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Aligarh Muslim University students seek answers from police over use of ‘excessive force’

A view of Aligarh Muslim University after the violent protests against Citizenship (Amendment) Act, in Aligarh, on Sunday, December 15, 2019.

A view of Aligarh Muslim University after the violent protests against Citizenship (Amendment) Act, in Aligarh, on Sunday, December 15, 2019.   | Photo Credit: PTI

‘Stun grenades’, ‘rubber bullets’ and ‘tear gas shells’ have all become part of common parlance among students of Aligarh Muslim University, which reportedly witnessed a violent crackdown by police on December 15, leaving several severely injured and at least one with his hand amputated.

While most students have since left the campus, those residing in Aligarh, some of whom continue to stage protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, demanded answers from the police over the use of “excessive force” and from the administration for letting it happen.

“Why was it so brutal?” asked Tuba who is in the final year of graduation and has been protesting against the CAA on the campus. Even if the police were needed to disperse the crowd, “Why did they cross the line? Why were they given permission to do so?” she said, holding the administration accountable.

Police personnel conduct a march at the Aligarh Muslim University campus in Aligarh on December 15, 2019 after student protests against Citizenship Act.

Police personnel conduct a march at the Aligarh Muslim University campus in Aligarh on December 15, 2019 after student protests against Citizenship Act.   | Photo Credit: PTI

 

Following rumours that some students had been killed during a police crackdown at Jamia Milla Islamia on the evening of December 15, students reportedly began gathering at the university’s Bab-e-Sayed gate in response. Since Section 144 had been declared in Aligarh, students were not allowed to assemble outside the campus. Following an altercation with the police and the Rapid Action Force (RAF) stationed to stop the students from going out, authorities reportedly launched a lathi charge along with several rounds of tear gas shells.

“There was white smoke everywhere. Some Kashmiri students brought out some salt and water to help protect us from it but it didn’t really help me,” said Nadim, a 19-year-old BA first year student who was hit on the head with a tear gas shell and suffered heavy blood loss. Others such as Mohamed Aasim, also a BA first year student, said that he was hit by a rubber bullet and a few students showed pictures of the same.

“They used rubber bullets used in Naxal areas,” claimed Nadeem Usmail, a former student union leader present on the campus on the night of the crackdown. “Some students are said to have ran into a guest house near the gate and locked themselves up in the bathroom. Here, they were reportedly threatened and beaten up by police,” Naddem added.

A protest at the Aligarh Muslim University against the Citizenship Amendment Act on December 13, 2019..

A protest at the Aligarh Muslim University against the Citizenship Amendment Act on December 13, 2019..   | Photo Credit: Manoj Aligadhi

 

Others injured in the crackdown are said to have been hurt by stun grenades. Nasir, who was admitted to the nearby Jawaharlal Nehru Health Centre, reportedly tried to throw back a stun grenade and was hurt when it burst in his hand. Mohammed Tariq, a PhD student, was near the site of the protest but was unable to recall what exactly happened. Doctors had to amputate the fingers of the right hand to stop an infection from spreading.

After the initial bout of lathi charge, students had retreated to a second roundabout inside the campus and many of them sat in protest, asking the police to leave the campus, those present said. “Everything was going on respectfully but the police provoked the students, making all sorts of communal, vulgar comments” said Arib Ahmed, a second year student, echoing testimonies of others.

The police launched an attack again, with stone pelting having taken place between the two parties here. Police are said to have chased the students here, even entering Morrison court hall, a hostel where tear gas shells were fired into. “A climate of fear has definitely set in,” said Mohamed Asim, an Msc student. “Parents used to send us here thinking nothing would happen inside the campus but that’s changed now,” he said.

University officials, however, pointed out that this wasn’t the first time violent protests had taken place or the first time police were let into the campus. In a statement, the university’s PRO highlighted various instances in the past when students were even killed in police firing and otherwise, when university buildings were set on fire. In this context, officials argued that allowing the police in was necessary to ensure the situation did not escalate. At the same time, the university has appointed a fact-finding inquiry to be headed by a retired high court judge V.K. Gupta, which will look into police excesses as well as establish the chain of events that took place and submit its report in three months.

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Printable version | Sep 27, 2020 10:10:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/aligarh-muslim-university-students-seek-answers-from-police-over-use-of-excessive-force/article30394436.ece

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