“Don’t come to the campus. Police have surrounded the University and are firing tear gas shells at libraries and reading halls. We are hiding in the library and don’t know what will happen to us. Just go back.” These were the words of my classmate who was stuck in the Library of Jamia Millia Islamia when I called him on the evening of December 15th, the day when Police unleashed terror, ransacked my University and thrashed common students. I don’t know of such a brutal crackdown in any University where students were held captives, made to plead for their life. My friend has left Delhi for his hometown.
Students of Jamia Millia Islamia have been protesting since the past few days against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act and all-India NRC. On December 13th, the students had given a call for Parliament March in opposition of the same. Students were stopped just outside the campus and were restrained from moving further. Dozens and dozens of tear gas shells were fired on students inside the campus, and in the lathi-charge by the Delhi Police, many students were severely injured.
The next day, on December 14th, the students called for a complete University lockdown and boycotted their exams. The Jamia Teachers Association came in support of students and condemned the Police violence unequivocally. Jamia’s student community’s united resolve to oppose CAA tooth and nail was to save the soul of India. The University declared a winter break until January 5th, and the semester exams were cancelled.
On December 15th, the students again took to the streets, and the residents from neighbouring localities, too, joined the protest in huge numbers against the communal Citizenship Amendment Act. In a democracy, citizens have the Right To Protest, to express their dissent, and India supposedly is the world’s largest democracy.
The students of Jamia were exercising their fundamental right and were not involved in creating law and order situation in any way. By late afternoon, there were instances of vandalism of public property; a few DTC Buses were torched by some anti-social elements. Some viral photos/videos are doing rounds claiming the Police were involved in burning the vehicles. Between 5:30 and 6 pm, the Police entered the campus and surrounded the whole University premise.
Students were chased in libraries, reading halls, canteens, washrooms and beaten up. Tear Gas shells were fired inside libraries where students were studying. The Police went berserk and destroyed the University property unapologetically. Students were brought out of the University with their hands raised as if they were terrorists. Around 50 students were illegally detained and released early morning the next day, only after pressure from civil societies and senior lawyers of the Supreme Court.
Students are scared, and they are leaving for their hometowns. Students of Jamia are traumatized, but not discouraged. Jamia came out of the anti-colonial freedom movement. It has the legacy of fighting and taking a stand against the oppressive might of the British colonial state. It didn’t bow down to oppression then, and it won’t bow down to oppression now!
As Jamia is set for centenary year celebrations next year, at this historical juncture, it has the task to own up to its historical legacy and stand with the spirit of secularism, democracy and the idea of India. Jamia shall rise from the ashes again, just like the Phoenix. They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds!