Ghosts Of Jamia Violence Continue To Haunt The Country

It’s been two years since the world shockingly witnessed the unimaginable tyranny of the elected in a democracy in the heart of India’s capital. 

It is nearly impossible to forget December 15, 2019, a dark day in the history of a university that survived the British brutality. The day the Delhi Police entered the campus, hit the students as if they were criminals, vandalized the library, and forced the students out with their hands up – leaving several students injured and the university property destroyed.

Courtesy: Asif Iqbal Tanha

The police siege of that day has left Jamia Millia Islamia, its students, and the supporters of the Indian constitution scarred forever. 

What exactly happened?

It all started when the Indian parliament passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill on December 9, and it became Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) after receiving the presidential assent on December 12. 

CAA, which seeks to grant citizenship to undocumented immigrants of Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist, and Christian communities who escaped religious persecution from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, combined with the National Registry of Citizens (NRC), is an instrument to discriminate against Muslims – in a secular country. 

When the government failed to allay the fears CAA was against the Muslims, widespread protests erupted across the country. Since students of Jamia were among the first to organize rallies against the Act, Jamia Millia Islamia soon became the center of resistance and fell prey to the hatred prevailing in its own country.

Courtesy: Asif Iqbal Tanha

On 15th, more than 800 Jamia students peacefully marched toward the Parliament against CAA, while the Jamia Teachers’ Association staged a protest on campus. However, they were stopped near the Surya hotel. Since the Delhi Police had erected barricades, the students sat on the road and started shouting slogans.

By the evening, things took a violent turn. The police used tear gas and lathis to beat and break the peaceful students. To save their lives, they ran towards the university. But they were chased. The students thought the sacred space of education was a safe haven, but they were wronged. The police entered the campus with weapons – without permission. Fifty students were detained; many faced extreme police brutality and were hospitalized. The mosque next to it was almost destroyed.

Courtesy: Asif Iqbal Tanha

“I was detained and taken to the Badarpur police station. It was not violence; it was police brutality. I was hit hard, fell unconscious, and was hospitalized for three days. When I opened my eyes at 10 pm on that unfortunate day, I saw Jamia students in wheelchairs. Someone’s head was bleeding profusely, while someone’s leg was fractured. 80% beds were filled with critically injured Jamia students,” Asif Iqbal Tanha, who spent 13 months in jail for protesting CAA, recounts the horror of the day.  

The scars or the protest refuse to fade away

For questioning the government and protesting its decisions, the police threw the Jamia students behind bars. They tried to silence the dissent by calling their actions anti-democracy, anti-constitution, and anti-law. 

Following the violence, Meeran Haider, Ph.D. scholar, and activist, was charged with the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Later, Shifa-Ur-Rehman, president of Jamia Millia Islamia Alumni Association, was arrested under the same draconian law. They are still waiting for justice.

In the name of investigations, students were tortured. It was more dangerous and traumatic than the police attack. They arrested, charge-sheeted, and denied bail to students indiscriminately. They tried to instill the fear that if you support an anti-CAA student, you will be arrested too. The students were intimidated and interrogated for six hours during the pandemic.

Courtesy: Asif Iqbal Tanha

“I stand by what I did. I will not be scared by any attacks or whatever they say. They did the worst they could do, and I survived. The anti-CAA protests fizzled out due to the onset of the pandemic last year. However, the spirit of the protests still lingers in a broader sense today. I have not lost sight of the anti-CAA protest movement. I aim to bring it into the public domain again. Muslims are deliberately excluded from the list of people eligible for citizenship. A large section of the minority community is stripped of civil rights. I demand equal citizenship rights. The fight against the draconian laws will continue. If they start nationwide NRC, I will restart my protest,” a determined Asif, who was released on bail recently, told Core Middle East.

Where do we stand now?

No personnel from the police department have been charged till now. The case filed by the university against the police is still in court. No officer was found guilty, and no action has been taken against any police personnel. No FIR was filed against the police or rapid action force for the unauthorized and excessive force used that day. 

Courtesy: Asif Iqbal Tanha

There had been a total disregard for eyewitness accounts and CCTV footage showing Delhi Police assaulting students inside Jamia library. Meanwhile, attacks on university students continue. Aligarh Muslim University and Jawaharlal Nehru University have witnessed similar brutality from right-wing student organizations and Delhi police. 

We continue to vote for corrupt politicians, accept their lies, overlook their criminal past, disregard their failure to protect a secular democratic country, and approve their intolerance of criticism. 

The world may have moved on, the physical wounds of Jamia students may have healed, but the emotional scars may take time to go away. We may still be looking for the answers, yet, sab yaad rakha jayega. Remember, the Jamia violence gave rise to one of the most extensive and impactful sites of resistance, Shaheen Bagh…

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