FIVE days after police entered the Aligarh Muslim University campus, allegedly lobbying tear gas shells inside hostel rooms and dragging students out and beating them, the signs of what happened on the night of December 15 can be seen on the premises.
Six injured students continue to be in hospital, while the right hand of one has had to be amputated at the wrist. Doctors fear two others may have to undergo amputation.
Police have charged 26 people, including seven students, with attempt to murder, alleging that countrymade pistols were used to fire at them. On Saturday, the AMU administration appointed former chief justice V K Gupta to probe the December 15 incidents and submit a report within three months.
The administration has sealed all AMU hostels till January 5, and the campus is now largely deserted but for a small group of women students protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
The residential campus houses around 12,000 students. According to them, protests against the CAA had been on since December 11, with students taking out marches with torches, raising slogans and putting up posters. There were speeches by Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav and controversial Gorakhpur doctor-turned-activist Kafeel Khan.
Around 6.30 pm on December 15, news started trickling in of police crackdown inside Delhi’s Jamia Milia Islamia University earlier that day. The students’ union announced a General Body Meeting at 8.30 pm.
By 8 pm, a huge crowd had gathered near the Bab-e-Syed Gate, located close to the residence of Vice-Chancellor Tariq Mansoor and three official guesthouses. Fearing a ripple effect from Jamia, police presence outside the gate was strengthened.
Soon, some stones were reportedly hurled at police, and a clash began, with police retaliating with tear gas shelling. There are multiple videos doing the rounds of the shelling and stone-pelting, including from the police side. The violence lasted till 10 pm.
By then, say students, the gathering had thinned out. Around this time, Registrar Abdul Hamid, who is an IPS officer, “requested police to take action to control the situation”. As the forces entered the campus, the protesters ran into the three guesthouses, the Sir Syed Hall auditorium and nearby hostels like Morison Court.
Tazeem Khan, 20, a BA student, was among those who ran inside Guesthouse No. 3. He says he hid inside a toilet with eight others and kept trying to reach out to friends. Admitted at Jawahar Lal Nehru Medical College and Hospital (JNMC) with multiple fractures in both hands, Khan says, “We could hear police going from room to room, dragging out people. We were inside for around two hours, when police broke open the toilet door, dragged us out and thrashed nine of us, hurling communal abuses, shouting, ‘Beat them up, there is no camera here’. I was taken from one station to another without any medical aid. I was even denied water,” Tazeem, the son of a retired doctor from Allahabad, said.
Dr Hamza Malik, president of the JNMC Residents’ Doctor Association, said Tazeem and another student, Anas, may lose a finger each. Anas suffered multiple fractures in one hand due to a stun grenade explosion, Malik said.
Police entered the Morison Court Hostel around 10.30 pm. The private security deployed at the campus said they beat up the guard when he objected. Eyewitnesses say police next ran down the corridors, tearing away window grilles of hostel rooms. One tear gas shell went off inside Room No. 46, which had three students. Five days later, the canister still lies on one of the beds, with the room walls burnt in patches and belongings and furniture lying scattered. The students have claimed their laptops too were damaged in the police action.
Around the same time as the hostel, police entered Sir Syed Hall and dragged people out.
Mohammad Tariq, 26, pursuing PhD in chemistry, was near the Bab-e-Syed Gate when the violence broke out. “In my seven years in AMU, I have never participated in any protest. That day I had just returned after dropping a friend at a wedding,” Tariq said.
“When police started chasing protesters, I ran. At some point I fell and then I do not know what happened. Everything went blank,” Tariq says. His right wrist had to be amputated due to a tear gas explosion. His right arm was operated upon by plastic surgeons on Thursday.
Three other students have serious injuries. While one, Nadeem Akhtar (22), has head injuries, Nasir, a BA student, is admitted to JNMC with fractures in hand. Another student, Tabrez, has been referred to Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital with stomach injuries. Dr Malik said Tabrez was seeing repeated episodes of shock, having been hit by two tear gas canisters in his stomach.
Students have alleged police stopped ambulance drivers from taking away those injured, with one ambulance driver telling The Sunday Express that police had threatened him. A total of 21 ambulances were deployed to ferry the injured.
Kashmiri students Zubair and Adil, both doing PhD in chemistry, questioned the AMU administration’s decision to abruptly advance winter vacations by six days, telling students to vacate hostels within 24 hours. The students fear their studies will be hit due to unavailability of Internet services.
AMU PRO Omar Peerzada said, “The university arranged four buses, with security, for students till Jammu and Kashmir. Trains were also specially stopped at Aligarh, with a request being placed to the Union government, for students going to Assam, Bengal and Bihar.”
With the Vice-Chancellor’s permission to police to enter campus also coming under fire, Peerzada said they were extending all help to the injured students, and that a probe was on into alleged police excesses. “We share the pain and anguish of the students.”
Denying the allegations, the Aligarh police said they had brought the situation under control with “minimal” force. “The claims that police resorted to torture and beat people are false. With regards to tear gas shelling inside the hostel, no police personnel entered hostel premises. Shells were fired from a 100-metre distance outside since there was heavy stone-pelting from inside. It is possible that a shell bounced and went inside the room,” Anil Samania, Circle Officer (Civil Lines), Aligarh, said.
Police sources also claimed that some of the injuries were caused by students trying to throw back unexploded tear gas shells, including Nasir’s.