On Sunday evening around 8 pm, Mohammad (name changed to protect identity) left the library at Aligarh Muslim University and headed to the Mumtaz Mahal hostel to meet his friends. News of the police storming New Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University earlier that evening and beating up students had reached Aligarh in western Uttar Pradesh. Already, a large group of students was gathering outside the Maulana Azad library to march towards the Persian-style Bab-e-Sayyad gate to protest the police action in Delhi.

Mohammad, a first-year student studying law, does not stay in the hostel because his family lives in the town. “I was in room 26 when my father called me on the phone,” said the student. “Papa said the situation was turning tense and asked me to get back home.”

But when Mohammad stepped out of the hostel gate, he saw the policemen thrashing any student they could find. Before he knew it, he was confronted by policemen who began beating him with batons. “They dragged me to a police bus, continuously beating me,” he alleged. “The thrashing continued even inside the bus.”

Mohammad, along with other students, was then taken to a nearby hospital, where the verbal abuse continued. The police even threatened to shoot them, he alleged. They were not actually given any real medical aid. After this, the police told the students that they would drop them back to the campus. But instead five of them were taken to the Akrabad police station, 25 km from the university, the student claimed.

The police made them strip and beat them up as they shouted Islamaphobic abuse, Mohammed alleged.

Beaten with leather belts

On Tuesday, with his fractured left arm in a bandage, Mohammad recalled in graphic detail what had transpired at the police station. He alleged that the students were asked to remove their trousers and then beaten with thick belts. “There were four or five belts,” he said.

Mohammad shows his injuries. Credit: Sruthisagar Yamunan

Mohammad said that he didn’t know the other four boys who had brought to the police station with him. “There were both under graduate and post graduate,” he said.

In the morning, the police told them that they would be taken to the Civil Lines police station near the university and then let go. But the wait was much longer. “They only released us later in the evening,” the student said.

When he reached the university, he was taken to the campus’s Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital for treatment. A medical professional at the hospital told Scroll.in that Mohammed had received blunt injuries below the hips. The doctors who treated the students were not on duty when this reporter visited the hospital.

‘Thrashed with rifle butts’

At the plastic surgery ward of the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital, Anwar, a history student, was trying to reassure his relatives on the phone. But both his arms were in plaster due to multiple fractures, so a friend had to hold the phone for him.

“My parents are terrified,” Anwar said. “The doctors are saying I might lose a finger.” The student spoke to Scroll.in while being transported on a stretcher for tests and scans.

At around 8.30 pm on Sunday, Anwar was at Guest House Number Three on the campus, meeting some visitors who were staying there. He knew that students had begun protesting and was told that a large police force had moved towards the Bab-e-Sayyad gate. “They suddenly fired tear gas shells,” Anwar recalled. “The students started running here and there as a result.”

After about 30 minutes, the police began to baton charge protestors. The students safely sent their guests away and locked themselves up inside the guest house. Minutes later, the police broke the door open, Anwar said. He and eight other students took refuge in a toilet. Those left outside were thrashed by the police.

He said the police was waiting outside the toilet for at least two hours. After that, they broke in and began to assault the students. “I was beaten so much that I had three fractures in my right arm,” Anwar said. “The other hand also has a fracture.”

The terrifying night had just begun. The students were taken to a police station, but Anwar was unable to identify its exact location. “When they took me to the police station, I asked for water,” he said. They refused.

About two hours later, the police took him to a hospital but the student said it did not seem to have the facilities to deal with his injuries. Already dizzy from the bleeding, the student said he was unsure where he was.

Anwar recalled in detail what happened:

“In the hospital, they just gave a painkiller. My little finger [on the right hand] was greatly damaged. It is fractured as well. I requested them a lot that there was also lot of continuous bleeding for over two hours. I asked them at least apply something on that. They did not listen to this. And they left it like that whole night. In the night I asked for water. They [police] did not give. Next day at around 1.30 pm, a senior doctor in the same hospital saw my finger and said this is damaged a lot. Refer to JNMC [Aligarh University Hospital]. But the police did not listen. They did an X ray there itself and without any injection plastered the arm.”

Anwar's bandaged arms. Credit: Sruthisagar Yamunan

The student said when he again asked for a painkiller, the medical staff gave a strip of tablets. “One of the constables took the medicine and put it in his pocket,” Anwar alleged. “He kept saying he would give it to me but did not.” He was not given any food either. He was then taken to the police station.

Given the extent of his injuries, the student expected the “torture” at the hands of the police to stop. But it did not.

Detailing what happened at the police station, he said:

Then at around 8.30 in the evening, they treated us very badly. They beat me with rifle butts like a criminal. I heard them saying don’t do their medical [examination] now. We will do it after beating them more. One constable then said I will die. Among my friends there was one from Jammu. The police asked him where are you from? He said I belong to Jammu. His name is Aqib. They had first beat him up. Then they beat him even more. He was broken everywhere and was bleeding. I am told by my friends that there is no information about him, where he is kept, where they have taken him.” 

Teachers at the university said they had started the process of making lists to account for all the students. But their task has been hampered by the fact that the police has not released an official list of those detained and those released. Besides, since the university has been closed following Sunday’s violence, many students have gone home.

However, some students were angry that the teachers left them to fend for themselves when the police attacked them. The students accompanying Anwar at the hospital claimed that the teachers were trying to appear as if they were caring only because the media cameras were around.

Anwar said there was a non-Muslim student from Bihar who was thrashed badly at the station. The police asked him why he was associating himself with anti-nationals, the student said. “All through, the police threw vile abuses at us,” he alleged.

Akash Kulhari, the senior superintendent of police of Aligarh, did not respond to calls and messages asking for comment. This report will be updated if the police official responds.

Since Sunday, students in dozens of institutions around India have been protesting the police actions at Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University. The police had stormed the Jamia campus after a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act near the campus turned violent. An initial police investigation into the incident said that students had not been involved in the incidents of arson at the protest, The Hindutan Times reported.

All names changed on request from the students to protect identity.