Bloodstains, used tear gas shell in Jamia library capture Sunday’s violence
In one corner, a pile of jeans lay folded on a window sill with a gym jacket and a dusty gray sweatshirt strewn by its side.
A day after the violence in Jamia Millia Islamia, where students accused the police of barging into the campus and attacking them, shattered windowpanes, upturned tables, and hastily abandoned personal items in two library buildings, captured the violence of Sunday evening.
In one corner, a pile of jeans lay folded on a window sill with a gym jacket and a dusty gray sweatshirt strewn by its side. Broken window panes covered the clothes. There were drops of blood on the floor, broken police batons, a used tear gas shell, open textbooks strewn on staircases, forsaken bags huddled together, chairs piled on overturned study tables, dismantled CCTV cameras, and several pairs of crushed spectacles.
In the building, the two libraries – one old and another constructed a decade ago – are located about 100 metres from each other. The scene in both was almost similar.
“I don’t know why these clothes have been left here,” said a puzzled Nihal Ahmed, an MPhil research student of Cinema Studies, looking at the jeans on the floor on Monday afternoon. His last visit to the reading room of the new library, on Sunday evening, was to help desperate students in need.
The previous day, between 6pm and 7.30pm, several students were sitting in the reading room of the new library, studying for their end of the semester examinations that were to take place this week, according to eye witnesses and library staff.
Suddenly, a tear gas shell came whizzing into the L-shaped room, shattering the glass on the window, the eye witnesses present in the library added. Shocked, many students began to run.
As the compound, 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile — the main component of tear gas that causes eye irritation, and a burning sensation in the throat and nose — spread through the room, pandemonium broke out, the library staff said.
Multiple accounts by students suggest that some rushed towards the main door, breaking the glass walls to let air in; several were injured by the broken glass shards; some ran towards the top floor, in the new library, and shut themselves up in bathrooms; many huddled underneath desks.
The police said they did not enter the library buildings at all, or assault students. “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, Delhi Police spokesperson Mandeep Singh Randhawa said. “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.”
The students and the staff, however, claim otherwise.
On Monday, the evidence of what might have happened lay among the wreckage -- in a broken canister of tear gas, its plastic twisted out of shape. In the new library building, which houses rare manuscripts, a digital research room, and a reading room that can seat at least 500 students, a vitrine occupies pride of place at the entrance hall. Its glass had been shattered revealing 10 books inside, including one on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, another on socioliterary cultures in South Asia, and one on the 150 years of Mahatma Gandhi.
“I began wiping the blood from one floor in the morning, but I was left overwhelmed and in tears with all the destruction around me. I let it go after that,” said Mukhtar Ahmed, a library staffer.
Nihal Ahmed said that the police returned to the new library building twice in the span of a couple of hours — the second time, they rounded up some students and took them out of the campus, hands in the air, to a spot some distance away where they were then let off. At least 50 students from the old library building were taken to two police stations, in Kalkaji and New Friends Colony.
“I was reading a book when dozens of policemen broke open the door to barge in. Four of them rained batons at me until I could raise my hand no more to defend myself,” said Sajid Iqbal, who was sitting in the old library building. He had a fractured hand and swollen fingers. He was not detained by the police.
“Most of us in that library were preparing for semester exams,” said the 18-year-old engineering student.
In the halls of the older building, smashed tube lights were strewn over the halls. A single shoe was left behind in a corridor. In another corner, about a dozen dupattas were stacked on a bench. The glass panes of one hall had been smashed open using a fire extinguisher. The wooden door of another hall had been smashed into a dozen pieces.
As with the students in the new library, many students here too, had abandoned their textbooks and notes.
In the new library building, the blood trail was more prominent, appearing on the staircase, in front of the lift, and as a deep red spray on the first floor outside the manuscript room.
Shakir Ahmed, a final year Bachelor’s student, said he was reading a book on the Russian Revolution in the library and had his earphones plugged in when he heard the sound of a glass being smashed. “I had barely removed my headphones that many policemen began raining batons on me. I used my book to shield myself,” said
The students weren’t the only ones who claimed that they were beaten by the police. Mohammad Irshad Khan, a former armyman serving as a guard in the varsity, said he had tried to stop about three dozen policemen from barging into the libraries’ compound, but the policemen allegedly snatched his wireless set and rained batons on him till he collapsed.
“I am a strong man, so I survived. Others in my position would be left with fractures. I felt like a buffalo while being beaten,” said Khan, weeping while showing his swollen limbs and back.
Mohammed Yunus, another ex-servicemen guard at the university, was hit on his head — on Monday, the blood drops on the collar of his fatigues were dried.