We never wanted it to be violent, say victims of violence
“We never wanted it to be a violent protest. We were just extending our solidarity to locals during the Sunday’s march,” said Aysha Renna, 22, a postgraduate student of History at Jamia Millia Islamia.
Renna’s face was splashed all over social media after a video of her, along with her friends Shaheen Abdulla, Ladeeda Sakhloon and Chanda Yadav, being baton-charged by Delhi police went viral on social media. Renna and others were trying to save their friend Shaheen, a university student, who was left with a bleeding head, as police personnel thrashed him with a cane. The group of five were at New Friends Colony, when police chased them and assaulted Shaheen.
On Sunday, violent clashes broke out in the New Friends Colony area after protesters burnt buses, vandalised public vehicles, motorcycles, and private cars around the area. Police said they had to contain the crowd, using tear gas and lathicharge, after they attempted to march towards New Delhi area which would have caused massive traffic snarls.
“ We were telling the protesters not to be violent when the first tear gas shell was fired. Our friend Ladeeda suffered an asthma attack. Shaheen and others tried to get her inside one of the buildings so that we could help her recover away from the smoke,” Renna said.
The students said it was at this moment that the police barged into the house at Mata Mandir Road, and asked them to come out. “We refused to come out and Shaheen was trying to protect us, the police dragged him from behind and brutally beat him and us as we were trying to shield him,” said Renna. Shaheen was taken to Holy Family Hospital for treatment.
The students had been protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the possibility of a pan-India National Register of Citizens exercise which they said was “unconstitutional” and “anti-Muslims.”
A picture of the three women — Renna, Sakhaloon, and Yadav — had also gone viral last week after they were seen mobilising students at the starting of the CAA-NRC protest. The three were standing near the famous Mirza Ghalib statue of the campus, with Ladeeda raising her hand as she sloganeered, Chanda on the tambourine and Renna talking to protesters.
Sakhaloon, a native of Kerala and a first-year undergraduate student, said she didn’t care much about her the viral photograph or video. “Even my parents back home are engaging in protests and I think this started a bit too late. We should have begun with a mass movement much earlier,” she said.
Like her, many others on the students, despite being beaten, said they wanted to continue with their peaceful protests.
Abuzar Usmani, a law faculty student, said female protesters at the university’s central library were also beaten by the police. The Delhi Police, however, denied that they had entered the library.
Delhi Police spokesperson Mandeep Singh 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.” He also added that there were at least 100 women personnel among total force deployed in the area. “We have not beat up any female protesters or students,” Randhawa said.
“How am I hurt then?” Usmani asked as he showed bruises on his hands and legs. “I had seen female protesters hiding on the ledge of windows and trying to jump off from the other side to avoid being beaten up.”
He also contested the police allegations. “If we had to resort to violence, why did we go all the way to Mata Mandir Road? We could have done it near Surya Hotel, where the barricades were put up,” Usmani said.
A female postgraduate student, requesting anonymity, said, “The police just barged into the library breaking windows and started beating everybody they could find. It was horrible.” She said she did not see any women police personnel.
Showing bruises on her arm and cut marks on her feet from the shards of glass strewn around the central library, the student said, “Not everyone here was a protester. There is a crowd at Jamia who remains confined to the reading room for hours. They were beaten up and traumatised by the cops for no fault of theirs. Who will pay for this?”