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New clips further dent police’s Jamia version

February 18, 2020 06:38 AM

COURTESY HT FEB 18
New clips further dent police’s Jamia version

One of the clips showed security personnel breaking open the door of the library, barging in, baton-charging students, and then trying to damage the CCTV camera on which the clip is recorded.
HT Correspondents

letters@hindustantimes.com

New Delhi : Multiple video clips appearing to show what happened inside Jamia Millia Islamia in the aftermath of a protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act on December 15 surfaced on Monday, further contradicting the Delhi Police’s claim that they did not enter the library area or beat up students in the premier university.

The videos, however, appeared to carry forward two contrasting narratives — one of police excesses targeting students, and the second of suspected rioters taking shelter inside the university.

One clip, over five minutes long, showed security personnel breaking open the door of the reading room of the library, masked men in police and paramilitary uniforms barging in, baton-charging students, and then trying to damage the closed circuit television (CCTV) camera on which the clip is recorded.

Another clip appeared to show a group of people inside the campus, purportedly students, throwing stones at someone outside the frame.

HT could not independently verify the authenticity of the videos or the chronology of events shown in these clips.

The videos prompted the police to admit on Monday that their personnel were on the campus “in pursuit of suspected rioters”. The police also said the special investigation team probing the violence will analyse the footage, which appear to be from CCTV.

“Once the sequence of events is established, we will identify all those who were involved in the violence and action will be taken as per law. By just seeing the videos... it will not be appropriate to declare at this point that those present inside the Jamia university campus or its library are innocent,” Praveer Ranjan, special commissioner of police (crime branch), said.

Ranjan, who is the head of the unit probing the clashes, also said the investigation will look into the circumstances of the police action inside the campus.

On December 16, a day after the clashes, the police said their personnel did not enter the library or thrash students, and that tear gas shells may have damaged the library.

The first such video, which emerged on Sunday, appeared to show masked men in uniforms storming into the reading room and hitting students with batons on December 15, the day a protest against CAA turned violent near Jamia after participants were denied permission to take out a rally.

Later on Sunday, two more videos surfaced on social media claiming to show suspected rioters carrying stones — some of them wearing masks — inside the reading room and in a corridor.

“Some students covered their faces with handkerchiefs to avoid the smoke [from tear gas shells]. They were not trying to hide their identity. Even police personnel can be seen covering their faces in the video footage,” said Mohammad Mustafa, a Master’s degree student of social exclusion and inclusive policy who claims to have suffered fractures in both hands in the December violence. He could be seen in one of the clips.

It was not clear as to who leaked the videos exactly two months after incident. On Sunday, the Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC), which comprises a section of students and alumni, tweeted the first video, which, it said, was forwarded on WhatsApp. JCC, formed after the alleged police brutality on the campus, said on Monday it did not posses any more clips. It, however, tweeted two of the fresh videos that alleged police excesses.

The university administration, too, reiterated that it did not leak the videos. “We are not aware of the source of these footages. The police should investigate the matter,” proctor Waseem Khan said.

At least two of Monday’s videos — both running a little over two minutes — appeared to focus on the narrative of police action against students in the central university.

The longer, five-minute video shows someone breaking open a door of the reading room and removing tables stacked in front of the entrance. A group of men in uniform — most of them with their faces covered — are seen barging in and beating up the people inside (apparently students), who are pleading with them and trying to scurry towards the entrance. Most of the students are stopped by someone from outside the door, but a few woman students are allowed to exit.

The video then shows a large group caught in a melee near the entrance, trapped between the personnel outside the room and those inside, who are hitting the people with lathis as they try to get out.

The video then shows men in uniform, who apparently stood outside, finally barging in. As batons rain down from both sides, some people rush out of the door while others run to the opposite side. After the students disperse and disappear from the frame, one of the men in uniform is seen hitting a CCTV inside the room, but instead of breaking it he merely manages to turn it to one side.

“We started blocking the [library] door thinking we would be safe. But they barged in and beat up everyone. While one group of personnel entered, others were stationed outside the broken door as well,” a former student, who was also seen in one of the clips, said on the condition of anonymity.

The other videos — at least two more — claimed to show what happened before. One shows a large group of men entering the reading room and some of them blocking the entrance with tables. One person is seen carrying a stone and talking to other people on the campus. The other video shows people hurling stones, targeting people outside the frame.

At least 100 students, local residents and police personnel were injured in the December 15 clashes, which began after officials refused permission to anti-CAA protesters for a march. According to the police, protesters turned violent, and damaged at least 30 vehicles. The police resorted to firing tear gas shells to quell the demonstrators. While the police have arrested at least 17 people for the clashes, they are yet to take action for the alleged excesses.

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