In one of several country-wide protests that erupted on 16 December, students of Delhi University organised a protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, as well as the police crackdowns on students of Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University that had occurred the day before. According to protesting students at Delhi University, members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad attacked them, while the Delhi Police either looked on, or joined in. The students later decided to shift their protest to Jantar Mantar.
“As two ABVP women were dragging me by hair,” Mudita, a student of Indraprastha college, told me, “women constables of Delhi police stood motionless right there, not doing anything.” (Some students interviewed for the piece requested that their last names not be published.) These women members of the ABVP proceeded to assault and drag Mudita out of the campus premises, breaking her spectacles in the process, she said. In the meantime, she added, the women constables looked on silently and appeared amused.
Mudita’s description of the Delhi Police giving ABVP members a free hand to attack students during a largely peaceful protest resonates with the accounts of twelve other protesters and student leaders I spoke to at Delhi University on 16 December. A running thread in all these accounts was the skewed power equation between ABVP members and other student organisations, with the partisan behaviour of the Delhi Police tilting the balance in favour of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s student wing.
On 9 and 11 December, respectively, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed by the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. The president, on 12 December, gave his assent to the bill, following which it was published in the official gazette on the same day, granting it the status of a law. In the days that followed, multiple universities across India became sites of protest against the law, which facilitates Indian citizenship for six non-Muslim communities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Muslims from these countries who enter India will continue to be treated as illegal immigrants.
At JMI and AMU, the police responded to protests with brute force, entering the campus and attacking students with lathi charges and tear gas. At the former, tear gas was used liberally on the campus premises, including within the college library. Over a hundred students were injured, and around fifty were detained on 15 December. According to a statement put out by the human-rights activist Harsh Mander and the lawyer Ali Zia Kabir Choudhary, scores of women students were allegedly sexually assaulted with the lights switched off.