Posted by Dua Subzwari
The sound of tear gas shells being fired, people screaming with fear, and an agitated crowd: all of these have increasingly become common sights in the India of the recent past. The country is going through a challenging phase as the farmers have been protesting for almost six months now and no conclusion has been arrived at so far pertaining repealing the laws. What’s made everything worse is the violence, which took place on India’s 72nd Republic Day celebrations.
Though farmer leaders completely disassociated themselves from the miscreants who caused a ruckus on the Red Fort, situations still escalated. The ‘locals’, as mentioned by the mainstream media, tried to inflict violence on the protesting farmers and evacuate the Ghazipur border protest site. They claimed to get rid of everyone who disrespected the national flag.
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Farmers Protests and Police brutality
Indian farmers have been protesting against the controversial farm laws in India for months. Among the first acts of attack on part of the police took place in November when they tried to vacate the farmers from the protesting sites. A PTI photo of a policeman waving a baton towards an old farmer went viral, among others.
Situations escalated, when on the 72nd Republic Day, farmers organised their tractor rally and entered Delhi. What happened next left everyone shocked. The police used water cannons and tear gas shells on farmers, sending shockwaves not just throughout the country but other nations also expressed their concerns. It has been reported that opposition members in Canada are pressuring their Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to condemn police actions on the farmers.
Leader of the federal New Democratic Party (NDP) Jagmeet Singh has even commenced a petition campaign on his party’s official website in solidarity with the farmers and against the brutal actions of the police. It states: “The Indian government’s use of violence on farmers protesting mass privatisation of the agricultural sector is appalling. Instead of using water cannons, tear gas, and violence, the Indian government needs to engage in open dialogue with farmers.”
The cutting off of electricity and water supply of the farmers protesting sites along with the Internet services being shut down was a barbaric act. Various videos and pictures depicted the police indifferently standing even as local goons were seen pelting stones at the farmers, resembling the police’s lack of action when a gun wielding man had entered the Jamia Millia Islamia campus last year.
Violence At Jamia Millia Islamia
Haris Humnafas, a student of the university, was present on the evening of 15th December, 2019 on the campus. A victim of the police violence on that fatal night, he said to the reporter, “On 15th of December, I had just returned from the protest site to Jamia’s central canteen along with my friends. I was on a call with my father, when a tear gas shell burst right in front of me making a very loud sound. The call was disconnected. The situation then worsened as students, teachers, and workers were running towards the backside to leave the campus. I went to the canteen to get some salt as the tear gas was affecting our skin and eyes. We saw policemen start to vandalise the campus and were brutally beating up the students. They came towards us and took our phones while abusing us. I thought it was my last day and started to recite kalma (Quran verse). Students were crying all around, some even begged the police saying, ‘Sir mat mariye, mat mariye’ but they didn’t stop. Many fainted and many more bled. Imam sahab of Jamia masjid could be heard announcing ‘ye aapke bacche hain inhe mat mariye’. Unfortunately, nothing worked and the police didn’t stop the act of brutality.”
The violence in Jawaharlal Nehru University was more or less the same. The only difference was the police stood by watching as the students got beaten with rods and sticks by the masked mob. Various videos were circulated on the Internet showing the policemen doing nothing to stop the violence. The same happened during the Anti-CAA/NRC protests outside Jamia where a student was shot right in front of the police.
Violence at Jawaharlal Nehru University
The attack on Jawaharlal Nehru University students occurred on the night of 5th January 2020 following the university students’ protests against the fee hike since 2019. As the authorities failed to meet their demands, students decided to completely boycott the sessions.
Then on 5th January, 2020, a mob armed with sticks, rods, bricks, and acid attacked the university campus and hostels. The attackers were masked and vandalised the property along with hitting the students and assaulting them. Many teachers and students were injured. The police reportedly performed a very crucial role here by doing nothing. It was alleged that the assault continued for almost three hours. Reports also emerged of how the attack could have been a pre-planned one with police knowing everything prior.
The new India is witnessing a gradual shift where police brutality, clampdowns on protestors, and internet shutdowns have become a routine. These gruesome actions are somehow being normalised. Looking at the violence on Jamia, JNU students and farmers protests, one can easily see what these incidents share in common: protestors are manhandled and violent goons escape unscathed.
The Delhi Police acted as mute spectators when the students and teachers were attacked. It was alleged that the police force did nothing to stop the violent activities.
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The same Delhi Police that was mute and inactive during the JNU violence was pretty much active in Jamia Millia Islamia. They fired tear gas shells and bombarded students with sticks. The turmoil left the window glasses shattered and damaged other property as well. But the biggest consequence was seen on students who were thrashed and were allowed to leave the campus with their hands up, just like criminals. The incident was followed by the Internet being shut down for days in the area near Jamia Nagar.
Jamia authorities even confirmed that the police entered the campus without their permission. This displays the double standards of the Delhi Police. It forcefully entered Jamia and stayed mum in JNU.
Coming back to the violence that was inflicted on the protesting farmers, the police personnel’s strategies to not buckle down from violent measures were evident in how at the sites of the farmers’ protests, they put up iron spikes on the roads, barbed wires and joined concrete bars to form walls in order to restrict the farmers’ movements. If that was not enough, as if to imply that they were at war with the protesting farmers, latest pictures of the police showed them armed with metal rods and iron batons. Police brutality might break the bones of the farmers but will it be enough to crush their spirits?
Dua Subzwari is a Mass Communication student studying in AJK MCRC Jamia Millia Islamia. Writing and storytelling is her passion. She loves to tell stories through images. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram.