At least 26 people have been booked in connection with clashes between police and students of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) during protests against the new citizenship law. They would soon be granted bail by the district court, police said.
The university on Monday declared early winter vacations and postponed examinations. University officials claimed that four students were injured in the clashes on Sunday. However, students put the number to 25-30. They said that those injured were brought to the college hospital after 10 pm.
A 12-hour agitation was also held by residents in Aligarh on Monday, protesting police action against AMU students.
Senior AMU official Rahat Abrar said about 50 per cent of the students had vacated their hostel rooms. With examinations cancelled and early winter break announced, hundreds of students were seen hurriedly boarding buses parked near AMU’s Bab-e-Syed gate. The buses were heading to several destinations, including Lucknow, Agra and even Jammu.
Among the AMU students was Mohsin from Kashmir. “The university has given us time till Tuesday morning to figure out our travel. A bus is being provided till Jammu after which we will be on our own. The fact that it happened all of a sudden is causing inconvenience, and not all students can afford plane tickets,” he said.
On Sunday evening, the Bab-e-Syed gate was the epicentre of the clash. A group of students gathered at the gate to protest police action against Jamia Milia Islamia students. Within an hour, the protest took a violent turn. The police alleged that students had pelted them with stones, following which tear gas shells were fired and the protesters lathicharged.
“Around 7 pm, the circle officer informed us that a protest was taking place at the university gates. I reached the spot and found that while constant announcements to maintain peace were being made, there was escalation on the other side. The gates were also being pushed. We resorted to tear gas shells and lathicharge, but ensured no major injuries (to students),” said SP Aligarh (city) Abhishek.
According to eyewitnesses, the police initially attacked a group of 50 people and a platoon of Rapid Action Force stormed the university. The students, inside the campus, alleged that the police lobbed tear gas shells inside hostel premises and libraries where most of them were hiding. The police denied entering other parts of the campus.
Nasir Chaman, a 23-year-old law student, was among the injured. He fears that he may lose his thumb. “We were only 40-50 people and the police made the first move by beginning lathicharge. It soon became brutal. A shell resembling a tear gas one landed in front of me. When I was about to put it in water, it exploded in my hand. Doctors have told me that I might lose a finger if infection spreads. I am in a lot of pain and I just hope that erring police officer are brought to book,” Nisar said.
According to sources, two days ago, the district administration had expressed disapproval to AMU Vice-Chancellor Tariq Mansoor for allowing Dr Kafeel Khan and Yogendra Yadav to visit the university in the wake of protest against the new citizenship law. Dr Kafeel was later booked for inciting unrest through speech.
Back to the Bab-e-Syed gate. Students were seen trudging with their luggage in tow as previous night’s violence hung heavy on their mind. And the longing for home grew intense against the backdrop of a deserted campus.
“Never before have the police entered our campus. The historic gate was also damaged. No one is safe here and home is more secure. Anyone can be a target – for merely exercising a right,” said Sara, another AMU student.