New Delhi: A protest march against the citizenship law, held by students of Jamia Millia Islamia in south Delhi, ended in violence this evening, turning the posh New Friends Colony into a war zone. At least three buses and more than a hundred two-wheelers were set ablaze, batons and teargas were used and the police were seen chasing protesters through the streets. Between 50 and 100 Jamia students, who had distanced themselves from the violence, have been detained, while senior officers of the Delhi Police privately admitted local thugs hijacked the march, setting vehicles ablaze and throwing stones at cops when they tried to stop them from marching to Jantar Mantar.
Two firemen and one cop were injured and one fire engine was damaged in the protests. Metro operations – Jamia Millia Islamia University is on the city’s Magenta Line – were affected, with the entry and exit gates of Sukhdev Vihar Station, Jamia Millia Islamia, Okhla Vihar, and Jasola Vihar Shaheen Bagh, as well as Gate No.3 of the Ashram Station, closed.
Hours into the violence Delhi Police were seen rounding up students – one of whom spoke to NDTV and said she had been forcibly taken from a library located inside the campus – for detention.
In video footage, students can be seen walking on the pavement of a battle-scarred main road holding their hands above their heads while cops hurried and hassled them away.
According to Waseem Ahmed Khan, the Chief Proctor of the university, Delhi Police entered the campus by force.
“Police have entered the campus by force, no permission was given. Our staff and students are being beaten up and forced to leave the campus,” he was quoted by news agency ANI.
In a statement released shortly after the violence broke out, the students disassociated themselves from the violence and said they had repeatedly “maintained our protests are peaceful and non-violent.
“We have time and again maintained our protests are peaceful and non-violent. We stand by this approach and condemn any party involved in violence. We have maintained calm even when students have been lathi-charged and some women protestors have been badly beaten up,” the statement said, adding that violence “by certain elements” was an attempt to vilify and discredit genuine protests
In response to a plea by Jamia Vice-Chancellor Najma Akhtar, Miran Haider, one of the protesting students, told NDTV most of the protesting students are still inside the campus and would “follow Constitutional paths” to register their protest.
Ms. Akhtar, who also spoke to NDTV, has expressed concern over the safety and security of the students and asked those who left the campus to return.
“I appeal to students to keep peace. Everything will be all right but we can’t protect students if they leave the campus,” Ms Akhtar told NDTV, adding that some members of the public from the main road that divides the university campus into two may have joined the protest.
Jamia Millia Islamia University has been shut till January 6 and exams have been postponed.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has condemned the violence in a tweet on his official account.
No one shud indulge in violence. Any kind of violence is unacceptable. Protests shud remain peaceful. https://t.co/CUiaGLb9YY
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) December 15, 2019
Earlier today Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing an election rally in Jharkhand, congratulated the people of Assam for “keeping away from violence”. “You can easily make out who is spreading violence by the clothes they wear,” he said.
Massive clashes have taken place in the North East over the past few days, where at least four people died and thousands took to the streets despite a curfew and the deployment several columns of the Assam Rifles.
Today’s clash, which comes a day after hundreds of Jamia students took out a protest march from their campus to Parliament to express opposition to the new citizenship law that was passed by parliament last week. The law makes it easy for non-Muslim refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan
The violence has also spilled over into West Bengal, where trains were set on fire and roads blocked. Internet services in some districts were suspended today; according to ANI it has been suspended for a 48-hour period in Malda district.
With input from ANI