What started as a spontaneous student protest in the national Capital on Sunday, has spread like wildfire, across the country, city after city, university after university.
Thousands of incensed students hit the streets yet again in the national capital on Monday.
But these protests had less to do with the Citizenship Amendment Act and more to do with the alleged police high handedness on Jamia Millia Islamia campus – possibly a signof the times we live in.
New Delhi: One-fourth of Jamia Millia Islamia hostellers have fled the campus, in quest for safe shelters, within 20 hours of being hounded by the Delhi Police through the corridors of the varsity.
Jamia authorities said that more than 200 students had been attacked, including 30 girls, during Sunday’s protests but the students claimed that the number was much higher.
A dozen students had been also hospitalised, following bruises which they received when the police tried to ferret them out like mice. Students said that they hid for hours in washrooms and other hideouts, cringing in fear at the fate that awaited them.
Some women inmates of the hostel recounted how they prayed for their safety in darkness, as they were instructed by the Delhi Police to switch off the lights on their mobiles. And, if they did not do so, warning shots would be fired; this was the ultimatum in the dead of the night.
A 22-year-old student broke down several times as she narrated how the police stormed into the reading room and lobbed tear gas shells. “We were more than 70 students huddled together in the New Reading Hall when the police barged in and told us to get up.
We were asked to line up like common criminals, switch off our phones, not to look left or right, and clutch our bags over our heads. A classmate, who happened to glance sideways, was thrashed severely. We were chased out of the campus and hustled out.
When I reached home, my face was burning due to the stinging effect of the tear gas shells. I am still traumatised but will not stop raising my voice against CAB or what is heaped on us in the name of democracy.”
A young Afghan student said that although she comes from a strife-torn country, she had never been so jittery all her life. She said her parents had asked her to move to a safer pasture and she was going to check into a hotel in Noida along with another Afghan student.
Tension was palpable on the campus as a large number of undergraduate and postgraduate students remained on the streets outside the campus, raising slogans and demanding withdrawal of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill which they have dubbed “unconstitutional”.
Jamia authorities said that it was unfortunate that such violence had been unleashed on defenceless students. “Our students were petrified and this is unprecedented in the 100-year-old history of our institution.
All this has happened at a time when we are observing the centenary year.” By evening, the protestors gained in strength and raised slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, something that is rare in the current dispensation.
Supported by Jamia alumni, friends from neighbourhood and students from Delhi University, they raised slogans against the regime -- “Modi, teri tanashahi nahi chalegi” and “Hindu Muslims ek hain, yeh Sarkar fake hai”, “Delhi Police hai hai,”
“Hame chahiye azadi” and ‘Bhim Rao Ambedkar Zindabad.” The solidarity shown by the students should be a cause of concern for the law and order agencies.
Haider Mujeeb, a 24 year old student of Punjab University, came all the way from Chandigarh to join the protests. Haider held a picture of Dr BR Ambedkar to highlight the need to safeguard the Constitution.
An ex-serviceman guarding the mosque gate close to the new reading room, where tear gas shells were lobbed, recalled the manner in which armed men of the Delhi police stormed the guard room where some women students had sought refuge.
“They entered from gate number 4 and the first thing they did was to wreck the CCTV, to remove all proof of their high-handedness. With great difficulty, I persuaded them to allow the women students to leave. At least six guards were injured on the campus.”
Mr S.M. Mahmood, Deputy Proctor of Jamia, told this correspondent on Monday afternoon, “Until now, it was a very peaceful campus. It was deliberately targeted.
We are going to seek psychological assessment of the trauma inflicted on our students. Our security guards were unarmed.’’ Some male students alleged that girl students were mentally harassed and suspected that some may have even been touched inappropriately.