DELHI—A day before the government banned the Popular Front of India (PFI) for its alleged links with global terrorist groups, students and teachers from Jamia Millia Islamia University were told that they cannot assemble in and around the campus as section 144 has been imposed in the surrounding area of Okhla in Delhi.
The section 144 has also been imposed inside the campus.
On Monday, Jamia Millia Islamia university sent a notice to its students and teachers stating that Station House officer (SHO) of Jamia Nagar has imposed section 144. The order states that whosoever violates it, would be punished under section 188 Cr. P.C. The authorities have deployed parliamentary forces around the University and in Jamia locality.
Ahmad Azeem, Public Relation Officer of the university, confirmed to BOOM that the order had been issued by the proctor office on Monday late evening and he had no information about it.
"I was unaware of any such order till the media started calling me. In fact it was the press that shared the order with me. And then I confirmed with the proctors' office," Ahmad told BOOM.
The PRO of the university said that he doesn't know the reason why the section 144 order has been issued.
When Is Section 144 Imposed?
Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) of 1973 prohibits the assembly of four or more people in an area.
Section 144 has been used in the past to impose restrictions as a means to prevent protests that can lead to unrest or riots.
The order is passed if the magistrate believes it is likely to prevent obstruction, annoyance or injury to any lawfully employed person, or a danger to human life, health or safety, or a disturbance of the public tranquility, or a riot, etc.
Also Read: PFI Ban: What Is An "Unlawful" Organisation
While Section 144 cannot remain in force for more than two months but the state government can extent the validity up to six months. It can be withdrawn at any point of time if situation becomes normal.
Why Has Section 144 Been Imposed In Jamia Millia Islamia?
BOOM spoke to Atique Rehman, proctor Jamia Millia to know the reason for the order. However, Rehman refused to comment on the reason and said that they had been asked by the SHO of Jamia Nagar to issue the order and they followed the same.
"Every information is in the order copy and this is what we were asked to do," he said.
BOOM contacted the SHO of Jamia Nagar, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) South East Delhi, Esha Panday and Additional DCP for their comments about the order. They did not respond to several calls made by BOOM. The story will be updated when they respond.
The Delhi police order said that they have received information that "some people and groups" may indulge in activities prejudicial to the maintenance of peace in the jurisdiction of South East district.
"Information has also been received that such activities may seriously endanger life and prosperity of the citizens and maintenance of law and order," the police order read.
Students and teachers who have been left confused about the order in the campus tried to decipher the reason for it as the officials have not yet cited any particular reason for it. BOOM spoke to some of the teachers and students from Jamia Millia Islamia university.
'It Was To Prevent Jamia Teachers From Protesting'
Although there is no clear information from the University authorities about the order, some teachers told BOOM that it was issued in the wake of a protest scheduled for Monday by the teachers of Jamia against their issues.
"We had decided to hold a peaceful protest today against the issues like pending medical bills of the teachers for a long time, opening of hostels for the students, defunct building lifts, and promotion of many teachers is also pending. But, we were told that they have imposed section 144 in the campus and no protest can be held," said Dr Irfan Qureshi, a teacher at Jamia.
He lashed out at the university administration by calling the notice "illegitimate". Qureshi said that Jamia officials have no right to impose section 144 within the campus as per the university norm.
"We had proposed a march from teachers office to Vice Chancellor (VC) office but with this order, we have kept our protest in abeyance because there is a huge deployment of police around the campus," he told BOOM.
An Undergarment Ad Led To The Order?
Around 1 AM, 22-year-old Nayeem Ahmad, a student of Jamia, received the notice on his WhatsApp on the imposition of Section 144. "I got anxious because till late evening I was inside campus and everything was normal. The sudden order was beyond my comprehension. I checked with my friends and they too were puzzled," he said.
The order signed by the Chief Proctor of Jamia Millia Islamia University informing the students about the imposition of section 144 was doing rounds on social media since Monday.
Ahmad said that the students have no idea why the authorities have imposed section 144 in the area and inside the campus as well but he believes that it could be related to an incident that happened a few days ago outside the campus.
"There was an advertisement of ladies undergarments pasted on the DTC bus stop of Jamia and on it someone had pasted a photograph of the proctor. After that there were some protests from some students," he said. The Jamia student said that following the CAA protests, there has been a lot of internal rivalry inside the campus. "To avoid any further reaction to the insult, this order has been imposed," he speculated.
Another student wishing anonymity questioned the order. He asked how the police can impose such order inside the campus where students have to attend classes and participate in other group activities.
"Would they arrest students who meet in a group after classes to discuss work or chat about normal issues? How has the VC allowed this action and how would they control the movement of students? This is simply because they want to curb students' rights even inside an educational institute," he told BOOM.
The sudden order from the university has made students anxious. In 2019 December, as students from the university protested against the Citizenship Amendment Act, the Delhi police fired teargas shells and had lathicharged them.
BOOM spoke to six students from Jamia who all believe that the order is "disturbing."
Some of them have tried to find the reasons for the order from the faculty members but they have not been given any answers.
"I called the proctor in the morning to know whether the order is true or not and he confirmed it and ended the call without explaining the reason behind it," a student said.
Section 144 In Jamia Because Of PFI?
Former chairman Delhi Minorities Commission Zafarul-Islam Khan told BOOM that while the police does not mention why they have imposed section 144 in the Jamia Millia campus, he believes that it could be to do with the raids across India and the arrests of members of the Popular Front of India (PFI).
"My hunch is that it has to do something with the large-scale arrests of PFI members and sympathisers from the area. Police might be apprehending demonstrations by the Jamia students," said Khan.
After detaining over 270 members of PFI, India on Wednesday declared the Islamic group and its affiliates unlawful for five years.
The organisation faced raids by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) across India over the past two weeks leading to the arrests.
The Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement the PFI and its affiliates had "been found to be involved in serious offences, including terrorism and its financing, targeted gruesome killings, disregarding the constitutional set up". Investigating agencies have claimed that bomb-making manuals were among "incriminating materials" seized.
On Tuesday morning, the National Investigation Agency in collaboration with the police of each state conducted raids in Assam, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana.
In Delhi -NCR region, at least 30 people have been arrested in these raids. Among the detained is a student of the university, a resident of Shaheen Bagh whose family claims that he has no connection with the PFI.
In August, another Jamia Millia Islamia student had been detained for allegedly having connections to the Islamic State. According to the agency, the defendant Mohsin Ahmad, 22-year-old was using cryptocurrencies to transmit money he had gathered to Syria and other countries.
The Former chairman Delhi Minorities Commission said that whatever the reason to impose the section 144, it is "undemocratic and draconian to limit people's movement and liberties on such a scale".
"Imposition of Section 144 for close to two months for no reason betrays the regime's insecurity and inability to solve problems democratically," he added.
The police have, however, denied that the order is related to the ongoing action against the PFI, reported PTI.
As per the order, any form of march like 'mashal' or torch, live flames, live fire candles or rallies have been prohibited by the police in the entire jurisdiction of the sub-division of New Friends Colony. It came into force on September 19 and will remain in effect for a period of 60 days up to November 17, unless withdrawn earlier.
The ACP, in the order, said that it was being issued as the police had received information that some people or groups may indulge in activities prejudicial to the maintenance of peace in south east Delhi. "Information has also been received that such activities may seriously endanger life and property of the citizens and the maintenance of law and order in the jurisdiction of south east district," ACP Singh had said in the order.
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