The ripple effect of police action inside Jamia Millia Islamia was felt across Delhi Monday, with protests, both spontaneous and organised, erupting across campuses and public places.
While campuses saw demonstrations during the day, the action shifted to India Gate in the afternoon, with groups of people gathering to read out the Preamble to the Constitution. The air resonated with the slogans of “Delhi Police down down”.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi and other senior party leaders sat on a silent protest for about two hours in solidarity with Jamia students. After they left, those who had gathered behind the barricades were let in.
A 45-year-old resident of Nizamuddin said she read about the India Gate protest on WhatsApp. “I broke down watching videos of students being beaten up. I told my husband we have to stand with the kids… we have two of our own,” said Mrs Ali, who only gave her last name.
Maulana Naseem Ul Quasmi (26) from Nangloi said, “Entering the campus and beating children inside libraries is a terrible thing. This is a way of breaking the Constitution. We are here to show them that we respect the diversity of our nation.”
Pamphlets of the Constitution were distributed and phone flashlights were raised to the skies as dozens read it out loud.
One family at the protest said they were visiting from MP’s Orchha and stumbled on the protest. “We were students once and our kids will be students too… I can’t imagine the state of parents watching their children being beaten up on TV,” said the 37-year-old visitor.
Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad joined the gathering in the evening and read the Preamble. While some waved the Tricolour, others held photos of Gandhi and placards with messages such as: “My name is India and my religion is Constitution.”
Students at Delhi University also held a protest at the Arts Faculty. Many who had their Political Science examination Monday boycotted it. IIT-Delhi students, too, took out a march in support of Jamia students where a sizeable number of youth turned up.
Meanwhile, the area around Jamia Millia Islamia witnessed waves of protests through the day, both inside and outside the campus. The stretch outside the university pulsated with speeches and slogans against Delhi Police action and new citizenship law.
Addressing students inside the campus, spokesperson of Jamia teacher’s association Majid Jamil said: “This is a long fight… we have to take our movement forward peacefully. Police action was not called for in any way and we condemn it… we demand a judicial inquiry into their actions…”
While Delhi Police personnel steered clear of the core area of demonstrations, groups of khaki-clad men stationed themselves near the Sukhdev Vihar Metro station, gates of which were shut down around 5.30 pm. The Jamia Millia station was shut at 3 pm.
The police personnel, however, stopped men and women heading to the protest and asked them to produce identity cards, while noting down their names and other details. Those returning from the protest were also stopped and asked to describe why they were in the area.
Asked if they were approaching everyone walking towards the protest site, a personnel said: “We are approaching those who look suspicious.” Among those approached were three youths from Manipur, two from Zakir Nagar, among others.
Around 5.45 pm, a gathering outside the Jamia Millia Islamia Metro station set effigies on fire. Among the bystanders was a 10-year-old boy who suffered head injuries during stone pelting between protesters and police.
The child and his parents, both of whom are cobblers, stay in a hut built of tarpaulin near the station, along with around 15 other families. His mother said the boy has been traumatised by the violence in the area.
Around 6.40 pm, a protest march began outside the campus. A group of Jamia students urged the protesters, mostly comprising locals, to end the march when it reached the elevated Jamia station. “We will have to find newer ways to register our dissent. We cannot afford to fall into their trap,” Sakib, a final-year MA Political Science student, told the protesters. By 7.30 pm, the area was largely cleared of protesters, with Jamia guards also appealing to people to head homes.
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