The students’ organisation that is coordinating the protests against the new citizenship law in Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) has released a video that shows uniformed personnel in riot gear indiscriminately beating students with batons and lathis inside the university’s library.
The video is from the evening of December 15, 2019, when Delhi Police and the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) entered the campus, ostensibly in pursuit of miscreants who had allegedly set buses on fire in the vicinity of the university. Some of the men seen attacking the students in the video have their faces covered with handkerchieves.
Delhi Police, who had initially denied having ever entered the library, on Sunday said they were “verifying” the video, and that it appeared to have been “edited”. They also referred to two other videos, which they said were from the same evening, and which appeared to show protesters as being “prepared with stones”.Tear gas shells were fired on campus on December 15, and students were lathicharged. Over 100 students were injured, and many ended up in hospitals. Two months on, no FIR has been registered on the complaints filed against the police by the university and students.
The video of police action inside the library was tweeted by the Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC) at 1.41 am on Sunday. By Sunday afternoon, two more videos had surfaced online, showing men and women rushing inside the library and blocking the gate with tables.
On Sunday, The Indian Express reached out to the Commissioner of Delhi Police Amulya Patnaik and several of his top officers for comments on the video. Commissioner Patnaik declined to comment.
Special CP (Crime) Praveer Ranjan said: “We have taken cognizance of the videos that have emerged. We received footage from JMI a few days ago only after repeatedly requesting them to hand it over to us. We have to verify the footage, see if it’s been doctored, and also establish the chain of sequence.”
Asked why police had earlier denied entering the library, Ranjan said Delhi Police stood by their position that they “entered the campus in hot pursuit after rioters started going inside the campus and began pelting stones at police”. He said that “there is a video of the Joint CP requesting them to talk”.
Former DCP (Southeast) Chinmoy Biswal, who was the officer in charge of the police operation in Jamia, declined to comment. Biswal, who was criticised for the police highhandedness on December 15, was removed from the post by the Election Commission ahead of the Delhi Assembly elections.
R P Meena, who replaced Biswal as DCP (Southeast), was at Shaheen Bagh on Sunday along with Additional DCP (Southeast) Kumar Gyanesh. Asked for a comment on the video, these two officers told The Indian Express: “The matter is with the Crime Branch and is being investigated.”
A senior police officer who declined to be identified said that the personnel in riot gear who “can be seen using force” in the video were CRPF. A spokesperson for the CRPF said on Sunday that he had not seen the video; however, “on December 15, the CRPF was deployed with the Delhi Police”.
Ranjan said that the video appears to have been “edited”. He also referred to the two other videos that surfaced online on Sunday, which appear to show men and women, including some wearing masks, entering the library, with at least one individual holding what could have been a stone.
“It appears that the protesters were prepared with stones. Who sits in a library with a mask? They were not unarmed. The sequence, once established, will clarify everything,” Ranjan said. One of the students in the video appears to have a piece of cloth around his neck; his face, however, is clearly visible.
Delhi Police spokesperson M S Randhawa said: “We have received all three videos, and we are trying to establish the sequence. First video is edited, it appears.”
A senior police officer said that the first video that the student body released is “only half truth”. He said that the police “can enter any building or institution when it’s in hot pursuit, and in this case ‘rioters’ had entered an institution”.
The officer said that on December 15, maybe there were “some innocent students genuinely studying in the library, but it’s also clear that many who entered the library were armed protesters”.
Jamia university authorities confirmed that the video in circulation was from December 15, and was from the university library, but said that they did not release it. They said the footage had been given to various investigating agencies.
“It has come to our notice that some video with regard to police brutality in Dr Zakir Husain Library of the Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) is in circulation. This is to clarify that the video has not been released by the university,” university PRO Ahmad Azeem said.
The 44-second video has a time stamp of 6.08 pm. The men in riot gear, including helmets, shields, and jackets, are seen raining batons on the cowering students, who are seen trying to cover their heads and faces with their hands as they are beaten.
According to the JCC, the footage is of the MPhil/PhD reading room in the Old Library building. It is the same room in which Mohammad Minhajuddin (26), a law student, was assaulted by the police. He has lost vision in his left eye due to injuries suffered in the attack.
On the other two videos released later, Safoora Zargar, a JCC member, said, “These are not ‘rioters’ entering the library, but scared students trying to escape police brutality and tear gas exposure. Anybody with a stone in their hand is not a rioter, and whether there are stones in the hand is also not clear.”
The video drew sharp reactions from political leaders.
“See the way the Delhi police is indiscriminately beating students. A student is showing his book but the police personnel is continuing to lathicharge. Home Ministry and Delhi Police officials lied that they did not enter the library and beat anyone. If after seeing this video, action is not taken against anyone in the Jamia violence case, the government’s intention will be exposed to the entire country,” Priyanka Gandhi Vadra of the Congress posted on Twitter.
CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury tweeted, “This is unconscionable & unacceptable. Every defence of police action on students in universities, offered by [Home Minister] Amit Shah, is untrue, misleading & politically motivated. Delhi police comes directly under Modi-Shah & this is how it treats young students studying in a library. Shame.”
After the events of December 15, Jamia Vice-Chancellor Najma Akhtar had said that the police did not take permission to enter the university. The V-C had condemned the police brutality. Having failed to persuade the police to register an FIR, the university and students have now moved court.
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