“When I was in the library, I got down on my knees and told them, ‘Bhagwan ke liye chhod do’”—For the love of god, let me go—“but the police just kept thrashing me,” Rahool Banka, a 25-year-old student of Jamia Millia Islamia, told me. “Then they said, ‘Allah ka naam kyun nahi lete ho’”—Why are you not calling out for Allah—“and kept thrashing me.” I spoke to Banka as he lay in a stretcher in the emergency ward of the Trauma Centre at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi. “I’m bleeding,” he said, pointing to his bandaged nose and spat out blood. The treatment of the detainees at the trauma centre offered a glimpse into the arbitrary nature of the police brutality unleashed in Jamia.
Banka was one of over two dozen people who had been picked up from the university and brought to the New Friends Colony police station by the Delhi Police. On the evening of 15 December, the third day of protests by the university students against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, the Delhi Police forcibly entered the premises of the university and used batons and teargas on the students, for the second consecutive day. Of all the detainees at the NFC station, 16 people had been brought to AIIMS for medical treatment. By now, it was just past midnight.
Every student I spoke to said they were holding a peaceful protest inside the campus against the CAA, which was passed on 12 December. The police, however, claimed that the protestors were pelting stones and used that as justification to enter the campus and use force against the students. A professor of the university, who did not want to identified, told me, “You can check the CCTV footage, someone has to, there needs to be an enquiry into this. But someone needs to find out quickly.” He was afraid that the police would try to destroy the footage.
At JMI, the police started rounding up people and made no distinction between those who were protesting and those who were in the campus for various reasons. The Delhi Police has given no official statement on the number of protestors detained, while students and activists have claimed that the force picked up over fifty people. What followed over the next few hours appeared to reflect a deliberate attempt by the police to create confusion and sow fear among the students, and their friends and families.
There is no consensus on what happened immediately after the detentions, as the police broke up the detainees into multiple groups and whisked them away to different locations. One section was taken to the NFC station, another to the Kalkaji police station, and according to the students I spoke to, some of the injured protestors were taken to four different hospitals—AIIMS, the Holy Family Hospital in Okhla, Alshifa Hospital in Okhla and the Safdarjung Hospital. A significant number of the detainees at the NFC and Kalkaji police stations had sustained injuries. A little after midnight, the injured detainees at the NFC station were moved to AIIMS following pressure from civil-society members, lawyers, activists and friends and families of the detainees who had gathered in large numbers outside the station.