The scenes of police personnel barging into the library of a university, beating students and firing tear-gas shells inside an enclosed space are quite unprecedented. So are pictures of two students lying injured inside a toilet.
Overnight scenes of police brutality in and around Jamia Millia Islamia, which have been captured by journalists and protesters alike, cannot be justified on the grounds that “mobs” indulged in violence. The onus is always on law enforcement authorities to use minimum force.
Police versus protesters
In any democratic polity, where the rule of law applies, a uniformed force must be accountable for its actions. The police are supposed to be trained for dealing with provocations; they are not supposed to lash out in anger against students inside a library or outside a house.
The burning of buses or destruction of public property is abhorrent, but so are the scenes of uniformed policemen beating student protesters. The pictures of nearly a dozen lathi-wielding policemen hitting a male student being defended by a group of women students of Jamia has gone viral. Though Delhi has been no stranger to such kinds of violence, what has happened in Jamia is quite unprecedented.
It’s not as if Delhi Police or its Special Branch would have been unaware of the mood of people, especially Muslims, in the wake of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act being passed by Parliament. For instance, after Friday prayers, thousands of Muslims marched towards Barakhamba Road / Tolstoy Marg. The anger was visible to any bystander.
Unlike JNU Vice Chancellor Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar, who has been locked in a protracted confrontation with his students and union leadership, Jamia VC Najma Akhtar came out openly against what she called atrocities against her students.
In a video message, she said that the police entry into the Jamia campus and beating up students studying in the university library was “totally not acceptable” to her. “I want to tell my students that they are not alone in this difficult moment,” Ms. Akhtar added.
Addressing a press conference on Monday, the VC also made it clear that the university would register an FIR about police entry into the Jamia campus and a high-level inquiry into how it happened. Ms. Akhtar pointed out while 10,000 people were marching outside Jamia, the police came after 10 persons into the campus.
A point of interest is that while the Jamia VC, appointed by the BJP government earlier this year, has come out openly against the police entry into her university, Aligarh Muslim University VC Tariq Mansoor went on record to say on Monday that he had called the police to the AMU campus to deal with antisocial elements.
The issue of police entry into a university campus has always been a difficult one. So far, the police would only enter a university campus with prior permission. With the VC going on record, it’s clear that this did not happen in the case of Jamia.