On Sunday evening, as the news spread of the police’s violent crackdown on students protesting against the citizenship law in Jamia Millia Islamia University, students from across the city gathered outside the Delhi police’s headquarters at ITO to vent their anger. They shouted slogans against the police and the Narendra Modi government, particularly Home Minister Amit Shah.
The police had earlier in the day stormed the Jamia campus, lathicharging, teargassing and detaining students, and breaking into the library and the mosque.
To express solidarity with the students and protest the police’s brutality, the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union called for a demonstration outside the headquarters of the police. Their call was heeded by hundreds of students – mostly from JNU, Delhi University and Ambedkar University – as well as ordinary people.
“The police has to go out of Jamia right now. How can they enter classrooms? The police must be held responsible as there are clear photos and videos of them beating students,” said Sargam, a DU student. “We are constantly getting news of lights being turned off even in girls’ hostels. This is a clear attack on a minority institution.”
Ranjini, a student of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, said, “When the news started coming in, I got in touch with a friend of mine, a research scholar in Jamia. I had seen his face in one of the pictures on social media. I called him up. He said he was sitting in the library when, suddenly, students ran in. They were very scared. The police followed in and lathicharged the students.”
A few students from Jamia who had managed to escape the police crackdown also joined the ITO demonstration. Naushad was one of them. He explained what had happened. “At around 1 pm, we started a community march. There were around two thousand people and the girls were leading. We were moving towards Julena near Jamia when the police chased us and started lathicharging us. They started teargas shelling and everything got violent.”
Another Jamia student, Sharon, said, “We want a judicial enquiry into the whole thing, the National Human Rights Commission should get involved, and there should be suo moto action by the court.”
Some of the Jamia students demanded to know who had authorised the police to enter the campus given that the vice chancellor has denied granting them permission.
There were many teachers and activists at the protest. “The police needs to move out of Jamia immediately. It is not what I want but what the students of Jamia want. Injustice has been done to them,” said Jyotsana, an activist.
Some of the protesters heckled reporters of TV news channels such as ABP News, India Today, Zee News, NewsNation covering the demonstration, calling them “Godi Media”, meaning “lapdog media”. “They manipulate our version. The edit chunks of what we say and show them out of context,” said a protester who asked not to be named.
At around 3 am, the Delhi police’s public relations officer, MS Randhawa, came out and tried talking to the protesters. He said all those detained from Jamia and held in Kalkaji and New Friends Colony stations had been released. “There have been a lot of rumours since the protest started: one person was killed, two were killed. No one has been killed.”
The students asked why the police had stormed the campus and who had permitted them to do so. Their questions went unanswered.
The protesters started dispersing at around 4 am, after resolving to continue their fight.
Note: None of the protesters Newslaundry spoke with would give their full name for fear of reprisals.