As over 20 police personnel, including an SHO, watched, a youth fired at a protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act near Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi on Thursday, leaving one student injured.
Later said to be 17 and a juvenile, the teenager brandished a gun at the protest site around 1.45 pm, and shouted slogans of “Yeh lo azadi (Here, take azadi)”, “Desh mein jo rehna hoga, Vande Mataram kehna hoga (If you want to stay in the country, you have to say Vande Mataram)” and “Dilli Police zindabad”, before he fired. As he was being taken away by police, he identified himself as “Ram bhakt”.
The injured student, Shadab Farooq, belongs to Jammu & Kashmir and is a first-year student of mass communication at Jamia. He was part of the ‘Long March’ against the CAA planned by Jamia students from the university to Rajghat on Thursday, to mark Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. Farooq sustained a bullet wound in his left forearm, and was taken to AIIMS for surgery.
The gunman, who was eventually overpowered by a single policeman, had posted about his intentions on Facebook, and kept putting up videos till the end.
Police said while the youth had fired once, there was another round left in the gun. They said he had told them during interrogation that he “had taken the weapon from someone a few days ago”, and taken the bus to reach Jamia. He has been held under IPC Section 307 (attempt to murder) and the Arms Act.
Jamia Chief Proctor Waseem Ahmad Khan blamed the provocative poll speeches by BJP leaders Anurag Thakur and Kapil Mishra for the incident. “The students were trying to march to Rajghat, we were trying to stop them… It was a peaceful protest, why did the man fire? This incident took place because of the inflammatory speeches by Anurag Thakur and Kapil Mishra. They instigated people. We are suffering. Police and the government should act against them,” Khan said.
In a video message, Jamia Vice-Chancellor Najma Akhtar asked why police did not catch the gunman in time. While around two dozen personnel were standing around 30 metres from the gunman, more than 300 policemen and five companies of the CRPF had been stationed in the area in preparation for the march.
Praising the students for showing restraint and pointing out that things could have got out of hand, Akhtar said, “We are shaken by this incident. It cannot ever happen that a man brandishes a pistol in front of police and nobody is able to stop him. Then he shoots someone and is caught very coolly. This incident is shaking our trust. I hope that such an incident will not occur again. We need an assurance that it will not happen again.”
With its role under a cloud for the third time in two months over handling of situations around university campuses, Delhi Police claimed that things had happened too fast for it to act.
Said Special CP Crime Praveer Ranjan, “By the time police could react, the person had already fired. Everything happened in a split second. Investigation is on.” ACP-rank, SHO-rank and additional SHO-rank officers, as well as a constable present at the spot, reiterated the same.
Additional SHO (Jamia Nagar) Khalid Hussain said he was walking near the students when the gunman fired. “The man appeared suddenly and shot… I was the first person to hold Shadab.” SHO Jamia Nagar Upender Singh said, “The accused had his back towards us and we couldn’t see the gun. As soon as he fired the gun, we acted swiftly and caught him.” An ACP-rank officer said, “We couldn’t see anything as the accused’s back was towards us and there was a lot of distance between where police were and where he was. We acted as fast as we could.”
Additional DCP (Southeast) Kumar Gyanesh said police personnel were stationed at various points near Jamia and the accused emerged from the crowd. “It all happened so quickly and we acted swiftly.”
A senior police personnel said “it was a reporter’s scream for help followed by the sound of the gunshot that made clear what had happened”.
On Monday, Anurag Thakur, the Minister of State, Finance, addressing a rally for the February 8 Delhi Assembly elections, had repeatedly raised the slogan of “Desh ke gaddaron ko” as the crowd responded with “goli maaro saalon ko”. The next day, BJP MP Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma said protesters at Shaheen Bagh could “enter homes and rape our sisters and daughters”. Thakur has been banned from campaigning for 72 hours, and Verma for 96 hours.
Last month, the slogan to target “traitors” had been raised by Mishra, a BJP candidate, at a pro-CAA march in Connaught Place.
During his poll speeches, Union Home Minister Amit Shah has also continuously attacked Shaheen Bagh protesters and on Thursday, called the election as between “those who stand with the nation” and “those with Shaheen Bagh”. He also tweeted about the Jamia firing incident, saying, “I have spoken to the Delhi Police commissioner about the shooting incident and told him to take strictest action.”
Both the Aam Aadmi Party and Congress linked the gunman’s actions to the rallies and press conferences by BJP leaders.
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The incident happened as a march of about 300 students was heading towards Rajghat. As police had put up barricades, a few of them went ahead to talk to the officers, with Farooq among them.
“Suddenly, out of nowhere, this guy came waving his country-made pistol and started shouting slogans such as ‘Delhi Police zindabad’ and ‘Hindustan zindabad’. He said ‘Aao main tumhe azadi dilaun (Come, I will give you azadi)’. He then fired at Shadab,” said Aamir Jahid, a Jamia alumnus who was present.
Midhat Samra, an economics student, who is seen in videos holding an injured Farooq, said, “Nobody knows where he came from. While he was shouting with his pistol pointed towards the sky, Shadab tried to calm him. He said ‘Bhai ruk jao, aaram se. Bandook neeche kar lo (Wait, take it easy, keep the gun down)’. We asked police for help, but they didn’t stop him. Then he fired. Even after that, when we were going to Holy Family Hospital, police didn’t move the barricades for Shadab. He had to climb on top of them.”
The area outside the university remained tense till long after, with protesters trying to breach barricades and police using “mild force” to disperse them. By late evening, the situation was under control.
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