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Jamia Violence: 'Still Awaiting Compensation, Feeling Let Down,' Say Students

Students who were attacked feel that accountability, justice have become a thing of past in PM Modi’s ‘new India’.

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India
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After waiting for close to three years, the Supreme Court has finally started hearing petitions challenging the Modi government’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which makes religion a criteria for granting citizenship to refugees, but there is no justice in sight for the students of Jamia Millia Islamia who were attacked by the Delhi Police for staging anti-CAA protests.

The Assault

On 15 December 2019, Delhi police personnel charged inside the campus of Jamia Millia Islamia and brutally assaulted students. Those participating in the protest against the CAA and National Register for Citizens (NRC) were battered in full public view.

Students who had nothing to do with the protest, and were studying in the university library or praying in the university mosque, were not spared either. Mohammad Minhajuddin was 26 years old at the time of the assault. He was pursuing his Masters in Legislative Law from the university. He is also one of the students who filed a petition, seeking action against the police, before the Delhi High Court. His plea has been gathering dust for the last two years and nine months.

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That evening, Minhajuddin was studying in the MA-MPhil room of the Ibn-e-Sina library, when about 20 police personnel forcibly entered and started hitting students indiscriminately with batons.

Minhajuddin received blows on his head and face that left him permanently blind in his right eye. He had to undergo multiple surgeries to save his other eye. His family could not afford his medical expenses and he was forced to resort to crowdfunding.

Students who were attacked feel that accountability, justice have become a thing of past in PM Modi’s ‘new India’.

Mohammad Minhajuddin, who has permanently lost vision in his right eye.

(Photo Courtesy: Via special arrangement)

JMI Aborts Legal Case Against Police

Like other students who were brutalized in the police assault, Minhajuddin expected the university to move the court against the State’s excessive use of force and the administration did not disappoint.

Jamia Millia Islamia filed a case against the police, for illegally entering the premises of the university and attacking students, before the Saket Court.

The case was filed under section 156(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CRPC) which allows any magistrate to order an investigation, since the police is unlikely to register a case against itself.


The petition asked for a First Information Report (FIR) to be registered against the police under the following sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC):

  • Section 268

  • Section 295

  • Section 295A

  • Section 296

Besides this, minor sections related to causing hurt, wrongful restraint and property damage were also included in the complaint.

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The case was filed on 22 January 2020. The Saket court dismissed the plea on 3 February 2021, claiming that prior sanction of a competent government officer was needed to prosecute a government servant, for a criminal act committed in discharge of official duties, under section 197 of the CRPC.

The court also observed that "it is an undisputed fact that the police personnel were acting to control the law and order situation that had emerged in relation to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019."

Surprisingly the university decided to let the dismissal of their case go unchallenged. Asghar Khan, who is the standing counsel for Jamia Millia Islamia, said, "We follow a procedure. If a lower court dismisses our plea, then we go to the high court… but the university administration did not want to pursue the case."
The vice chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, Najma Akhtar, has defended the administration’s decision, claiming that it was in the university’s best interest.

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"We have our own priorities; these are our decisions. We did what we had to. Anything that was destroyed, everything is okay now. All kids who were injured have recovered and are flourishing. Please don’t call this the ‘Jamia violence’ case. There were protests happening all over the country, not just in Jamia. Jamia’s name unnecessarily got dragged into it."

Students Feel Let Down By University

Students are livid with the vice chancellor’s explanation. "How can she say that the students have recovered," asks Minhajuddin.

"Who has recovered? I have become blind from one eye. It is permanent blindness. There has not even been any temporary compensation that has been provided to us. The court hasn’t allowed it. We are still waiting for compensation. We want an investigation into the violence. The university has not helped us in any way," he said.
"What hurts most is Jamia’s decision to not pursue the case in a higher court against the decision of the Saket court."
Mohammad Mustafa, student at Jamia Millia Islamia, who was left with multiple fractures in both hands

Mustafa's bones may have healed but he says he still carries the trauma of being assaulted inside, what was supposed to be, a safe space for students.
Mustafa, who was 27 years old at the time of the assault, was enrolled in a master’s programme at Jamia Millia Islamia. He had not participated in the anti-CAA stir even for a day. He had absolutely nothing to do with the protest.

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On the evening of 15 December 2019, he was studying in the Ibn-e-Sina library when he heard people shrieking. Before he had the time to react, lathi wielding policemen entered the MA-MPhil room and started hitting him on his head.

He tried to shield his head with his hands, but they continued to batter him. Mustafa tried to run but the policemen chased him down and continued their assault. He received multiple wounds and was left with a badly bruised head and fractured hands

"At least the university should have stood by us," he said.

Students who were attacked feel that accountability, justice have become a thing of past in PM Modi’s ‘new India’.

Mohammad Mustafa suffered multiple fractures in both hands. 

(Photo Courtesy: Via special arrangement)

Shayaan, 21, who was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Jamia Millia Islamia at the time, too, was studying in the Ibn-e-Sina library that fateful evening. He too recalls hearing violent screams and watching smoke from tear gas shells fill up the library. Shayaan ran up to the reading room on the first floor where some students had locked themselves.

The policemen broke open the door and started hitting them with batons. Shayaan managed to escape with a few bruises, but fell outside the old library building where he was surrounded by cops. They battered him till both his legs were fractured.
Students who were attacked feel that accountability, justice have become a thing of past in PM Modi’s ‘new India’.

Shayaan Mujeeb suffered fractures in both legs. This photograph was taken between 16-17 December 2019 at Jaypee Hospital, Noida.

(Photo Courtesy: Via special arrangement)

The Case Before Delhi High Court

Mohammad Minhajuddin, Mohammad Mustafa, and Shayaan Mujeeb are amongst the nine petitioners who approached the Delhi High Court seeking an FIR against the Delhi police, a court monitored probe into the police action, and compensation for injured students. Six other similar petitions were filed before the same court and hearings for all the
matters were clubbed together.

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Two years, nine months, and thirty-two hearings later, there is still no sign of justice. Advocate Sneha Mukherjee of Human Rights Law Network, who is handling Shayaan, Minhajuddin, and Mustafa’s petitions, says that the momentum in the case has slowed down to a place where litigation has become passive.

"When we first mentioned the matter in court, there were hundreds of people. Now there are only lawyers from our office and Mr Salman Khurshid’s office," she said.
After the petition was filed before the High Court, there were 22 hearings between 18 December 2019 and 6 November 2020. By November 2020, the petitioners had finished their arguments and the respondents had argued for 5 days.

In 2021, the matter got listed on the 7 January and then 12 February. On both these days, the matter could not be heard, and further extensions were given. Then on 19 March, Chief Justice Prateek Jalan directed the release of these matters from the ‘part heard’ list. This meant that after almost 20 days of arguments spread over 15 months, both sides would have to start their arguments from scratch again.
"No effective hearing has happened since the matter was taken off the ‘part-heard’ list on 19 March last year," said Mukherjee.

Senior advocate and the founder of the Human Rights Law Network, Colin Gonsalves, who has been appearing on behalf of four petitioners says he is very frustrated with the way the Delhi High Court has dealt with the Delhi riots and Jamia case.

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"Truth is, that in our country, the Executive has overpowered the Judiciary. They have made the judiciary feel apprehensive. You have one example of a judge of the Delhi High Court, (who asked for ambulances to be allowed in riot affected areas) being transferred on the evening of the argument. We are living in difficult and troubled times. I doubt if justice can be done in the Delhi riots or the Jamia case. The central government is too powerful," said Gonsalves.
Students are not just disillusioned by the delay in legal proceedings, they seem to be losing faith in the justice system.

"It seems like the judges had set a cooling-off period to make sure that the matter is forgotten from public memory. This is not a complicated matter. If they had to deliver a judgement, they would have done it by now. We have no option but to place our trust in the judiciary, but justice delayed is justice denied and what we are witnessing right now are
inordinate delays," said one of the student petitioners who did not wish to be identified.

'No Accountability Under Modi Government'

"They left us bleeding inside our university campus, and no one could protect us," said Shayaan.

"Not only have the police gotten away with blood on their hands, but it also seems like the incident has completely gotten wiped out from public memory. The court is dragging its feet. We are reliving the ‘tareeq par tareeq’ phenomenon. No one comes for the hearings. There is no media coverage, and no one seems to care," he added.

Between incomprehensible and mysterious delays in legal proceedings in the Delhi High Court and the lack of institutional support from the university, the students seem to be fighting a losing battle. They feel that accountability and justice have become a thing of the past in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘new India’.

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