There is fear, but I will not lose hope: Jamia student who lost an eye during an attack by Delhi Police

Shahid Tantray for The Caravan
20 December, 2019

On 15 December, students of Jamia Millia Islamia held protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act for the third consecutive day. The Delhi Police forced their way into campus and brutally attacked the students, using lathis and tear gas. The police, eyewitnesses told The Caravan, entered the library, the canteen and the mosque, and even attacked students who were not involved in the protests.

Mohammed Minhajuddin, an alumnus of the Aligarh Muslim University and a second-year LLM student at Jamia, was in the library when the police entered. Though he was not involved in the protests, Minhajuddin said, the police still beat him severely. The lathi charge damaged his left eye, costing him his eyesight, and left his right eye vulnerable to infection. In videos of the attack that circulated on social media, Minhajuddin could be seen sitting on the floor of a bathroom in Jamia, clutching his bleeding eye. He has not yet received a copy of the medico-legal report regarding his injuries. On 18 December, Shahid Tantray and Ahan Penkar, the assistant photo editor and a fact checker at The Caravan, respectively, met Minhajuddin . He recounted, in detail, how the police beat him up, and permanently damaged his eye. “There is fear for sure, and difficulty,” he said. “But I will do my best to be brave … I will not lag behind in my work.”

At around 12 or 1 pm on 15 December, I reached the central library. There is a separate section for master of philosophy students; I was sitting there. My friends and I were working. I had nothing to do with the protests that were happening outside. I’m not affiliated with any organisation or students’ association. I do not have any political affiliation, nor does anyone in my family has any political association. I was just doing my work.

This incident began at around 7 pm. Around twenty or twenty-five policemen broke into the central library building. They broke the glass of the main door and came in. When we realised that the police had entered the building, some students bolted the MPhil section’s door. But the police broke the lock and entered. The whole room was panicked. Students began running here and there.

The police had come prepared to beat the students—in commando outfits, fully armed with sticks. They did not interrogate anyone, or ask any questions—who are you, where are you from, since when have you been sitting here. They just began blindly raining blows, with lathis. I ran towards the door, to save myself. The first blow hit me on my hand, and I fractured my wrist. The second lathi hit me on the eye, as I was running away. I started to lose consciousness then.

The police was catching anyone they could see and thrashing them. They were everywhere, on all the floors of the building. There was nowhere to run, and there was no way we could escape. They used six- or eight-foot lathis. Each student had three policemen bending over them, thrashing them. In order to save myself, I ran to the bathroom. I found out later that some people had made a video as well, of blood falling down my face. For half an hour, the police continued, destroying everything—the furniture, the glass, they ruined everything.

It was in the bathroom that I really started becoming unconscious. A disabled student assisted me. He took me out through the back, to the Alham-e-Iqbal hostel. Inside, some students tried to give me first aid, but they felt the injury was too serious. They got me an ambulance and took me to the Alshifa Hospital. The hospital said the matter was critical, and asked the people with me to take me to the Trauma Centre at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. We then took a private ambulance to AIIMS.

The treatment at AIIMS took a lot of time. There was a lot of investigation—paperwork and tests. It was almost 12 or 1 am by the time it got done. Then they sent me to the Rajendra Prasad Eye Centre in AIIMS. At the centre, a doctor told me that the matter was critical and that my eye needed to be operated upon. My operation took place on Tuesday, 17 December.

My MLC—the medico-legal case—was made at a station near the Trauma Centre. It has my photo and the details of my medical condition written in it. The police people take photos of the patient and the condition in which the patient is brought in. The details are written in medical language so that this can be properly presented in court later.

But this MLC was not given to me—the police kept it with themselves. They said it is a matter of jurisdiction, that they might send it to the Jamia police station or the New Friends Colony station. In this dispute, they kept it with themselves. They said they would inform me later, but they still have not. I think the MLC is still at that station.

My statement was recorded there too, near the Trauma Centre. They were creating a problem there. When I was making a statement, they were not writing it down. They kept cross-questioning me—“why were you there, how did this happen.” I said, “This is my statement, you first write this down. Afterwards, investigate facts.” But they were not willing to write my facts.

I want to know what the administration of Jamia was doing. Were they not responsible for security? Can anyone come, hit everyone and leave? All the students were chosen and beaten. How am I supposed to survive in a lawless situation? Even going to the library is scary now.

Whatever legal recourse is available to us, we will use it. On 16 December, the lawyer Colin Gonsalves filed a petition in the Supreme Court; my petition was part of it. We believe in the law. I am a lawyer, so whatever legal remedy is available to me, I will do my best to use it.

Looking at all this, it can be said that the government is targeting minorities. This has been happening for a while. At Jamia, the exams have gotten postponed, and the whole campus has been emptied. Similarly, at the Aligarh Muslim University, the entire hostel has been emptied. There, too, the exams have been postponed. It appears that any university with a Muslim tag is being targeted on purpose. A specific community is being targeted, a specific people.

My parents, who live in Samastipur, Bihar, are planning to come here. It is not easy to get tickets but they will come. Until now, neither the administration nor the government has offered help with my medical expenses. Whatever money I got was raised by my friends and relatives. No one from the administration has even come to meet me.

One of my eyes is gone. The doctor is of the opinion that it will not get visibility again, and that in cases like this, there is a fear of an infection spreading. I am afraid of losing my second eye too. There is fear for sure, and difficulty. But I will do my best to be brave. The administration may or may not help, the government may or may not help, but on my part, I will not lose hope. I will continue with my studies. Whenever the cancelled semester exams are scheduled again, I will definitely sit for them. I will also give the PhD entrance exams. I will not lag behind in my work. I will keep doing it, and building my future.

As told to Shahid Tantray and Ahan Penkar.