“Night of horrors”: Inside the Indian university stormed by police


“There were continuous sounds of tear gas,” she said. “They were just beating any students they saw so cruelly.”

New Delhi (Reuters) – As dusk fell on Sunday, police smashed their way into the main library of New Delhi’s Jamia Millia University, firing tear gas shells as scores of terrified students barricaded doors and hid inside bathrooms to protect themselves.

Video footage shot by a student inside the library and reviewed by Reuters shows dozens of young students – including several women – scrambling for cover, cowering beneath desks, and jumping over metal and broken glass dividers as they attempted to flee.

More than 600 students sought shelter inside the building as violence raged around the university in southeast Delhi, after thousands gathered to protest a controversial new citizenship law that has sparked days of violent unrest.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government insists the Citizenship Amendment Act is necessary to help persecuted minorities from Muslim-majority Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who settled in India before 2015.

But the move has triggered a severe backlash, with widespread clashes in the country’s north and a rash of protests across universities – including in Jamia.

On Sunday, some protesters set buses alight and battled stick-wielding policemen on a major thoroughfare nearby.

In a statement, the student community of Jamia said they disassociated themselves from the violence, which was perpetrated by some elements to discredit their peaceful protests.

Asad Malik, a lecturer in Jamia’s law department, said school officials had stood by the campus gates, checking ID cards to ensure only students entered the nearly 100-year-old public university amid the chaos on Sunday.

However, police said some vandals did manage to enter Jamia and officers only followed them into the campus after they were pelted with stones from inside the university.

“Miscreants and rowdy elements had entered the university and police went inside the campus chasing this crowd, to pull them out,” M.S. Randhawa, a police spokesman told reporters on Monday.

Malik, however, said when police started shooting tear gas inside the university, there were only students inside.

Saliha P.P., a 22-year-old master’s student, said she was on the Jamia campus when she saw more than 100 policemen storm the campus, fire tear gas and charge students with batons.

“There were continuous sounds of tear gas,” she said. “They were just beating any students they saw so cruelly.”

On Monday morning, sections of university library lay in ruins. Windows were smashed, chairs lay broken and scattered. Crushed glass covered corridors and tables.

Reuters witnesses saw tear gas shells and blood splattered on the library floor. At least two surveillance cameras had been smashed.

Jamia’s Vice Chancellor Najma Akhtar said police had entered the campus without permission, injuring around 200 students. The university, which has a large number of Muslim students, plans to seek a government enquiry into the violence.

“The brutality with which they behaved with students is not acceptable,” she told media on Monday.

At least five students told Reuters they did not see any women police personnel among the force that stormed the campus, as is required by law in India when females are on the scene.

A police spokesman did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the allegations of brutality or the reported absence of female officers.

Picture Courtesy Insider.

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