This morning, the ongoing protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Delhi’s Jamia Nagar area took a violent turn as three buses were burnt, and the police lathicharged and teargassed the protesters. The Citizenship Amendment Act, which aims to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, has sparked nationwide demonstrations, including at Jamia Millia Islamia. The protesters point out that the law is “discriminatory” and “divisive”.
The protest had been led by Jamia students until yesterday, but was reportedly taken over by local residents on Sunday.
A student who was at the protest today said no student was involved in Sunday’s violence. “As we moved forward with our march from New Friends Colony, the police lathicharged us for no reason. They also used teargas to kill the protest. Everybody started running here and there to protect themselves, and amid this confusion two-three buses were burnt.” Around 400 students have been injured during the protests.
According to Farheen Fatima, a protesting student, the police entered the university and beat up students inside the campus mosque. “The police lathicharged the students even while they were protesting peacefully. They entered the campus, and beat up students severely which resulted in the situation turning critical.”
Some students had to be taken to hospital with severe injuries.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation closed Sukhdev Vihar and other stations in the vicinity as a precautionary measure, acting on the advice of the Delhi Police. A police officer said the area has been barricaded and they may have to use teargas or water cannons if the situation does not “come under control”.
The alumni association of Jamia released a statement condemning the violence: “The students of Jamia Millia Islamia disassociate themselves from the violence that has erupted today. We have time and again maintained that our protests are peaceful and non-violent, we stand by this approach and condemn any party involved in the violence. We have maintained calm even when the students have been lathicharged and some women protestors have been badly beaten up. Media personnel are witness to these events. Violence by certain elements is an attempt to vilify and discredit genuine protests. We appeal to everyone to share this message.”
According to the students, the local MLA, Amanatullah Khan, was part of the protest today.
Majid Jamil, president of the Jamia Teachers’ Association, said, “We condemn the violence in South Delhi, outside Jamia Millia Islamia. JTA is not part of any such violence. JTA also appeals to students, if any, to keep away from such directionless protest led by local political leaders. Jamia practises and preaches peace. JTA condemn all sort of violence near Jamia or anywhere in India.”
An emergency meeting of the extended Executive Committee has been called at the association’s office at 11:00 am on Monday to discuss the “misuse of Jamia’s name” in the protests, he added.
The Delhi police released teargas into the campus library and study hall as well, creating pandemonium. Students who had been hiding in the library claimed that they had to break the glass windows in order to breathe properly.
“We were hiding in the library, they entered and continuously released teargas. To run outside, we had to break the windows and jump out. There is utter chaos. Students are trapped. We are breathing through teargas,” said a student.
Another student said, “There’s a blackout in the hostel. Girls are being asked to not leave their rooms at all. The police is going to come. The first floor girls are hiding injured people and the protesters in their rooms.”
Waseem Ahmed Khan, the chief proctor of Jamia Millia Islamia, said, “The police have entered the campus by force, no permission was given. Our staff and students are being beaten up and forced to leave the campus.”
The university issued a statement late on Sunday: “It’s clarified that it happened during the protest organised by the people of the nearby areas and not by JMI students. The university has already declared winter vacation and postponed semester examination after 13 December incident.”
The vice chancellor, Najma Akhtar, has appealed the students to maintain peace.
Some students described the situation on the campus as an “undeclared emergency”.
Bushra Sheikh, a BBC Hindi journalist, was reportedly attacked by the police while she was covering the protest. She said in a tweet, “I came here for BBC’s coverage, they [police] took away my phone and broke it. A male police personnel pulled my hair. They hit me with a baton and when I asked them for my phone they hurled abuses at me. I didn’t come here for fun, I came here for coverage.”
Roads in the university’s vicinity have been closed. People in the neighbourhood are claiming that teargas is entering their houses. Fearing that the police brutality might spark riots in the area, the local mosques are constantly making appeals to maintain peace.
As of now, the police have taken over the campus premises and are firing teargas.
The Jawaharlal Nehru Students Union has called an “Emergency Protest” at ITO at 9 pm to condemn the police brutality in Jamia Nagar.
This is a developing story. We will update it as and when more details become available.