It was a Sunday like no other for the students, teachers and administrators at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).
Since the 11th of December the university had been loud with its dissent against the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the upper house of the Parliament, and Sunday the 15th saw three protests on campus, one of which was organised by the teachers.
The Proctor, while speaking to The Logical Indian said that he was very content with his team’s management skills as all the protests until then had been executed and wrapped up peacefully.
However, calling social media a ‘social evil’, the administration was stunned by the sudden mobilisation of students in the campus.
Messages about the police’s brutality in Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia had spread like wildfire in AMU and a large group of enraged students gathered without intimating the authorities.
The university has an official procedure for conducting any protest-like activity and the Public Relations Officers told The Logical Indian that the university had never denied permission to any group of students.
“We live in a democratic country and believe in practising democracy in the university as well”, Shafiq Kidwai said.
But the administrative powers claimed to be shocked by the unanticipated rally of students. “I only had 10-15 minutes to respond to the situation. I work with a team of 10, but on that evening I took 20 staff members with me to control the matter”, Afifullah Khan, the Proctor of Aligarh Muslim University said.
The tale of the fateful night of 15th December, as narrated to us by the authorities, had students playing the antagonist while the police were the maintainers of law, order and peace.
Interestingly, the students’ version of the same story presented a diametrically opposite picture.
College Authorities: Students Vilified, Police Hailed
Section 144 was imposed in AMU since 12th December and the police, along with the Rapid Action Force (RAF), were stationed right outside of the university’s main entrance, Bab-e-Syed, from the day the protests erupted.
The 13th of December saw a very big rally within the university’s premises. There were simultaneous protests occurring outside of the campus and within the borders of the city.
The police had erected a barrier between the dissenters at Bab-e-Syed and the outside world, and it was being strengthened over the days to prevent any person from pouring into the university from the other side of the authority-imposed barricade.
The imposition of Section 144 was the main reason why the college administration did not allow any students’ group to take their anger outside of the main gate.
The Proctor had done his best to maintain order in the university and the students had respectfully obliged, but Sunday evening was unprecedented for him.
“We had successfully completed three protests that day – one at 12 pm, 2 pm, and a teachers’ demonstration at 4 pm. But somewhere around 7:30 pm, everyone was abuzz with news about Jamia Millia. Mostly rumours. The agitated students gathered to march towards the gate”, Khan said.
“The police barricade was erected 200 metres away from the main gate and the students, this time, wanted to take their agitation to the streets. This was unallowable”, he added.
Khan and his team claimed that they managed to hold off the students from breaking through Bab-e-Syed for almost 30 minutes. But after half an hour of resisting the movement, his team’s effort was trumped by the overwhelming strength of protestors, who broke through them and shackled the gate open.
“The students’ act of breaking open the gate allowed outsiders to enter into the university and that is when the matter went out of hand”.
Together with the new external joinees, the students began to pelt stones at the police forces as that was the only blockade left to break in order to take their outrage on the streets.
“This left the forces with no option but to hit back at the students with tear gas and water cannons. It was only done to ensure that the mob disperses and no one is able to penetrate through their barrier”, Kidwai, the Public Relations Officer, said.
The college authorities maintained that the forces only pushed the students back inside. However, at 8:45 pm, when the external elements began to ‘incite’ the crowd to aggress further, the police entered the campus and began to repress their outrage with whatever means they deemed right.
“The security personnel outside were worried about damage to the university’s property and hence, to mitigate such losses, they entered AMU”, Khan told The Logical Indian.
Things got out of hand when the RAF combined with the state police clashed with the students. The Proctor and his team rushed in between the two clashing parties as a ‘buffer’ to prevent violence. But amidst such passionate tempers and force, his team of 20 was rendered useless and pushed out of the way in no time.
“The fighting went on for 3-4 hours that evening and at 12:30 am, the protesting students went back to their respective homes and hostel rooms”, he said.
Students Narrate Horror: Targeted, Bashed, Battered
(Student identity undisclosed for their security)
We reached out to some of the students to understand what their end of the story was. Apart from being in complete contravention to the authorities’ version, their stories had details amputated hands, arson, assault and malicious force.
A student living in Morrison Hall (one of AMU’s hostels) told The Logical Indian that while the protests were ongoing on the main road of the university, the police entered hostels and attacked non-protesting students – some of whom were merely studying in their rooms.
“They fired tear gas all over the place and set our rooms on fire,” he claimed.
While tear gas was being aimlessly shot all over the campus, some students who were active on the road, ran to pick the tear gas shells. They intended to fling the shells out of the vicinity but to their complete surprise – what was visible as a tear gas shell, exploded in their hands as it was lifted off the ground.
“Several of my classmates have been severely injured. The armed forces used stun grenades against the students. They look like gas shells but explode after a while”, a student said.
We were told that one boy’s arm was so critically injured after lifting the shell that it had to be amputated.
Some students believe that some of their peers have been detained at a college close to AMU – D S Degree College, where they are subjected to dehumanising treatment.
“This college is known for having a lot of Hindutva extremists and we are still unsure about who is handling our friends there,” we were told.
Post the fiasco on Sunday evening, the entire city was put under a communications shutdown and Internet was blocked in and around the university. This made it harder for students and their families to connect with each other and gave way to a lot of rumour mongering as there was no way to verify accounts of the 15h December.
Most of the students hurt in the violence were admitted to Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital. A friend of one such student who was admitted on Sunday night, told us how all that remains of his friend’s right hand, is his index finger.
Attending to his unconscious peer, his voice quavered as he told us, that his friend was protesting with the mob while he was away to attend the wedding of a family member in the city. His celebratory mood was disturbed by a call from his friend who urged him to rush for his help.
“He isn’t from Aligarh and knew no one well enough to call. I rushed to the spot and took him to the hospital. I do not know how he got hurt but all I can see of my friend’s right hand is one finger”, he softly sobbed.
Another student who was a witness to Sunday evening’s violence said, “We were protesting peacefully and the state government was intimidated by it. I believe they feared that our dissent might lead to a change in public opinion.”
The students said that the police aggressed by shooting at the rally with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets.
“This caused the rally to disperse, but in spite of that the police infiltrated into the campus and its hostels. Morrison Hall was worst affected by their violence”, he said.
The students alleged that apart from bashing the students regardless of their involvement in the rally, the police were making insensitive and bigoted remarks about the university’s minority status and the religion it associates itself with.
“A boy was dragged out of the washroom in one of the guesthouses on campus. What business did the police have in the guesthouse? He was battered by them and had to be admitted in Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College (AMU’s Medical School).”
The police reportedly pressured the hospital staff to not have any of the admitted students on their record. They were also claimed to have threatened injured students and allegedly told them to expect more beatings when they exit the hospital premises.
“A student was also illegally detained for 36 hours. When Section 144 is imposed, any person taken into detention must be released within 24 hours. But the armed forces flouted the law and kept him for 12 more hours”, a student of engineering told us.
Around 22 students were speculated to be missing, out of which 4-5 were confirmed to be missing, The Logical Indian was informed.
Some of the students, mostly Muslims, were allegedly taken out of the city and thrashed, forced liquor down their throats, and also urinated on.
“My friend was made to open his mouth while an officer pissed into his mouth”, a student wailed.
Along with Morrison Hall, Sir Syed Hall North was also affected.
When we asked one of the students who was involved in the protest why the students started pelting stones, he outrightly denied.
“If you see our campus, there are no stones at the site where we were protesting. These are blatant lies. We were only expressing ourselves at Bab-e-Syed and the police were standing ready with stones as ammunition. They pelted their collected rocks at us and we threw their rocks back at them. The college authorities are lying.”
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Dekhiye kaise Police walo ne khud babe syed ka gate todkar … Apne haq ke liye awaz utha rahe students ke upar lathi charge ki ,ansoo gas ke gole feke khuleaam firing kari… … पुलिस AMU कैंपस के अन्दर घुस के खुलेआम फायरिंग कर रही है| … Say No To Religion Based Citizenship #IndiaRejectsCAB #indiarejectnrc #nrc #cab #amucitizens #aligarhmuslimuniversity
The authorities also tried stopping female students from reaching the protest site. It was also said that after the clashes had almost come to an end, the armed forces were picking up, thrashing and detaining anyone in sight.
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“It must be known the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) were deployed since last week with the RAF. PAC are a colonial paramilitary force and are brought in to control riots but human rights activists have always pointed out that they start riots rather than control them. They entered our campus that evening.”
A Teacher Talks
When we presented the college authorities’ and the students’ version of the story to the teaching fraternity, a teacher who spoke to The Logical Indian came out in vehement support of the students.
The teaching staffer affirmed that the students were protesting peacefully and had not pelted a single stone but the police had.
“The teachers of AMU stand in complete solidarity with their students and are angry over the barbaric armed action taken against our pupils.”
“ The Rapid Action Force are always called into AMU for every small demonstration or protest and the university is subjected to such treatment every time. I strongly believe that we are made to go through such scrutiny because we have ‘Muslim’ in our institution’s name. That is the price we have to pay.”
The staffer informed us that more than 30 students were arrested and subjected to third degree torture in police stations and other unknown locations.
“Our Vice Chancellor was involved in calling the police,” the professor said.
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