At times when we felt anxious, when our hearts ached and pounded irregularly, we would go for a stroll inside the campus. Mostly, during the nights, we went, and sat on a green bench to contemplate the things around. The beautiful shadows, old buildings, the lush green lawns and libraries filled with students working hard with some objective in their minds; some dreamt of writing a book, others of building a home. It calmed us down like no other thing ever could. Jamia not only provides education, it is a refuge, and a home for ailing hearts to find peace. It does not ask about your identity but embraces you without discrimination.
On 15th December, when we were in our apartment, our friend Rabia was studying inside the reading room. She was stuck along with some other students, while those goons were unleashing unimaginable terror on whatever they came across. The police broke through, despite the failed attempts by students to block them by using desks as barricades they placed in front of the entry.
They barged in, destroyed the surveillance cameras, and targeted the boys. While they were busy breaking bones, some girls out there pleaded and tried their best to rescue them from their clenches. Some of the students were brutally injured and needed immediate intervention. The library was engulfed in wails, and those who were not wailing lay traumatised, and kept looking at the floor. On noticing a particular student gasping hard for breath, and almost on the verge of closing his eyes, and foam spilling out from his mouth, she leapt into action. She tried to keep him awake, slapped him, blocked his nose, and tried everything that she could. For him to survive, he needed to be taken to a hospital. She dragged him all along, with the help of some other students, through the corridor, pleading the policemen to let them through. At some points, she begged for her way, while at others she asked them to fuck off. Once at the road, not a single car stopped to help the injured person. They boarded a car only to be kicked out after not even travelling a mile. They finally managed to take him to a hospital where he was immediately declared to be very critical. Rabia retuned to the flat after a few hours. She had hurt her ankle, and had no energy left in her even to walk. She was accompanied by some boy, named Umar (name changed), still in his teenage, shivering and frightened out of wits. He was not a student of Jamia but accessed the library to prepare for his NEET examination. He could not close his eyes even for a second. His body was bruised, and he kept waking up with sudden jolts on even the slightest sound like the vibration on receiving a text. He gasped for breath, and complained that he felt like he was still inside the library, while those goons kept banging at the door. He left for home the next day. His text to us on Whatsapp read: “that reading room will always be a nightmare to me.”
A state in which libraries are destroyed is bound for calamity. Nothing is more poignant than a state in which the dreams of students are torn to pieces, and are consigned to oblivion. It is very unfortunate that a state which realised its dream of independence through the means of protesting, is itself silencing the peaceful protests and resorting to violence. Nothing is more degrading then that fact that students were ordered to walk in a line with their hands up like criminals. On frisking, those goons would have found books, not bombs. We protest against the rampage to which our university, our home has been subjected. They might break our bones, they might even charge us with sedition, but let us ensure that they do not dare to touch our libraries again. We shall resist.
Sameem Wani and Adil Manzoor
Department of English, Jamia Millia Islamia