Police stop Jamia protesters from marching to Parliament, standoff continues for hours
NEW DELHI: Hundreds of Jamia Millia Islamia students and residents of nearby areas were on Monday stopped by police from taking out a march to Parliament against the CAA and NRC, leading to a seven-hour standoff during which scuffles broke out between protesters and security personnel. The protestors began their march at noon from university's gate number 7, which has seen demonstrations since last two months, barring last Friday and Saturday when the protesters had shifted the venue due to elections. The police stopped the protesters after they had marched for two kilometres and appealed them not to go further as there was no permission and prohibitory orders had been imposed. The protesters led by Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC) refused to end their protest and insisted on marching to Parliament, clambering over barricades placed by the police before finally sitting on 'dharna' outside the university. Several protesters complained of suffocation and a woman fell unconscious as a stampede like situation prevailed when the security personnel resisted attempts by the large group of agitators to push forward. Twenty-three people were taken to Al Shifa Hospital for treatment. By 6.00 pm, a group of students laid siege to the Sukhdev Vihar police station. Some protesters jumped over barricades as police in riot gear tried to stop them. A senior police officer also climbed up the barricade to push back the protestors. While students alleged they were "brutally beaten up" by police and few pictures circulated online, eyewitnesses denied any lathicharge. The police also refuted the allegations of use of force. In a statement, it said they "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". A case has been registered against the "violent crowd" under relevant sections of law, it said. A spokesperson of Al Shifa Hospital said, "Three persons, including a woman, has been admitted, while about 20 others persons were getting first-aid in the hospital". "They have sustained injuries in stomach or head, and also internal injuries," he claimed but did not say if the injuries were due to assault or caused due to the stampede like situation. The injured include both students if Jamia university and local residents, he said. Jamia Vice Chancellor Najma Akhtar later visited the injured at the hospital. The fresh protest near Jamia came just 10 days after a student was injured when a man opened fire on a group of agitators triggering an intense standoff. Some of the protesters have been detained by the police, officials said. "Nine students were detained and taken to Badarpur police station and were released later," a senior police official said. The protesters raised anti-police slogans and shouted "kagaz nahi dikhayenge' (We will not show 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). "We can keep sitting the whole day and raise slogans. They say we do not have permission to march to Parliament. Do people who have flashed guns here and there at protests in the past weeks have permission?" Farzana, a Jamia student, said. Another burqa-clad protester said, "It has been two months since we are protesting. No one from the government has come to talk to us, so we want to go to talk to them." "They change their stand daily but we are firm on our stand. We were born here, will die here," said 62-year-old Rasheeda. During the march, men formed a human chain on either sides of road as women walked ahead, waving the tricolour and raising slogans of "Halla Bol". Jamia Millia Islamia Proctor Waseem Ahmed Khan appealed to the students to disperse. "The message has been sent. I request students in the crowd to go back to the university. Respect the law and peacefully go back," he urged the students. As the protest swelled by the evening, the Sukhdev Vihar Metro Station near the university was closed and opened after an hour. A separate group of protesters staged agitation outside the metro station prompting police to cordon off the area. Poice said a case has been registered in connection with the incident under IPC sections 186 (Obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 188 IPC (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 353 (Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 332 (Whoever voluntarily causes hurt to any person being a public servant in the discharge of his duty as such public servant) and damage to public property act. For five hours, repeated appeals and announcements were made by the police requesting students to not march towards the parliament and scale barricades, they said. The CAA allows easier citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Parsis and Jains who came to India from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh before 2015 to escape religious persecution there. Those opposing the CAA contend that it discriminates on the basis of religion and violates the Constitution. They also allege that the CAA along with the NRC is intended to target the Muslim community in the country. However, the central government has dismissed the allegations, maintaining that the law is intended to give citizenship to the persecuted minorities from the three neighbouring countries and not to take away anyone's citizenship.