DELHI’S JAMIA Millia Islamia was at the centre of protests Sunday against the new citizenship law, as police lobbed teargas shells inside the campus, forced their way in, and allegedly dragged students out of the library and the mosque, and assaulted them.
The police action came after violence over the law erupted in parts of south Delhi where over an estimated 1,000 protesters clashed with police and at least six buses and over 50 vehicles were set ablaze in Mathura Road, New Friends Colony, Jamia Nagar and Sarai Julena.
This is the second flare-up in the National Capital after 27 people were detained following clashes with police during a protest against the law last Friday outside the campus, involving Jamia students and local residents. Follow Jamia, AMU protests LIVE Updates here
Elsewhere in the country, protests spilled over to a third day in West Bengal where at least 15 railway stations and two local trains were vandalised, while an internet clampdown continued in Assam, where the agitation first turned violent last week.
In Delhi, the day started with students of Jamia organising a “community march” to mobilise people for a Parliament march “in the near future” and inform local residents about the new law, which grants citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Jains and Parsis — but not Muslims — who entered the country from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan until December 31, 2014.
However, as the crowd swelled, a section of protesters grew restive and insisted they march to Parliament today itself. Violence broke out when some protesters tried to reach the Ring Road but were stopped by police from going further.
The situation on the campus escalated around 6.45 pm, when police personnel in riot gear dragged out four-five students and beat them with lathis before putting them inside a bus. Teargas shells were simultaneously lobbed inside the campus as protesters retaliated by hurling stones at personnel gathered at the gates.
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At around 7 pm, over 100 students were taken out of the campus in a line with their hands in the air. They said they had been brought out from the central library.
University authorities, meanwhile, dissociated themselves from the protests and said local residents were indulging in stone-pelting and arson.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Vice-Chancellor Najma Akhtar said the police action of storming the campus was “wrong”, teargas shouldn’t have been used, and that students were “scared”. She said that police ought to have sought permission before entering, and that she had briefed the HRD Ministry about the developments.
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“We were offering prayers when police entered the mosque and dragged us out. We were thrashed. I produced my ID card but that didn’t have any effect. As a student, we don’t support the acts committed by outsiders, but police ended up beating us instead of offering us protection,” Mubashir, a student from Kerala, said.
His account was corroborated by at least two other students, Azkar and Murtaza, who are pursuing M.Tech courses at the university.
“A few of us were having tea at the canteen. A protest march of students was entering the campus at that time when police entered the area, including the mosque,” Azkar said.
“There were around 150 of us studying in the reading room when the police broke in. We saw them beat up so many students. Why are we being made to made to put our hands in the air? We are not criminals,” said Tehreen, a 20-year-old undergraduate student.
While about 20 injured students were admitted to the nearby Holy Family hospital in the course of the day, at least 80 were taken to Al Shifa Hospital.
Explaining why police stormed the campus, DCP (southeast) Chinmoy Biswal said Jamia is a “peculiar university, which is not a unified campus as it’s located on both sides of the road”.
“When the violent mob was being pushed back to Jamia Nagar, many were going inside the university gates and throwing stones at us from there,” he said.
On allegations by several students that they had sustained “bullet-like injuries”, Joint CP Devesh Srivastava said: “We only used lathi charge and tear gas and not any other weapons. Delhi Police is not equipped with pellet guns.” An officer said the injuries may have been caused by shrapnel from teargas shells.
Later, students from Delhi University and JNU called for another protest at 9 pm outside the old police headquarters in ITO. Among those who turned up were CPI’s D Raja, CPI(M)’s Brinda Karat, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad.