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Minister rally: ‘Goli maaro’. Youth does

Jamia Millia Islamia student shot and injured

By Pheroze L. Vincent in New Delhi
  • Published 31.01.20, 2:02 AM
  • Updated 31.01.20, 2:02 AM
  • 5 mins read
Shadab Farooq being taken to a hospital (PTI photo)

A self-proclaimed Ram devotee shot and injured a student during a Jamia Millia Islamia march on a Delhi street on Thursday afternoon, shouting “aao tumhe azadi deta hoon”, two days after a Union minister urged a rally to chant “shoot the traitors”.

Shadab Farooq, MA mass communication student from Jammu and Kashmir, took a pellet in his left forearm while marching with his peers towards the tomb of Mahatma Gandhi, assassinated this day in 1948 by Nathuram Godse, an advocate of Hindu nationalism.

Thursday’s shooter identified himself as “Rambhakt Gopal”. Police initially put his age at 19 but later suggested he could be a juvenile.

He brandished what appeared a country-made pistol and threatened the marchers for more than half a minute before firing, as police watched from the length of a cricket pitch away but did not stir.

Nor did the cops later remove the barricades to allow passage to the injured Farooq, who had to climb over the barriers before being taken to hospital. His classmate Naila Khan, who accompanied him to hospital, said the pellet had been surgically removed at the AIIMS trauma centre in the evening.

Some 300 Jamia students had left the campus to march to Rajghat, over 12km away, to protest against the new citizenship regime and mark the Mahatma’s 72nd death anniversary.

Around 1.40pm, by when they had inched about 100 metres from the campus boundary wall, a man in a black down jacket jumped in front of them and yelled tauntingly: “Aao tumhe azadi deta hoon (Come, let me give you freedom)!”

With the police watching, he whipped out the pistol, waved it and walked backwards facing the marchers, shouting: “Delhi police zindabad! Jamia murdabad!”

He then fired at Farooq, who was asking the gunman to calm down and lower his weapon. Shooter and target were just about a ping-pong table apart, and the pellet hit the arm Farooq had raised to shield himself.

On Tuesday, BJP minister Anurag Thakur had led a party campaign rally in chanting “Desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maaro saalon ko”, a slogan that, shorn of the expletive, translates as “Shoot the traitors”.

Shortly before Thursday’s shooting, the Election Commission had banned Thakur from campaigning for 72 hours.

After he had fired, the shooter turned towards an inspector who was walking towards him and lowered his weapon. The officer snatched the pistol, put his arm around the attacker’s neck and dragged him into a police jeep.

Before being taken away, the shooter told reporters his name was “Rambhakt Gopal”.

The shooter is from a “poor family” in Dauji Mohammal village in the Jewar area of Gautam Buddh Nagar district in western Uttar Pradesh, some residents said. One of them claimed that “Rambhakt Gopal”, which is not his full name, had joined the Bajrang Dal a few months ago.

Shadab Farooq tries to cross police barricades to head for a nearby hospital on Thursday
Shadab Farooq tries to cross police barricades to head for a nearby hospital on Thursday (PTI photo)

Aamir Jahid, a Jamia alumnus who had been just behind Farooq during the shooting, told this newspaper: “While this man was shouting slogans and waving his gun, we all shouted to the police (to act) but they did not budge. They let this happen.”

A Delhi police statement said the shooter had “within a split second, before anyone could assess or react to what he was doing… suddenly fired towards the marching students” and that the police had “immediately rushed towards the person and overpowered him”.

It added: “As the barricades were tied with each other to deal with the proposed march, the injured was immediately taken to the nearest hospital i.e. Holy Family by lifting him from behind the barricades in order to save precious time.”

The Delhi police had on December 15 entered the Jamia campus and assaulted students even inside the library but were accused of inaction when a mob, led allegedly by the ABVP, attacked students and teachers at JNU on January 5.

An FIR for attempt to murder has been filed for Thursday’s incident and the crime branch is probing the case.

At night, the Jamia alumni association filed a complaint with the New Friends Colony police station accusing BJP lawmakers Thakur and Parvesh Verma and party candidate Kapil Mishra, as well as the shooter, for incitement and attempt to murder.

Soon after the shooting, a student, Akhtarista Ansari, had climbed the barricade and told reporters: “Anurag Thakur and Kapil Mishra (barred from campaigning for incendiary tweets against the Shaheen Bagh protest) are provoking people and that’s why a student was shot here today.”

After the shooting, the marchers — who included many local people — continued for another 50 metres or so before coming up against a police barricade near The Aardee School on Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar Marg.

There the students —many of them dressed as Gandhi, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad — stood facing the police, refusing to budge.

They stayed on despite appeals from the maulana of a campus mosque, whom the police had brought to the spot around 3pm, and university officials. The crowd swelled to more than 1,000 before dispersing eventually around 8.30pm.

Naila said: “The police did not open the barricade for him (Farooq), and he had to climb the barricade to get to Holy Family Hospital. There too, the police were not letting us (four of Farooq’s friends) inside.”

She added: “He was referred to the AIIMS trauma centre, where there were many policemen. The doctors were taking a lot of time as they were interacting with the police. The surgery finally happened around 5pm and went on for half an hour.”

Farooq was to be kept under observation at the AIIMS for the night.

University public relations officer Ahmad Azeem described Farooq as a “good singer, a great voiceover artiste and a budding photographer” who had also been a member of the drama club. He is from Doda district.

Jamia vice-chancellor Najma Akhtar chided the police and lauded her students.

“I, along with Jamia fraternity, condemn this murderous and brutal act. I also condemn the silence of the police who stood just at a stone’s throw from the miscreant. It speaks volumes about them,” she said in a statement.

“I am proud of you, my dear students, for you acted very sensibly and resisted the natural urge of reaction and retaliation. Your wise act on the day of the martyrdom of Gandhiji is a great and reverent homage to him and to his stupendous moral courage.”

Jamia will be paying for Farooq’s medical expenses like it is doing for those injured in the December 15 police rampage, among them a student who has lost sight in one eye and others who have suffered fractures and head injuries.

Historian Mukul Kesavan, who teaches at Jamia, rushed to the protest site after hearing about a student being shot at.

“The state sanctioned violence by lumpens and uniformed men on universities. The response is an unprecedented sit-in (in Shaheen Bagh)…. Liberals would have come up with 100 reasons not to sit on the road…. I need to engage with the political moment,” he told The Telegraph.

“It is bizarre that they allowed him to get a shot off while armed police watched. How could they not intervene? This speaks of the degree to which the police are no longer agents of a republican state, but are in the service of a Hindu Rashtra.”

Jamia physics student Tauseef Tasleem, who had dressed up as Netaji, said: “Police brutality is common now and we are no longer scared of lathis or bullets. Our struggle is for something greater than our own lives, which is the idea of India.”