Students and citizen collectives in Delhi gathered at the Press Club of India on Wednesday to recount the police brutality and to commemorate the incarcerated anti- CAA- NRC protesters as December 15 2021 marks the second anniversary of the police crackdown on students of Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh University during the anti- CAA- NRC protest.
The program consists of two-panel discussions and a photo exhibition; documenting repression and resilience through the lens. The photographs by Mohd Meherban and Mohd Haris consist of the historic movements of the anti-NRC struggle and the horrific traumatic visuals of Delhi’s anti-Muslim violence including that of a charred Quran.
In the first panel diecussion, Radhika Chitkara of the People’s Union for Democratic Rights, Fawaz Shaheen of the Quill Foundation, and Akhtarista Ansari and Anugya Jha, who were students of Jamia Millia Islamia recounted the terror and violence the students witnessed when the attacks took place. The panel was chaired by author Farah Naqvi, with award-winning author Arundathi Roy as the guest of honour.
Akhtharista Ansari opined that Delhi police behaved like a terrorist in police uniform. She added that Jamia and Aligarh students were attacked because of their Muslim identity.
“Jamia violence happened not because it is a student protest. But it is mainly because it was Muslim students who dared to protest,” Ansari said. “The struggle will continue till all our comrades are out of jail, the law got repealed and till the fascist go down,” she added.
Lawyer Fawaz Shaheen, associated with Quill foundation, and author Farah Naqvi spoke about the fear and uncertainties faced by the family of the university students who had gathered outside the police stations where the gates had been locked from inside. Both the speakers recounted the incident of traversing from police station to police station, trying to figure out the number of students who got detained and injured.
Shaheen spoke about the fear of the students and the deafening silence he and two other activists witnessed at the Aligarh campus after they went to the campus following the SOS messages on December 15 night.
“The students were so scared that they refused to speak to us. At the hospital where the injured students had been admitted, three of whom were in the ICU, doctors couldn’t look us in the eyes,” said Shaheen. He added that the Rapid Action Force personnel refused to speak a word.
The second panel discussion ; Incarceration and Resistance, chaired by United Against Hate activist and researcher Banojyotsna Lahiri had speakers such as Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan activist Nodeep Kaur, Farzana Yasmeen, sister of Jamia Millia Islamia research scholar Meeran Haider, who has been in prison since March 2020, and Saima Khan, daughter of Mohammad Salim Khan, who was charged under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act(UAPA) in the Delhi pogrom case and arrested.
Activist Nodeep Kaur, who had been arrested in January 2021 during the farmers’ protest and later granted bail said that every dissenting voice and movement in this country have to unite.
“We must clarify that today whoever fights against state oppression in any corner of this land. Be it in Chattisgarh, Kashmir, UP, Punjab, or anywhere else, we must be in solidarity with them. The state had divided us and have been reeping the benefits out of it,” Kaur said.
“The students of Jamia and farmers taught us that if the state came up with such anti-people laws, we don’t have to blindly follow it but the rule can be changed,” she said.
United Against Hate activist Banojyotsna Lahiri described the attack on Jamia and AMU as a “winter of despair” and the Shaheen Bagh sit-in protest as a “spring of hope.” Banojyotsna referred to Meeran Haider as one of the forefront activists of Jamia. “Be it the protest for students union, hungerstrike for student scholarship or student rights, Meeran always fought for Jamia students. Meeran was there for students of Jamia when they were in need. He was very vocal. That is the reason he was booked under UAPA”, Banojyotsna said.
Family members of Meeran Haider and Salim Khan recounts the ordeal their beloved had to face due to the fabricated cases. “I will fight for my father, my family, and my people,” Saima Khan, daughter of Mohammad Salim Khan, said.
According to Arundathi Roy, both NRC- CAA resembled Nazi Germany’s Nuremberg laws.
“The demonisation of students started in 2016. Because the fascist government is not just against intellectuals but against all forms of intelligence. It is against the intelligence of farming, it is against the intelligence of those working on the land, it is against the intelligence of craft people. It understands nothing but hatred. This government only loves the country not its people,” she said.
Roy opined that the government is building detention centre to create an imagination in people’s minds that Muslims are meant to be in detention centres.
“Muslims, Adivasis without documents are meant to be in these detention centers…”, according to the ruling government.
Arundathi Roy added that all those people arrested in the name of terrorists were picked up by the government because the state clearly knows that they are not terrorists.
“GN Saibaba is not a terrorist, Sudha Baradwaj is not a terrorist, Anand Teltumbde is not a terrorist, Gautam Navlakha is not a terrorist, Surendra Gadling not a terrorist, Umar Khalid not a terrorist, Sharjeel Imam not a terrorist…” she said.