The silencing of students

The silencing of students

Alsaba Binyamin

Amir Mintoee, a student of Aligarh Muslim University, was arrested by police during a food distribution campaign organised by his own NGO for poor and needy amid the Covid-19 lockdown, inside the university’s medical college (JNMC) premises. He was charged with provoking fellow students against police and government during anti-CAA protests, which had led to police lathicharge and arrest of students from their hostel rooms on December 15, 2019.
Besides him, two other students from Jamia Millia Islamia – Safoora Zargar and Miran Haider – were booked under the same charges at a different place, the Jamia Milia Islamia. Neither the UP nor the Delhi government took cognisance of the inhumane action against students and reprimanded the police. On the Allahabad High Court’s recommendation, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) conducted an inquiry into what actually happened on December 15 in AMU. The findings led the court to direct the Uttar Pradesh DGP to take action against the cops involved in damaging motorcycles of students and lathicharging students. The court also directed the UP chief secretary and the CRPF DG, along with the vice chancellor of AMU, to conform to the recommendations of NHRC that included paying compensation to six students who were thrashed by police. It’s been more than four months now but the six students are still waiting for the compensation.
Mohd Aquib, a student of Library Science at AMU, narrated, “Police fired tear gas in our rooms. We ran out screaming. They took me and others to their van. I was thrown inside the van where another policeman was waiting. Holding my beard he taunted, ye to atankwadi lag raha hai (he looks like a terrorist) and he hit me on my face with the lathi in his hand. I fainted on the floor. The next that I can recall was his foot upon my face.”
This hostility was not without cause. These students were providing leadership to various major and minor protests organised throughout the states of UP, Delhi and other parts of the country. On the line of Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, cities like Aligarh and Allahabad stood up with their own bagh, whose mouthpieces often were these students. These rising bastions of dissent annoyed the UP government, which had welcomed the CAA and was dying to conduct NRC in the state.
Amir’s arrest, thus, was a retaliation by the state government. His identity as a protestor and affiliation with AMU brought upon him this fate.
If not equal and opposite, but every action does produce a reaction. The merciless crackdown of Delhi Police on Jamia students inside the university premises was what encouraged the police in Aligarh. Had the attack on Jamia led to action against the police, the attack on AMU would not have happened.
The kind of contemptuousness faced by students, from both the police and political authorities, has become visible on many instances. The police stood as mute spectator when a gunman shot straight at a Jamia student, the same way the police watched from afar when goons ran riot inside the JNU campus. Why was no police officer held accountable? Why no suspension so far? The situation reminds one of the British Raj. The British would slap all protestors with grave charges and put them behind bars. The ruling dispensation today must realize that unlike the British, its power rests on the mandate of the people. A section of students may have differences with the government, but they are as much part of the country as anyone else. Only by reaching out to students can the government allay the fears and remove the misunderstandings, if any, in their minds.

The writer is a Master’s student of Political Science at AMU

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