x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Students question New Delhi police

As the capital scrambles to deal with a spate of deadly bomb blasts, students are rallying behind a Muslim neighbourhood that has been targeted by police.

A local residents walk past the house where the shootout took place in L-18, Batla House, Jamia Nagar, New Delhi.
A local residents walk past the house where the shootout took place in L-18, Batla House, Jamia Nagar, New Delhi.

NEW DELHI // Students are rallying behind a Muslim neighbourhood that has been targeted by police as a hive of terrorist activity, as the capital scrambles to deal with a spate of deadly bomb blasts. This week, volunteers from the Students Federation of India, the country's largest student union, fanned out across Jamia Nagar - the same New Delhi neighbourhood where police claim to have killed a terrorist leader last month.

Students handed out flyers, urging locals to attend protests demanding a judicial inquiry into the shoot-out, which happened during a raid on an apartment in the neighbourhood on Sept 19. Police say they killed a mastermind behind recent New Delhi attacks and arrested several others, but students joined residents in suggesting the raid was a staged attempt to find a convenient scapegoat. Six bomb blasts tore through several markets in the capital in the past four weeks, killing at least 24 people. But in the aftermath, students claim investigators are rounding up the usual suspects: Muslims.

"It is just pure prejudice that is working here," said Rohit, a senior student leader, who only gave his first name. "And that's what we're trying to address. "It is this whole frenzy that is being created by police that leads to more ghettoisation and insecurity among minorities. Every section of the population should come together and show solidarity with these people." Boasting about 3.5 million members, and closely affiliated with leftist political parties, the student union represents a powerful lifeline for a borough that has become a veritable island of isolation in the capital. Last week, residents complained that telephone services were not being maintained and even food delivery companies were avoiding the neighbourhood.

But Jamia Nagar has long been an enclave unto itself, even before bursting to national attention. "Unfortunately, because of the communalisation in our country, there is a lot of ghettoisation happening," Rohit said. "You can see the situation here. It is very backward economically. That is precisely why the division exists in our country between the majority community and minorities." Those factors, he said, are contributing to increased feelings of disenfranchisement among cloistered Muslims.