Delhi turns into battleground over citizenship law protest, 4 buses torched, 6 cops injured
New Delhi, Dec 15: Protestors torched four public buses and two police vehicles as they clashed with police in New Friends' Colony near Jamia university during a demonstration against the amended Citizenship Act, leaving six cops and two firemen injured, officials said.
The trouble started during a protest by students of Jamia Millia Islamia. But a students' body later said they had nothing to do with the violence and arson and alleged that "certain elements" had joined in and "disrupted" the demonstration.
Soon after the violence, Jamia Millia Islamia Chief Proctor Waseem Ahmed Khan claimed that the Delhi Police entered the campus forcibly without any permission and beat up staff members and students who were forced to leave the campus.
Condemning the police action, university vice chancellor Najma Akhtar said students who were inside the library have been taken out and are safe. Police said they entered the university campus only to control the situation, after protesters indulged in the violence.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Southeast) Chinmoy Biswal said four buses and two police vehicles were torched during the protest, and six policemen were also injured.
He said stones were pelted from inside the university campus at police personnel, forcing them to use teargas to disperse the "violent mob". Biswal said some people have been detained but did not give details. Escorted by police, some youths could be seen coming out of their hostels with their hands raised.
Some of them claimed the police also entered the library and "harassed" the students An eyewitness claimed that protestors took out petrol from a motorcycle and used it to torch the buses.
However, protesters claimed the police baton-charged them and used teargas shells when they were holding peaceful protest.
A Delhi Fire Services official said four fire tenders were rushed to the spot. One of them was completely damaged and two personnel were injured, he said. Plumes of smoke billowed from the torched buses as firemen tried to douse the blaze.
The protest was being held against the contentious law which seeks to provide citizenship to non-Muslims religious minorities from three neighbouring countries who arrived in India to escape religious persecution.
According to Saimon Farooqui, the national secretary of Congress-affiliated National Students' Union of India, the protesters were peacefully sitting on Mathura Road when policemen tried to "trouble" a couple of protesters, who resisted. Thereafter, the police lathicharged the protesters and used teargas, he alleged. The clash disrupted traffic in the area with several vehicles stranded on roads for hours.
Meanwhile, Jamia Teachers' Association appealed to the students to keep away from such "direction-less" protest led by "local political leaders". Jamia students have been protesting against the legislation.
However, on Saturday evening, they had called off their university lockdown and declared they would hold peaceful protest.
After the violence this afternoon, a Jamia students' body issued a statement, saying, "We have time and again maintained that our protests are peaceful and nonviolent. We stand by this approach and condemn any party involved in the violence. "We have maintained calm even when students have been lathicharged and some women protestors badly beaten up. Media personnel are a witness to these events. Violence by certain elements is an attempt to vilify and discredit genuine protests," the statement said.
Sources said the police entered the campus while chasing some "outsiders" who had indulged in vandalism and were trying to hide on the premises But the university chief proctor said, "Police entered the campus by force, no permission was taken. Staff members and students were beaten up and forced to leave the campus."
The vice chancellor said university students were not involved in the violent protest.
"In the evening, when the agitation started, my students had not given a call for it," she told PTI. "...which university can have such a huge crowd.
At least not my university. It was a Sunday and we had already declared winter vacation on Saturday so half of the students had already gone home," she said.
As tension prevailed in the area, the city government announced closure of all schools in southeast Delhi. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said any kind of violence is unacceptable and protests should remain peaceful. "No one shud indulge in violence.
Any kind of violence is unacceptable. Protests shud remain peaceful," he tweeted. The BJP blamed the Aam Aadmi Party for the violence and demanded it stop "provoking people", but the AAP rejected the charge .
BJP Delhi chief Manoj Tiwari, in a tweet, said that an AAP MLA was "provoking" the public and called Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal a "traitor".
However, Okhla MLA Amanatullah Khan, who is apparently the MLA alluded to by Tiwari, denied the accusations.
"Some TV channels have run the news that protesters under my leadership have torched buses, which is wrong. I protested near Shaheen Bagh where nothing untoward happened," he told reporters.
BJP leader Kapil Mishra likened the violence to the 2002 Godhra train burning incident and accused the AAP government engineering the Sunday violence.
He also said the violence was not less than a terror attack. "This is a terrorist attack. Setting afire a bus which has a CNG cylinder means that there was a conspiracy for a big blast. What do you call this if not a terrorist attack? This fire was started by Amanatullah Khan. They are readying to repeat Godhra incident in Delhi," he said.
The Delhi Traffic Police said in a tweet that the vehicular movement was closed from Okhla Underpass to Sarita Vihar due to the agitation. Vehicles coming from Badarpur and Ashram Chowk were diverted to alternative routes due to the blockade.