In the absence of an unedited video, the truth has no takers.
Suspicion, scepticism and derision received the testimonies of the students of Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University, who were beaten up so brutally by the bloody-minded, muscle-flexing Delhi Police on the fateful day and night of December 15, 2019. There were videos of women students bravely fighting-off cops chasing their peers, and there were also masked men in new security gear waving batons while entering the library. Thereafter, there were a million words describing in detail the atrocities that happened under the patronage of the Union home ministry.
Expectedly, the government and its fanatic trolls denied any excesses in handling the protests. Two buses that were torched were blamed on the student protestors – till it was finally apportioned on “outsiders”. Even the entry of police into the campus to ostensibly chase down stone pelters was passed off as unavoidable.
It was only later when the Jamia administration, led by a courageous vice-chancellor, announced the police had not sought any permission to enter the campus, that the publicly stated lies by the police became so stark and transparent. She also stuck by the version of the students, but seemed chary when it came to registering an FIR against the extraordinary police violence against, both, young men and women. The atrocities against the students led to collective outrage across the campus and all over the country. JNU, Delhi University students and faculty, along with civil society members, gathered on a freezing midnight on a night-long vigil of protest outside the Delhi Police headquarters. Eminent citizens, actors, writers, academics from all over India and the world joined in the outrage.
Not only did they savage and assault peaceful students in the library, and ransacked furniture, one cop was seen smashing a CCTV camera to hide the criminal brutality.
The Shaheen Bagh protest, led by brave Muslim women in the first instance, was an outcome of the inhuman assault on Jamia and the inability of the students and their parents – many of them residing in the neighbouring mohallas or localities – to get justice. Till the December 15 assault, everyone believed that the campuses in Delhi were the safest places. Girl students who came to Delhi to escape the violent and oppressive patriarchy that prevailed in their towns and villages, so as to breathe freedom and celebrate knowledge systems, were inconsolable after the crass and ugly manner in which they were treated by the police.
Some law students said that they were punished for believing in the constitutional safeguards provided to freedom of speech and now they realise that under this regime this faith has been misplaced. Indeed, all over the country, especially among the young, the pledge to save the Indian Constitution, and the public reading of its Preamble, is symbolic of the fact that there is a tangible and collective fear that the Constitution is in danger under the current regime.
The Jamia violence was overtaken by the assault on Jawaharlal Nehru University by masked men and women, allegedly belonging to the ABVP, with the tacit and open support of the Delhi police. They smashed the heads of a female professor and the JNUSU president. They beat the president and other students mercilessly with iron rods, ravaged girls hostels, and ran amok in full public view as a violent mob with no constraint or fear. Other students were chased and beaten up and the hostels ransacked.
The big question is, will the ruling party in its unbridled arrogance – riding on macho power and police brutality – and its fanatic supporters, continue to mess with the young of the land to control their divisive narrative?
Here, again, there were videos and eye-witnesses, with one major television channel identifying the culprits as those belonging to the students’ wing of the BJP. But the IT cells of the ruling party and the friends of the cops managed to show that there was a back story to the violence – blaming the JNUSU office bearers and the students’ recalcitrance to enrol themselves to the next semester. JNU students were protesting against the massive fee hikes which would block the entry of poor students in this prestigious campus.
The university’s vice-chancellor and his relentless strong-arm tactics and obstinacy contributed to much of the trouble, but the administration did not budge. On the contrary, it used the fracas to yet again tar the students as “subversives and anti-nationals”.
It has been 50 days since the violence broke out in JNU, but the government and the police have not shown any movement in the investigations. Not one attacker has been arrested or questioned.
The Supreme Court, that shows good reflexes when it comes to taking up inane issues, has been shy in reacting to the state-supported violence in these campuses.
Worse, the court has been more worried about superficial issues like the blockage of a city road rather than the deeper and troubling cause that underpins it – protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which is seen as exclusionary and contrary to the basic structure of the Indian Constitution, and which has sparked off massive mass protests, all non-violent, across the country.
It has been 50 days since the violence broke out in JNU, but the government and the police has not shown any movement in the investigations. Not one attacker has been arrested or questioned.
A day before the apex court was to decide on the blockage of a road, a video was released from CCTV footage to show how the armed and armoured police, some of them with their faces covered, barged into the Jamia library and savaged students studying peacefully in the library. Earlier, the Delhi Police had categorically denied any entry inside the library. Their lies have yet again been nailed.
Not only did they savage and assaulted peaceful students in the library, and ransacked furniture, one cop was seen smashing a CCTV camera to hide the criminal brutality. True to their want, BJP trolls tried to show that the protestors were masked stone-pelters who deserved to be beaten. The venom of these trolls was flowing when the images of this unprecedented violence, perhaps for the first time in the history of Indian campuses, went viral. Indeed, one bearded young man was accused of holding a stone. It has finally turned out to be a wallet.
It seems that this aggression of the police, apparently at the behest of the Union home ministry, did not pay off in the Delhi assembly elections. A CSDS survey shows that the young and women detested the violence that had been unleashed on students in Delhi. Besides, the young don’t carry the baggage of hate politics and xenophobia on their shoulders. The shift of the youth vote against the BJP has proved to be critical in the Delhi elections.
The big question is, will the ruling party in its unbridled arrogance – riding on macho power and police brutality – and its fanatic supporters, continue to mess with the young of the land to control their divisive narrative? If students are the future of this secular democracy, then, these organised and nasty assaults on students are nothing but an attack on the future of the nation. Surely, its time the ruling regime introspects and changes its ways.
Both Jamia and JNU want justice. And so do all the Shaheen Baghs of India.