Students of Jamia Millia Islamia plan to boycott exams on Saturday, as part of what they are calling a “university lockdown”. This comes after a protest march by students and teachers against the new citizenship law was stopped by police on Friday, leading to stone pelting by a section of protesters and lathi charge by police personnel, who also used teargas grenades.
While the protest initially appeared to have ended by evening, students did not move away from the streets. By 7 pm, the large mass of students and locals had split into smaller groups who kept sloganeering at different places on the main road outside the campus.
The anger was palpable, with students taking turns to kick and stomp on police barricades. At more than one place, copies of the Bill were set on fire. At the junction of two roads, locals took turns delivering speeches.
The nearby Holy Family Hospital remained under a heavy security cover, with police not allowing entry until one could specify who they wanted to meet.
With students refusing to disperse, another round of lathi charge took place around 7.15 pm. By 8:30 pm, large groups of police personnel and protesters had gathered outside Jamia’s gate number 1. While police maintained all 42 students detained earlier had been released, protesters refused to believe them and said they wouldn’t back down until everyone was let go.
The violence earlier in the day had both sides on edge, with several protesters admitting they had pelted stones and even thrown back teargas shells, but “in retaliation”.
“We are using a piece of cloth to cover our palms while throwing teargas shells back at the police,” said one protester, his face covered with a cloth.
Police said about 25 teargas shells were used during the day.
Some protesters were seen carrying lathis and breaking pavement stones with iron rods to hurl them at the police. “If they are hitting us, should we just stand and watch? We did not want any of this,” said one protester.
Police maintained they had tried to reason with protesters, but in vain. Delhi Police additional PRO Anil Mittal said, “(Protesters) were persuaded to protest peacefully (at Jamia) and requested not to march towards New Delhi area. However, they got agitated and aggressively confronted police personnel. They broke barricades and indulged in stone pelting.”
Students from the engineering faculty at the university, who were appearing for an examination between 2 pm and 5 pm, claimed teargas has entered their classroom. Saif Ullah Khan, 21, a BTech student, said, “We were tearing up. Plus it was so loud outside that we couldn’t focus.” A faculty member also claimed teargas had entered the campus.
The faculty was also holding viva examinations for another batch of students, many of whom couldn’t make it to the venue on time because of the violence and barricading outside.