violence

Police Attacked Me While Studying in My College Library. Now I Might Go Blind

The ugly outbreak of violence at Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi left several incapacitated. We speak with one of them whose life changed that day.
18 December 2019, 11:42am
delhi jamia india protests citizenship
(Left) A security personnel fires tear gas to disperse protesters during a demonstration against India's new citizenship law in New Delhi on December 17, 2019. Photo: Money SHARMA / AFP; (Right) Mohammad Minhajjudin

“I will never like to go to the library again,” says Mohammad Minhajjudin, almost breaking down. Till that point, he had seemed unusually composed, especially for someone who lost vision in one eye less than 48 hours ago.

On Sunday evening, Minhajjudin, a 26-year-old law student, was writing for his sixth academic publication in the central library of his university, Jamia Millia Islamia, in India’s national capital New Delhi, when police barged into the campus.

The police was looking for agitating students who were protesting against the recently passed controversial Citizenship Amendment Act that seeks to grant citizenship to only non-Muslim minorities from certain neighbouring countries. The Act which was passed in the Indian parliament on December 11, is being seen as a legislation to target the minority Muslims in the country.

When protests against the legislation erupted in Jamia Millia Islamia on Friday, it led to a clash between the students and the police forces. The protests remain ongoing. However, the police on Sunday evening led a crackdown on the protestors, with the brutality leaving many protesters injured and hospitalised. The police entered the university and attacked the students on the premises. The campus resembled a war zone with police firing tear gas shells There were also at least three confirmed bullet injuries. Jamia chief proctor Waseem Ahmed Khan has said the police entered the university by force and thrashed staff members and students.

“There was some disturbance and when students got to know that police is storming the campus, they locked the door of the library,” says Minhajjudin. “But some 20-25 fully armed policemen barged into the library and started beating everyone mercilessly with bamboo sticks. It was mayhem. They hit me on my body and one lathi (baton) struck my eyes. I ran and somehow got into the washroom to save my life. Blood was oozing from my face.”

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Mohammad Minhajjudin. Photo: Majid Alam

Minhajjudin was among the 200-plus students who were beaten up on Sunday night during police action at the varsity. A video of him leaning helplessly against the wall in a urinal with eyes covered with a handkerchief soaked in blood went viral on social media.

“The police followed me from the library and kept on attacking. They penetrated the stick into my eyes. They had come prepared with an intention to beat students. I couldn’t even identify the police officer who attacked me since the cops were in helmets and protective vests,” Minhajjudin says.

A disabled student who was also beaten by the police then helped Minhajjudin and took him to a hostel from where he was transferred to the hospital where doctors declared he will not to able to see from the injured eye again—with also chances of loss of vision in the second eye.

On Monday, Minhajjudin’s left eye was operated upon.

“There is a possibility that with the passage of the time his other eye may also get infected and he may completely lose his vision. So he has been operated to prevent the spread of infection,” says Mumtaz, his classmate, who is looking after him. “He didn’t deserve this.”

Mumtaz claims that when they asked the police for the statement of the incident, they threatened them against more violence. “His case was deliberately hidden from any public domain. The university administration also didn’t show any support. Nobody came to meet us. We demand an enquiry from the university. We demand that all CCTV cameras to be checked to show that he wasn’t a protestor but he was studying there since morning,” adds Mumtaz.

The University administration has however maintained that police entered the campus without their permission, and sought an independent probe.

Minhajjudin asserts that he wasn’t part of any protest and has very little political inclinations. “I was aware of the protests outside but I thought whatever may be the circumstances, police won’t barge into the library. I was wrong.”

Even though the complete loss of vision is a possibility that hovers over Minhajjudin, the incident has not deterred him from continuing to pursue his dreams. “I aim to sit for the forthcoming exams and go for higher studies,” he said. “This can’t be any excuse for me to stop my studies. I am passionate about joining judiciary.”

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