today, my parents have asked me to come home. They are worried that I will be beaten or picked up by the police,” said Salman, a hostel student who wouldn’t give out his full name as he walked away with a large blue bag.
“We didn’t sleep the entire night after police came very near to our hostel and wanted to enter it,” said Fareeza, 22, who was also leaving for her home in Bihar. “There are girls who don’t have anywhere to go so they are in the hostels. But a majority of them have left.”
Through the day, the Delhi Police readied themselves with anti-riot gears and tear gas shells, but limited themselves to the ends of the kilometre-long road. At around 2 pm, a large posse of policemen carried out a march through adjoining neighbourhoods but ended it close to the Jamia metro station, not far from where the protesters had assembled.
At the time, the markets in the surrounding neighbourhoods remained shut and local residents stayed indoors.
“We were anxious since Friday when the first protests took place. After we saw videos of clashes on Sunday, I asked my family members to stay home. Most of us haven’t stepped out since Saturday night,” said Rosina Ahmed, 45, a housewife in the Ghaffar Manzil colony. Most shops on the main roads of localities like Batla House, Zakir Nagar and Abul Fazl Enclave remained closed.
By 9 am on Monday, a large number of protesters, mainly comprising of students, had gathered outside the campus. In that biting cold, half-a-dozen students took off their shirts to register their protest.
Bhumika Saraswati, a postgraduate student, said, “At least five-six men stood shirtless near the main campus as a mark of protest. Most of them were researchers.” On Monday, Delhi saw the coldest December day in 16 years with maximum temperature 12.9°C, 10 notches below normal.
By noon, the gathering swelled and the protests grew louder. Most of the placards they carried were black-and-white printouts of slogans, about four-five words long, on A3 size sheets. A few brought out colour printouts of BR Ambedkar, and some carried images of two women students standing up to the police a day earlier. They shouted slogans for the country and against the Delhi Police, and the CAA. A few of them carried the national flag.
Among the protesters was Class 12 student Mustafeez Mumtaz, 17, who arrived with a bandaged right hand. “I was among the peaceful protesters on Sunday. A tear gas shell had fallen on my hand while the police were chasing me,” said Mumtaz. “Today, I have taken it upon myself to keep a watch on miscreants who may want to incite violence.”
A small group of loud protesters tried to march towards Sarai Julena, but were restrained by other students.
Delhi Police said they have registered two separate cases of rioting and arson at the Jamia Nagar and New Friends Colony police stations over Sunday’s incidents. The cases have been transferred to the crime branch, which will identify the miscreants.
Delhi Police spokesperson, M S Randhawa, said police were also monitoring social media posts and action will be taken against those found spreading rumours and urged the students not pay heed to unverified information.
On the allegations that the police personnel entered library on the campus, Randhawa said, “Our personnel entered the campus while chasing the violent protestors who were pelting stones, tube lights, bulbs, bottles on them, to push them back and contain the situation. No police personnel went inside the library or vandalised it. Tear gas shells may have gone inside the library since it was close to the places from where they were being fired.”
Meanwhile, a plea seeking judicial enquiry in the Jamia incident was moved in the Delhi High Court on Monday. The plea filed by advocate Rizwan Nazmi was urgently mentioned before a bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar. The court, however, refused urgent listing of the plea and asked the petitioner to move through the HC registry. The petition has sought that 52 students detained and injured students should be given proper medical attention and compensation.