Report documents students’ testimonials on violence at JMI and AMU in Dec. 2019

In this photo of January 30, 2020, students are seen protesting against the CAA at the Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: Bibek Chettri

Tum log jihadi ho.” “Tum kalma padh lo, aaj tum upar jaane wale ho.” “Jinnah ke pillon...”. This is how the Delhi and Uttar Pradesh Police allegedly addressed students of Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) University and the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) as they set out to control the students’ protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) on December 15, 2019.

They are among the testimonies provided by students as they recounted their chilling experiences of facing the police in a 124-page report compiled by Citizens Against Hate (CAH), a Delhi-based collective of individuals and groups “committed to a democratic, secular and caring India”. Even female students were not spared, the report said. “The male police officers were pressing our feet and hands with their boots,” a student is quoted in the report.

Released recently, the report also finds substantive loopholes in the National Human Rights Commission’s (NHRC) investigation into the incidents at the two universities.

Documenting 209 testimonies, the report, titled ‘The Dismantling of Minority Education: Police Violence in Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia’ is based on six months of fieldwork by the CAH team made up of human rights experts, lawyers and researchers.

The report says the police and Rapid Action Force (RAF) officials made disproportionate use of force against students — tear gas shells were thrown inside the old reading hall and the Dr. Zakir Hussain (Central) Library in JMI, and students’ devices such as laptops were broken. It says women students in JMI were beaten by male police officials on December 15, and police used communal slurs and targeted the Muslim identity of students, particularly Kashmiris. The officials paraded the students with their hands up in the air.

In AMU, the report notes, the police and RAF officials entered the campus on December 15 and fired tear gas shells, rubber bullets and stun grenades indiscriminately on protesting students, causing severe injuries. Some shells blew up in the hands of the students, while they attempted to throw them away in order to protect themselves. Three students were critically injured, including one who lost his hand.

Room 46 of the AMU’s Morrison Court Hostel, the report says, caught fire after the police broke open the gates and threw tear gas shells inside, asphyxiating three students. In a semi-conscious state, the students were taken to the Bab-e-Syed gate and beaten, claims the report.

Accusing the authorities of delay in providing legal and medical aid, it goes on to add that the harassment of students, including arrests and criminalisation, have continued beyond the events of December 15, when two separate FIRs were filed against 56 individuals and 1,200-1,300 unnamed persons.

The report also takes into account the short and long-term psychological impact on students and family members as it has noted instances of panic episodes, disrupted sleeping patterns and reduced self-esteem among students.

Taking a critical view of the NHRC’s findings in the incidents at the two universities, the report says the human rights body blamed the violence on the students based on “questionable grounds”, providing legitimacy to police action. The report points out that it is a settled principle of law that mere lack of permission doesn’t make a protest unlawful.

The report says the NHRC did not take into account circumstantial evidence — fire in the room, empty tear gas shells, the unconscious nature of the gatekeeper — before concluding that due to non-availability of material evidence such as CCTV footage of the attack on the hostel and specific spaces, the allegations were neither proved or disproved.

The CAH has recommended the immediate constitution of a commission of inquiry chaired by a retired judge of the Supreme Court to conduct a judicial inquiry into the entire incident that occurred in JMI on December 15, 2019 and ensure accountability of the police.

Recommending ratification of the Convention Against Torture, to which India is a signatory since 1998, it has asked the Central government to formulate proper guidelines for police and other forces coming under the ambit of the Ministry of Home Affairs regarding the conduct of police in dealing with protesting students inside educational institutions.

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Printable version | Jun 21, 2021 1:43:07 PM |

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