Mohammad Rafi remembers the evening of December 15 in vivid detail. A diploma student of civil engineering at Jamia Millia Islamia, he recalls the police entering the reading hall of the New Library in the evening and attacking students and property, even as he managed to escape from the back door.
On Wednesday, as the reading hall of the New Library, also known as Zakir Hussain Library, opened after almost three months, Rafi stepped back into the hall, which smelled of fresh paint, with some trepidation.
Police have so far maintained that they had entered the university campus in “hot pursuit” of miscreants from outside the institute, who had allegedly indulged in stone-pelting and arson during an anti-CAA protest during the day. As reported by The Indian Express, the university suffered property damages worth Rs 2.66 crore in police action. More than 125 students had complained of injuries, some serious in nature. The Old Library, which suffered the maximum damage, is yet to reopen.
“I remember that visual — of police entering from the front door and us running out of the hall. We went and hid upstairs, and thankfully it was dark so the police didn’t come up. It will always stay with me; nothing like this has ever happened. It has also been an academic loss, because we haven’t been in the frame of mind to study. The library has opened just a few days before exams are to begin,” he said.
Watch | Delhi police personnel beat students of Jamia Millia Islamia
Scores of students came rushing to the library Wednesday as word spread that it had been opened, but many said it would take time before the hall reaches full capacity as several students were still a little hesitant to return. As students sat with their books and laptops trying to concentrate, some renovation work was still going on.
Said Ahmad Siddiqui, an MA student of Public Administration, who was studying at the hall, said, “That day there were students who thought they would be safe in the library, and they suffered because of it. I thought it was better to run out so I was spared. Regardless, the last three months have been difficult. We have been studying in the civil engineering department library but faced problems because we are not from the department,” he said.
Even students who weren’t in the library that day say it will take time to come back to normalcy. “In my class of 75 students, only 12-13 have been attending classes. Our parents are worried and keep calling us home. It’s becoming difficult to assuage their fears. I have come to the library today because exams are approaching and I wasn’t being able to study properly in my room,” said Mobassir Hasan, a BTech student.
Shadab Anjum, a BSc student of Maths, said, “It is still unbelievable that all this happened inside a university library. There is a fear that if we are not safe in a library, where are we safe?”
The New Library has a seating capacity of 800 and consists of “a reading hall, research floor, reference and periodical section and a well-equipped digital resource centre, comprising of 150 computers”.
“Effort has been made to provide better facilities to students by installing LED lights and providing new and comfortable chairs. It is a matter of great satisfaction that despite the heavy odds, the library has been able to utilise its budgetary allocation completely and renew its subscription to electronic databases,” Jamia PRO Ahmed Azeem said in a statement Wednesday.
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