Hundreds of students gathered outside the main campus of Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi on Saturday and shouted slogans against the Delhi police and the University administration. The students alleged that Special Cell of the Delhi police and some officials in the civil dress barged into the hostel campus of the University and started shooting videos on the afternoon of Saturday.
This came after hostel residents of the University purported that during a raid the night before, hostel officials had warned them of an NIA raid in their residential complex in the wake of Independence Day celebration in the National Capital.
The students who had gathered to protest in Delhi on the campus alleged that at 2 PM on Saturday, two cars with black shields entered the hostel premises and started clicking pictures and shooting videos. When the students asked 'who they were', the "officials" said they had the permission to do so from University authorities.
However, when contacted, the official of the institution merely termed it as a rumour. Mehtab Alam, proctor at the University said, “This was a routine check carried out by us before Independence Day, we did this before Republic day too but there was no police involvement in it." But later a PTI report quoted university official confirming that it was routine verification by the police and also officials of the Delhi police confirming the news.
Protesting students questioned this surveillance and termed it as a violation of their right to privacy and also pointed out at how the government at the Centre is suspecting students of being involved in anti-national activities just because it happens to be a minority institution.
A scholar on conditions of anonymity told Firstpost, "We couldn’t sleep the entire night as we were told that there might be some raid in the hostel, it sent chill down our spines and we were reminded of what happened with the University students in the aftermath of Batla house encounter. Everyday someone was picked up from the University. All sort of thoughts came to our minds, a scholar cannot deliver in such pressures time and again.”
Another student of the University, seemingly exasperated, questioned the legitimacy of such raids by police inside the campus. "Police are not allowed to enter the University premises. It is the duty of the internal security of the University to ensure law and order situation. Are we terrorists studying here at Jamia Millia Islamia that police has come inside the hostel and is shooting videos? How can the university allow that to happen?"
Interestingly, a few students of the University also claimed that a notice was put earlier in the year, mentioning that Jamia Millia Islamia is the prime target of terrorist groups operating in India.
This was not the first raid of its kind to happen in a university, ever since the NDA-led BJP government has assumed power. It has remained in a continuous tussle with the students' community all over the country. Students at the University of Hyderabad and Jawaharlal Nehru University have also complained of such patrolling by police personnel in the campuses on more than one occasion.
Tathagat Sengupta, secretary of the teachers association at the University of Hyderabad (UOH) saw the incident at Jamia Millia Islamia similar to with what’s happening at other universities across the country, especially those which are politically vibrant. Sengupta claimed that similar raids were carried out at UOH by the police earlier this year. Sengupta said that in a bid to curtail dissents on the university campuses and turn them into A-political market hubs, these raids are part of politics of increasing surveillance in educational institutions.
"I am not surprised but disappointed to know about the raid in Jamia. This reflects the mindset of the government, they have a clear plan, and they have categorised universities. Jamia stands as Islamist in this categorisation and hence this surprise check before Independence Day. JNU for them is a communist hub and UOH a vanguard against Brahmanism. This all is happening in a bid to curb dissent against the regressive policies of the government and promote privatisation of education in this country. They have placed their own people as the vice-chancellors of the University and it is happening in collaboration with them. Now, this makes our fight more difficult, who do we reach out to? They have jeopardised the entire system.”
Meanwhile, students at Jamia have decided a sit-out demanding suspension of the proctor and the provost and also have asked the vice-chancellor of the University to address them immediately. Firstpost tried to reach the vice-chancellor but his phone went unanswered.