Jamia Row: Dear Delhi Police, Here’s What You Could Have Done

Ex-IPS officer and ex-DG Police, Uttar Pradesh, Vikram Singh shares his views on Delhi Police’s role in Jamia row.

Updated
Opinion
4 min read
Image of students of Jamia trying to protect another student from police violence, used for representational purposes.
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There are disconcerting reports from Delhi and NCR area, particularly from the Okhla region, that there were large-scale disturbances and violence that happened on the Jamia Millia Islamia university campus and adjacent areas. Students from JNU and Jamia, and also many members of the public, gathered around the police headquarters at ITO, Delhi, on the intervening night of 15 and 16 December.

The reason was the unprovoked and disproportionate use of force by the Delhi Police. The Vice Chancellor of Jamia alleged that the police entered the university campus without permission.

The PRO of Jamia Milia said that the disturbance and the violence that happened was because of ‘outside elements’.

Cycle of Violence & Disinformation

There seems to be a continuous cycle of disinformation about whether the police can and should enter a campus.

The tradition says that normally if the police have to enter a university, under normal circumstances it should be with the permission or the understanding, or with the knowledge of the Vice Chancellor. But if the situation is abnormal and violence is taking place, the police do not require prior permission to enter a university campus or anywhere where there is violence.

The police are duty bound to ensure that the rule of law prevails.

Jamia Millia Islamia is a centre of excellence, a central university, known the world over for its high standard of academics, with serious-minded students. It is unfortunate that the police had to enter its campus to contain the situation and had to use force as well.

This was also followed by violence in Pune, Aligarh Muslim University, Nadwa in Lucknow, Kolkata, and other parts of the country too reported such instances of protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act. There are allegations that the police used disproportionate force in Delhi and elsewhere. The Aligarh Muslim University was asked to close for the day, and other institutions too were asked to evacuate their hostels.

Allegations Against Delhi Police Need to be Investigated

The police, on the other hand, say that 100 people were injured, including members of the public, the police, and firemen. Six vehicles were burned, not to mention shops and other structures that were randomly set on fire. The police could not remain mute spectators to the violence, and had to use ‘minimum force’, and it’s to their credit that they didn’t go berserk.

Of course, there are allegations that need to be looked into about their entering a place of worship on the campus of Jamia, the library, the canteen, the girls’ hostel and the girls’ washroom. If that be the case, it requires a detailed inquiry, not only by the Delhi Police, but by some lady magistrate and some lady police officers too.

What added fuel to the fire was the instigation of irresponsible politicians who started their vitriolic jibes on communal lines, leveled wild allegations against the police, which was shocking to say the least.

But the police cannot wash their hands off the episode. They were obviously caught on the wrong foot and were unprepared. It would have been much better if the police were better informed. Obviously, there was no actionable and specific intelligence they could have worked on and make preventive arrests of mischief-makers. Had that been the case, then the situation would have been very different, if it had not been a free-for-all or the widespread violence that we are witnessing now.

Delhi Police Should Have Been Better Prepared

Any university campus or place of worship can have almost 100+ undesirable elements during a protest, who may hold those institutions to ransom. They are documented, and at the first instance of disturbance or violence, they should have been rounded up.

This obviously should be a lesson for the future. The police can think of using some state of the art technology like facial recognition software to identify the ‘professional’ agitators, or use drone technology, and must take pains to ensure that they use non-lethal, anti-riot dispersal equipment, and never use anything that is lethal or can cause serious injury or death.

The time has come for proactive efforts in ‘community policing’ experiments.

There should be some kind of a working arrangement between universities, educational institutions that have significant minority group(s), and the police department. The visible undercurrents and the not-so-visible situations, the fault lines, the murmurings, the rumours, will then come to the notice of the police, and adequate precautions will be taken. Because if these pro-active measures are not there, then we will again have an ugly situation which is totally avoidable. And the bottom line is — identify the mischief-makers, and document them. There should be adequate surveillance on all those who want to fish in troubled waters — especially the politicians who tried to fish in troubled waters.

(Dr Vikram Singh is an Indian educationist and retired Indian Police Service officer. He joined the IPS in 1974, and held the post of Director General of Police in the state of Uttar Pradesh during the period June 2007- September 2009. He tweets at @VikramSingh112. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for them.)

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