A blow-by-blow account of Jamia protest in last 24 hrs over Citizenship Act
A protest called by the students of Jamia Millia Islamia University (JMI) against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which residents from nearby vicinities joined on Sunday afternoon, snowballed as buses were burnt, police lathi-charged students and lobbed teargas into the university library, and students from other universities protested in the city till late on Sunday night. Around 70 persons, including police, JMI students and locals of Jamia Nagar and New Friends Colony treated injuries in hospitals. According to doctors, at least 10 persons have sustained fractures.
Hindustan Times correspondents were at the spot from the start of the first protest at Jamia Nagar. Here’s account of what transpired in the past 24 hours.
At around 11 am, many Jamia Nagar shop owners shut their shops to protest the new act, which grants citizenship to non-Muslim persons facing religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, and who have entered the country on or before December 31, 2014. The students of JMI had also called for a protest at 11 am —around 2000 of them walked on the road in front of the university, from Gate No. 7 up to Batla House and back, said one of the student organisers Nihal Ahmed, an MPhil researcher at the university. Upon finishing the loop, student organisers called for the march to be dispersed, and for JMI students to return to the campus. Around 100 police officers were present at this time.
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Between 11 am and 2 pm, many more students and local citizens joined the protest. Around the same time, a “peaceful” rally helmed by Okhla MLA Amanatullah Khan of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also took place. The MLA told HT that over 10,000 people were protesting peacefully at Shaheen Bagh, a locality in the vicinity of the university.
As the protesters increase in numbers, at around 3 pm they decide to march towards the New Delhi area. They decide to take the Mathura Road, a bus stretch that connects central Delhi with south Delhi, Faridabad, and Mathura. Many students say they do not want to participate in the protests and return to the campus.
At 3.15 pm, many protestors reached Sarai Jullena Chowk near the New Friends Colony community centre market. The Delhi police called more personnel to the spot to prevent them from going further — about 200-300 police personnel came to the spot. However, the protesters refused to stop, and began moving towards Surya Hotel down the road. The Delhi police called senior officers to the area and curtailed the protesters to Surya Hotel for an hour, but the number of protesters swelled, and some began to climb police barricades in an attempt to reach Ring Road through Mata Mandir Marg.
The police have alleged that around 4 pm, some protesters set on fire two DTC buses and a motorcycle on Mata Mandir Marg — this claim has been contested by several eyewitnesses. The police said that they received the orders to charge at the protesters with batons and fire teargas shells. The first teargas shell was fired at around 4.40 pm. However, students who were injured in this clash alleged that the police fired the teargas before the buses were torched.
Between 4.45-6 pm, protesters spilled on to Mathura Road. Another bus and a car were torched. At this point, the Delhi police block one carriageway of the traffic to Mathura Road. JMI students issued a press statement almost immediately after news of arson began circulating, which stated that they condemned the violence, and had no part to play in it as theirs was from the start, a peaceful protest.
At around 6 pm, an incident of stone pelting by protesters was reported. Many of them by now had begun returning to Jamia Nagar. Around the same time, police teams entered the university campus through Gate No. 4 and an adjacent gate. Teargas shells were fired in the library, on the ground floor, causing students to break open the glass on the walls, to breathe easier. The library, which can seat close to 500 students, had an unspecified number of students inside at the time. Students alleged that the police also hit them with their batons inside the campus though they were peacefully gathered there; even the guards — some ex-servicemen—received head wounds and body injuries, which HT has seen. At least 50 students who were in the library were detained and taken to the New Friends Colony and Kalkaji Police stations. The police, however, has claimed that unruly protesters had entered the university because of which they too had to enter the varsity.
At 8 pm, the Delhi government announced that schools in parts of southeast Delhi would remain closed the following day. Many student groups in Jawaharlal Nehru University and Delhi University called for a protest outside the former Police Headquarters at the busy ITO intersection. The protest was called for 9 pm. The Delhi police asked the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) to close the gates of 16 metro stations around ITO, including ITO itself.
Between 9 pm and midnight, well over 3000 protesters raised slogans outside the headquarters, with many holding banners and photographs of Mahatma Gandhi and BR Ambedkar. The Delhi traffic police blocked Vikas Marg for traffic. The students refused to leave until the JMI students, detained at the NFC and Kalkaji police stations, were let off. At around 5 am, the protesters left only after receiving a confirmation that the detained students had been released.
Meanwhile, former Indian Administration Services officer, Harsh Mander and advocate Kabir Ali Zia Choudhuri managed to meet the detained students in both police stations, some of who were injured and needed medical attention. The 16 students detained at NFC police station were taken to AIIMS Trauma Centre for a medical check-up at around 1.30 at night, following which they were released. The 30-odd students at the Kalkaji police station were released to their parents waiting outside the gates, at around 3.30 am.
Exams scheduled for Monday at JMI were cancelled and the winter break, which was to have started next week, was declared early. Many students staying in Jamia hostels were seen leaving with their luggage. At 9 am, Delhi University students of the Faculty of Political Science began a protest against the treatment meted out to JMI students, with some boycotting semester exams in stated solidarity.
At JMI, the campus wore a deserted look, even as the number of protesters outside the gate swelled. The police have closed traffic on the Sarita Vihar- Kalindi Kunj road.
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