Hundreds of demonstrators, including students and alumni from Jamia Millia Islamia University, got into a scuffle with Delhi Police on Monday afternoon after they were stopped from marching to Parliament in protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act, NDTV reported. Some residents of the Jamia area also participated in the protest organised under the banner of the Jamia Coordination Committee.
More than 10 women students were injured, according to India Today. The Indian Express reported that at least 16 students were injured during the clash. The doctors at the Jamia health centre told India Today said that some of the injuries were so severe that the students had to be shifted to Al Shifa hospital in Okhla. They added that more than 10 women students were hit on their private parts. The doctors told the news channel that the students had been hit by blunt objects, and some of them had suffered internal injuries after being hit on the chest with batons.
Dr Abdul Nazar, the hospital director, told The Indian Express that most of the injured students complained about being kicked on their stomach, while one woman complained of injury to her private parts. “Three persons, including a woman has been admitted, while about 20 others were getting first-aid in the hospital,” PTI quoted a hospital spokesperson as saying. Jamia Vice Chancellor Najma Akhtar and other university officials visited the hospital to check on the students.
Later in the evening, some students alleged the police had used an unknown gas in the area. “This was not tear gas,” a 22-year-old student admitted at Al Shifa Hospital told Scroll.in. He claimed that around 6.40 pm he saw a capsule thrown close to where he was standing at the protest. “It was a capsule that fell and then smoke came out from it. A boy and a girl were standing in front of me and they started vomiting. My stomach started to hurt.”
The student, who did not want to be identified, claimed that the gas that spread caused pain around his mouth. “Saliva started to come out of my mouth and my tongue felt bitter,” he claimed. “I did not feel anything in my eyes.”
Deputy Commissioner of Police for South East Delhi Rajendra Prasad Meena denied the police had used any gas or chemical substance. “There was no force used at all, no tear gas or lathicharge,” he said. “We have no other spray or chemical. I have also heard of these allegations but they are false.”
On Tuesday, doctors at Al Shifa Hospital said they had treated around 35 protestors who were admitted on Monday. A doctor who did not wish to be identified said it was “less likely” that any kind of chemical substance was used against the protestors. “Some students spoke about gas but they were not sure about it,” he said. “Those who were vomiting were hit on the stomach by the lathi.”
The doctor said that injuries sustained by protestors appeared to have been inflicted by the use of batons. He said that two female protestors and one male protestor suffered injuries on their private parts.
An aborted march to Parliament
Earlier in the afternoon, the protestors shouted slogans such as “Kagaz nahin dikhayenge [We won’t show any documents]” and “Jab nahi dare hum goron se toh kyun dare hum auron se [When we did not fear the British, why should we fear others?]” as they started marching from the university, where the police had unleashed violence on December 15 during a similar protest against the citizenship law.
The police, however, stopped the demonstrators about two km from the institution and requested them to go back since they did not have the permission to march to Parliament. A scuffle broke out after some of the protestors insisted on carrying on with the rally, and attempted to jump over barricades, The Indian Express reported. The police pushed them back and detained some of them, according to NDTV. Though some accounts on social media – one was by activist and former Jawaharlal Nehru University student leader Umar Khalid – claimed that the police had unleashed “brutalities” on the demonstrators, an Indian Express reporter present at the scene denied that the students had been beaten with batons.
An India Today reporter pointed out that while the police did not use batons on all the demonstrators, those “in the first line of protest” trying to jump over barricades “were hit with lathis”. A Reuters journalist also said he did not see the police beating anyone with batons.
The police have registered a case under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code, and the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, reported ANI. The police refuted the charge that they used force. In a statement, they said police personnel “showed a lot of patience in handling the aggressive Jamia students” who were “forcing their way through the police barricades and trying to march to Parliament without permission”, according to PTI.
This latest police action against protestors came hours after the Supreme Court took suo motu cognisance of the death of an infant at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh – the epicentre of nationwide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, and the proposed National Register of Citizens – and issued notices to the Centre and the Delhi government. Shaheen Bagh is about two kilometres from the university.
The Bharatiya Janata Party attempted to portray the Delhi elections held on Saturday as a referendum on the ongoing protests against the citizenship law, and the NRC. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah hit out at the Shaheen Bagh protests on the campaign trail, with the prime minister labelling the demonstrations a “conspiracy”. Union minister Anurag Thakur said on February 4 that the locality will be cleared if the saffron party was voted to power.
This story was updated on February 11 to include a denial by Delhi Police and clarification by a doctor about the alleged use of gas against the student protestors.