‘They didn’t listen’: Jamia students allege assault by Delhi Police, cops deny charge
Rumsha,19, was getting ready for her evening prayers when she heard students asking her to get inside reading hall of Dr Zakir Hussain Library of Jamia Millia Islamia. Police had barged in the campus, they told her.
She came running out of the campus, without any slippers, tears streaming down her face, and tripping on the stones and bricks littered outside gate no. 7 of the campus. She was shaking.
“We got inside the reading hall and switched off the lights so that they wouldn’t see us. But police broke open the doors, barged in and brutally beat up students before dragging them out,” she said.
Students said at least 70 students were injured in the clashes that ensued on Sunday after protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the possibility of a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise took a violent turn with buses and vehicles being torched after police lathicharged protesters at around 5pm Sunday.
Zia-ur-Rahman, 14, who had come to Delhi to prepare for entrance exams to Jamia school, was among those injured. “We were protesting for our rights and were marching peacefully when police suddenly started the lathicharge. Our throats were burning because of the tear gas. We requested them not to beat us but they didn’t listen,” he said.
Rahman had fractured his hand and was among the 25 students taken to Holy Family hospital for treatment.
Hospital authorities confirmed that one person had arrived with a gunshot wound but that it was “not very serious”, and said that most injuries were bruises and lacerations. “Only three people have been admitted of which two are from police and one is a local person. They suffered head injuries but are stable,” said a hospital official.
As protesters torched buses and cars on Sunday evening, Ladeeda Sakhaloon, an undergraduate student whose image went viral during a university protest, was pleading with protesters to refrain from any form of violence. Sakhaloon and friends, including at least two female students, were lathicharged by police later on Sunday evening.
Following these clashes, the protesters then moved towards the university when police entered campus as they claimed that some members from the mob had entered the campus.
“After things turned violent, we ran towards the university thinking that would be the safest place. We never imagined police would enter. But they did and started beating students up. Male cops were beating female students and pulling their hijabs. They were yelling religious slurs and abuses while wrecking havoc,” said a female postgraduate student of the university.
The Delhi police denied these allegations.
“Eleven of us locked ourselves in the washroom and switched off all lights. We could hear screams and loud bangs outside. People were reciting prayers to come out of this safe,” she said. The students said tear gas shells were fired into the university library. Several were rescued by university staff later.
“We had put up almirahs around the library door to ensure that police stayed out. Yet, they barged in and beat us up. They later made us come out of the campus with our hands up in the air. Why were we made to do this? We are students studying in a central university. Why were we treated like criminals. We didn’t even protest,” said Tehreem, 20, another undergraduate student at the varsity.
While several students were detained, lawyers and activists said that police were not allowing them to meet them. “At least 20 students were brought in front of us at the Kalkaji police station and many among them had head injuries. Police said they had orders from higher ups to not allow anyone to meet the protesters,” said lawyer Somaya Gupta.
Jamia Millia Islamia Vice-Chancellor Najma Akhtar said the call for Sunday’s march was not given by students. The call for march was given by colonies around Jamia.
‘We have no issues with the students’
“We have no issues with the university’s students,” said Chinmoy Biswal, deputy commissioner of police (south-east) late Sunday evening amid allegations by students of Jamia Millia Islamia that the police barged into the campus and beat them up, including those who were studying in the varsity’s central library.
According to Biswal, after Jamia students “dissociated” themselves from protests on Saturday after agitating for two days, several small groups of protesters staged “peaceful” protests in various neighbourhoods around the varsity, under the watchful eyes of the police.
“However, around 2pm-2.30pm, some groups marched towards the Ring Road with an intention to reach the New Delhi area. Starting past the Jamia university, they marched past the Holy Family Hospital and Sarai Julena before we them stopped near the Surya Hotel using barricades,” said the DCP.
“We urged them not to block traffic and protest at that spot itself, but some groups escaped from the rear and started to proceed towards the Ring Road, before they were stopped near Mata Mandir Road (in New Friends Colony). We requested them not to block the traffic on the Ring Road, but they indulged in violence and set ablaze some DTC buses,” said the DCP.
The police force then decided to “push them back”. “While retreating, they began pelting stones. They set motorcycles ablaze and destroyed buses,” said Biswal.
Multiple videos that circulated on social media appeared to show policemen, armed with batons, chasing the protesters as they ran amok near bungalows in the posh New Friends Colony area. The videos could not be independently verified by Hindustan Times.
Amid all this, commuters found themselves stuck in massive traffic jams, many of them taking to Twitter to voice their predicament.
Police said many commuters lost their bags and valuables after being forced to escape from the buses. “Some commuters who returned to the buses found their belongings missing,” said a senior officer.
By the evening, motorcycles had been vandalised and a strong stench of petrol, the smell attributed by the police to numerous petrol bombs allegedly hurled by the protesters, lingered in the area on a stretch of the Maulana Mohammad Jauhar Ali Marg passing through the Jamia campus.
The DCP said the police tried to seek help from local elders, but the protesters continued to pelt stones at cops near Sarai Jullena while retreating.
“If it was a peaceful march, the protesters would have dispersed peacefully. Our only interest was to push them back, disperse them so that law and order is restored in the area,” said Biswal.
On allegations that the police barged into the varsity’s campus and assaulted students, the DCP said the “peculiar” nature of the varsity prompted the police to enter the campus.
“Jamia is a peculiar university; it is not a unified campus. It is located on two sides of a road… While being chased away, some members of the mob entered the campus premises, pelting stones. We had to go inside campus to check those places and secure them from anti-social elements,” said the DCP.
The protesters had tried to vandalise the Jamia Nagar police station as well, the DCP added.