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Violence rocks south Delhi during anti-citizenship law protest, buses torched, nearly 60 injured

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Protestors torched four public buses and two police vehicles as they clashed with police in New Friends' Colony near Jamia Millia Islamia during a demonstration against the amended Citizenship Act on Sunday, leaving nearly 60 people including students, cops and fire fighters injured.

Police used batons and teargas shells to disperse the violent mob and entered the Jamia university campus, where tension prevailed as several persons were detained for alleged involved in the violence. But a Jamia students' body claimed they had nothing to do with the violence and arson during the protest and alleged that "certain elements" had joined in and "disrupted" the demonstration. They also accused the police of high-handedness.

Later in the evening, students of Jawaharlal Nehru University held a protest outside the Police Headquarters in central Delhi against the police action at Jamia university and the standoff continued till late in the night.

Commuters faced a harrowing time as traffic was thrown out of gear for several hours in the areas and Delhi Metro shut over a dozen stations.

Soon after the violence, Jamia Millia Islamia Chief Proctor Waseem Ahmed Khan claimed that the Delhi Police entered the campus forcibly without any permission and beat up staff members and students who were forced to leave the campus.

Condemning the police action, university vice chancellor Najma Akhtar said students who were inside the library, where the police allegedly entered, have been taken out and are safe.

Police said they entered the university campus only to control the situation, after some of the protesters indulged in the violence.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Southeast) Chinmoy Biswal said groups of people, who were coming from the Jamia side, gathered near New Friends' Colony and blocked the road. The protesters who were numbering around 1,500 did not pay heed to police appeals to clear the area. As the police tried to push them back, some of them indulged in arson at around 3.30pm.

Four buses and two police vehicles were torched during the protest, and six police personnel and two firemen were injured, he said and dismissed claims that shots were fired.

Biswal said some of the protestors had come prepared for the arson and stones were pelted from inside the university campus at police personnel.

He said some people have been detained but did not give details.

After the clash, at least 51 injured people were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, sources said.

In the wake of violence during protests against the amended Citizenship Act in south Delhi, DMRC closed gates of several metro stations, including GTB Nagar, Shivaji Stadium, Patel Chowk and Vishwavidyalaya, on Sunday evening for several hours.

Escorted by police, some youths were seen coming out of their hostels with their hands raised. Some of them claimed the police also entered the library and "harassed" the students.

Father George PA, director of Holy Family Hospital, said, We received university students and also police personnel. Most of them have been discharged now."

He said three-four persons, including two police personnel, were admitted to the hospital.

"They have got injuries on head, maybe due to stone-pelting. None of them are critical. We are taking care of them," he said.

An eyewitness claimed that protestors took out petrol from a motorcycle and used it to torch the buses. However, protesters claimed the police baton-charged them and used teargas shells when they were holding peaceful protest.

A Delhi Fire Services official said four fire tenders were rushed to the spot. One of them was completely damaged and two personnel were injured, he said.

Plumes of smoke billowed from the torched buses as firemen tried to douse the blaze.

The protest was being held against the contentious law which seeks to provide citizenship to non-Muslims religious minorities from three neighbouring countries who arrived in India to escape religious persecution.

According to Saimon Farooqui, the national secretary of Congress-affiliated National Students' Union of India, the protesters were peacefully sitting on Mathura Road when policemen tried to "trouble" a couple of protesters, who resisted.

Thereafter, the police lathicharged the protesters and used teargas, he alleged. The clash disrupted traffic in the area with several vehicles stranded on roads for hours. Meanwhile, Jamia Teachers' Association appealed to the students to keep away from such "direction-less" protest led by "local political leaders".

Jamia students have been protesting against the legislation. However, on Saturday evening, they had called off their university lockdown and declared they would hold peaceful protest.

After the violence this afternoon, a Jamia students' body issued a statement, saying, "We have time and again maintained that our protests are peaceful and nonviolent. We stand by this approach and condemn any party involved in the violence.

"We have maintained calm even when students have been lathicharged and some women protestors badly beaten up. Media personnel are a witness to these events. Violence by certain elements is an attempt to vilify and discredit genuine protests," the statement said.

Sources said the police entered the campus while chasing some "outsiders" who had indulged in vandalism and were trying to hide on the premises.

But the university chief proctor said, "Police entered the campus by force, no permission was taken. Staff members and students were beaten up and forced to leave the campus."


The vice chancellor said university students were not involved in the violent protest.

"In the evening, when the agitation started, my students had not given a call for it," she told PTI.

"...which university can have such a huge crowd. At least not my university. It was a Sunday and we had already declared winter vacation on Saturday so half of the students had already gone home," she said.

As tension prevailed in the area, the city government announced closure of all schools in southeast Delhi.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said any kind of violence is unacceptable and protests should remain peaceful.

"No one shud indulge in violence. Any kind of violence is unacceptable. Protests shud remain peaceful," he tweeted.

The BJP blamed the Aam Aadmi Party for the violence and demanded it stop "provoking people", but the AAP rejected the charge.

BJP Delhi chief Manoj Tiwari, in a tweet, said that an AAP MLA was "provoking" the public and called Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal a "traitor".

"An AAP MLA is provoking people at the behest of Arvind Kejriwal. The Muslims of the country are with India and are not going to be influenced by traitors like you. Stop provoking people. The people of Delhi will teach AAP traitors a lesson. The sin of AAP is being exposed," he tweeted in Hindi.

However, Okhla MLA Amanatullah Khan, who is apparently the MLA alluded to by Tiwari, denied the accusations. Police too said they had no found any role of the AAP MLA in the incident.

"Some TV channels have run the that protesters under my leadership have torched buses, which is wrong. I protested near Shaheen Bagh where nothing untoward happened," he told reporters.

The Delhi Traffic Police said in a tweet that the vehicular movement was closed from Okhla Underpass to Sarita Vihar due to the agitation. Vehicles coming from Badarpur and Ashram Chowk were diverted to alternative routes due to the blockade.

BJP leader Kapil Mishra likened the violence to the 2002 Godhra train burning incident and accused the AAP government engineering the Sunday violence. He also said the violence was not less than a terror attack.

The Delhi Traffic Police said in a tweet that the vehicular movement was closed from Okhla Underpass to Sarita Vihar due to the agitation. Vehicles coming from Badarpur and Ashram Chowk were diverted to alternative routes due to blockade.

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation closed entry and exit gates of several station including the nearby Sukhdev Vihar due to the violent protest.

Several states in the northeast and West Bengal have been rocked by violent protests over the Act.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, December 15 2019. 23:35 IST
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