15th December- A date the students of Aligarh Muslim University cannot and should not forget. Waves of Anti-CAA protests soaring across the country, Aligarh hence was no exception. On a day when the news of Police brutality on protesting students was doing rounds, the protests at the Aligarh Muslim University reached to a boiling point. And the Police seemed to be in retaliatory mood. What followed was a tale of fear, anguish and helplessness, even for the students who were not even a part of the ongoing protests.
“You were put here to protect us, but who protects us from you? Every time you say “That’s illegal” does not mean that that’s true.” – The Boogie Down Production’.
Never in the history of the University, did the Police barge into the campus. Many stories, heard or unheard have come out of the night when the students suffered what they never thought they would. Students beaten up black and blue by the Police, tear gas bombs fired, fatal injuries. So much so that they were forced to find the means to head back home, the semester was terminated without even their exams for the semester being over.
To recall the happenings of the day is like re-opening a wound, a trauma imprinted on the students for life.
Here’s one such account of a student, Areeb Uddin, a 4th year law student at the university, at that time-:
The 15th of December in Aligarh last year was traumatic, disheartening and unforgettable. It was exactly on this day when the university was vandalized by the local security forces of Aligarh. At around 8:00 PM, some fellow juniors stepped into my room and I was informed that Jamia has been attacked by the Police forces in New Delhi, and the students of AMU are organizing a peaceful march up to Bab-e-Syed (the main gate of the University).
A buzzer hooted at the gate which signalled some kind of an emergency, the gate was locked and then heavily guarded by the city police forces who stood alert in a variety of different uniforms. Thereafter, the students broke the gate — in part — and a few of them landed on the other side where the security personnel were and ended up being brutally lathi-charged and suffered serious injuries.
As the students kept shouting slogans, the rapid action forces and the police barged into the campus shelling tear gas bombs which injured many students. There was chaos as the crowd started running back inside the university. What followed for the next hour was something like a game of kabaddi, with the police recklessly beating back the advancing students. The Police then started vandalizing the parked vehicles of students- motorcycles, cars, scooters and everything which came in their sight.
We were lucky enough to cross the exit gate of the University just on time because five minutes later, the Police were all around the campus. I quickly grabbed something to eat and survive for the night, then headed back to the hostel. All the local dhabas and shops were being shut down, the shopkeepers were frightened, and the students were hiding inside their own campus. The campus which was once alive, democratic and green, was eventually vandalized, shut down and became a state which was probably under some ‘Presidential Rule’.
Reaching the hostel, was also a challenge, because Policemen were all around the campus and street vendors were replaced with barricades. B.R. Ambedkar Hall was never as silent as it was that evening, most of the rooms were locked and everyone gathered near the main hall of the hostel.
The news was all over the Internet and our loved ones were panicking about our whereabouts, and suddenly we got a random voice note on WhatsApp where a fellow student was calling for help, as he was stuck in one of the guest house, which was eventually surrounded by the forces. At that time, we all felt so helpless, but in the next thirty minutes, another text message popped up on our mobile phones – “Your Internet Services are terminated till further notice”. The corridors of the hostel became an enquiry unit because most of the students were still stuck near the main gate and their parents.
My room was packed with around 7-8 people, and it was the first time that I saw my room-mates worried, anxious and silent. I remember, it was exactly at 1:00 AM, when a WhatsApp text popped in, and my friend Tauhid’s phone was our last hope because Vodafone was ‘fortunately’ providing services (maybe some anomaly). The news of various casualties kept popping in because two students from my hostel were badly injured, one was very critical, as both of his elbows were nearly fractured. But the grass was not greener at our side, at around 3:30 AM, both the University Wi-fi and the SMS services were withdrawn and we were only left with ‘outgoing’ and ‘incoming’ calls that too on skewed coverage.
After spending the whole night, we finally went out towards the campus to eat something, as we were surviving on biscuits since the last 12 hours. It was 16th December, and that morning was full of fear, suspicion and anger, the campus was literally dead, with all the departments guarded by the Special Forces, and all the local dhabas and shops were closed.
After looking around, we finally got that one place where we decided to eat, but before we could order anything, the local police and the shopkeepers forced the vendor to close the Dhaba and we went back with a heavy heart and empty stomach. It’s been almost 365 days now, still, the campus is unofficially locked down, the democracy is still struggling to enter the Institution. They might construct new gates, classes or ‘new stories’, but they cannot rub off the reality of 15th December, officially the black day for Aligarh Muslim University and the overall student community of India.
Article By: Areeb Uddin, Student of BA.LLB,AMU & Edited by: Tauhid Khan
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