Afra, a student of English literature at Jamia Millia Islamia shares her experience of police brutality during the anti Citizenship Amendment protests in the campus on Sunday.
I reached Jamia Millia Islamia campus around 5:30 pm when a lot of people were running from Sukhdev Vihar side towards Jamia metro side. Seeing the crowd running and panicking, I saw some ladies, young and elderly panicking and running, near the mosque. They were not protesters, but common people coming from Batla, through the mosque side. Some women fell while running and was hurt. Seeing the unrest, I thought the campus is the safe place to be in. So I ran to gate number 7. Within some minutes, teargases were being thrown in the main road, along with firing of guns. There was no protest going in Jamia at that time. When the tear gas started to spread, students started to run into the more interior parts of the campus. I ran to the Zakir Hussain library side. There were many students along with me, sitting in front of the library, waiting for the situation to be calmer. After a few minutes we saw tear gas being spread even near the library. There were frightening sounds of firing from all sides of the campus. With teargases spreading and getting more and more intense, our eyes were badly burning, and at times it was making us blind for some minutes.
With our eyes and skin burning, we had no space to take shelter, since all the departments and buildings were locked. The chemical of the teargas were penetrating into our nose, and lungs. Some students brought a plate with salt collected from the central canteen, which we applied it on our face and hands. But even salts could not ease our pain and burns. With no shelter available, some of the students were about to break the glasses of the library and take shelter inside it. But some other students were against destroying properties. Students argued and said that we have got no shelter, and that they are suffering from teargases, and if they don’t hide, police would charge in, and brutally beat us like others, that we could see and hear around in a distance. The teargas was getting more intense, and students broke the glass door of library.
Students were shouting not to again break the glasses of the library, and better take shelter in reading hall. According to it we ran to the reading hall and sat for a while in it. There were more and more students coming into the reading hall for taking shelter. We later then saw that the teargas was also thrown to the reading room, seeing the gas spread in an indoor students panicked. With no option left, students broke the glass panel which opens the way into the inner path of library. Students fearing the scattering of glass pieces sat under the tables. There was a lot of noise and unrest. We ran through the broken glasses to the inner side of library. We ran to the first and second floor of the library, using the stairs. after students entered, students locked the wooden door of the library stair case room from inside and guarded the doors. I along with many students were in the first floor of the library. We sat with the switches off and even cared not to speak and maintain silence. We did not even on the flashlights in the dark, fearing police attack. We sat in the library with our phones in silent mode. For more than an hour we stood in the dark corridor with frightening frequent sounds of firing from all sides.
After an hour or more, we were asked to get down in line, and saw that police had took over the whole library. They stood there inside and outside of the library in groups, and kept a surveillance on us. We were asked to sit in front of the library, we sat there till all students were brought out. They kept on asking not to take phones out. When everyone was brought out. They asked the injured students to stand up and get into the police van. Around 6 or 8 students stood up and they were carried into the van with the help of some Jamia students itself. In my floor itself, a male student’s finger was bleeding very badly for a hour. We had nothing to tie his wound. Female students tore their shawls and tied his wound.
After all the injured students were taken, we were asked to walk in lines towards the gate that is next to mosque. Some of the police mockingly smiled at us. We were asked to keep our hands on our heads, asking us to do it for protecting our heads. But there were no stones being thrown. But out of fear many students raised their hand. We were asked to move into Batla. They did not allow us to go to any other directions, most of the students did not know where to go in Batla. Since I had a friend’s house in Batla, I went there. Many girls came along with me. They were all journalism dept students. Their friend was also in the library, and he was detained and taken to Kalkaji police station. Female students along with me, were near the Masjid, they faced shameful police brutality, asking them to negotiate with the mob, even when there was no proper mob. There was only scattered people running here and there panicking.
They were asked for their names and called derogatory names. Even one of the police screamed out that, what are the problems of these circumscribed men!! the girls along with me, were highly traumatized, they could not eat anything. Since there was no drinking water there in the house for a lot of people who had taken shelter in my friend’s house, we went to nearby shops for buying water and some snacks. But even before we could give money, police came with lathi, pulling the shutters of the shops and screaming to close the shops. It is only after 10 clock, that the police intervention in Batla, got reduced. I along with my friends got out after 10 PM and took an auto to ITO for the students’ protest against police brutality, from Batla. We in our way saw that Batla was in dark, with all shops closed and streets deserted at large.