On January 30, 2020, a man brandished a gun and opened fire at students protesting against Citizenship Amendment Act at Jamia University premises. The attacker was reportedly shouting “Yeh lo azaadi” during his venture with a country-made .315 bore pistol.
Delhi Police detained the man and later identified him as 19-year old Ram Bhagat Gopal Sharma, resident of Jewar area of Gautam Buddha Nagar district, Delhi. Sharma calls himself as ‘Rambhakt’ and has put up several Facebook posts stating that he would ‘end the protests’ at Shaheen Bagh by January 31, 2020.
Agitated people crowded the university following this attack, broke barricades, clashed with police personnel to portray their absolute outrage. However, according to his Aadhar Card and board exam mark sheet, he turned out to be a minor born on April 8, 2002. Shadab Farooq, the student who sustained a bullet in his arm during the attack, was admitted in AIIMS Trauma Centre.
The close-up images of the ‘desi katta’ (country-made pistol) reveal that the firearm was not one of those that are licensed for civil trade from the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) facilities near Kolkata, clearly violating the Arms Act. Civilians can be permitted to purchase and possess pistols and revolvers usually only from an ordnance factory near Kolkata.
Possessing any other firearms is regarded to be illegal and can only be acquired through unlawful underground networks.
Sources report, “Thursday’s violence near Jamia has hallmarks of a sophisticated network at play. Networks that produce and supply illegal firearms. Networks that feed into and are in turn fed by a language of discrimination that public institutions condone. The making and supply of illegal firearms, especially in cities, particularly in the national capital, is impossible without such underground networks. New Delhi in 2020 is not the Chambal of the 1980s. Or so we must presume.”
The boy’s grandfather also commented “We do not know what made him take such a step and how he got a gun. There is no licensed or any unauthorized firearm at our house”.
An FIR was lodged against the boy under the Arms Act along with a case of attempt to murder.
The Arms (Amendment) Bill was passed in December 2019 by the two houses of Parliament. The bill proposes strict punishment to those who possess illegal weapons and indulge in rash or ‘negligent celebratory gunfire’, hampering life and safety of others.
Offences such as possession, acquisition, carrying, manufacture, use of illegal arms are to met by a fine and maximum punishment of lifelong imprisonment.
Is Delhi Police Incompetent?
As a series of such mishaps occur regularly, the role of the Delhi Police has become a constant subject of questioning as they continue to showcase their incompetent nature during the incident.
A series of questions were raised against them after their action against students inside Jamia University campus on December 15, 2019, and inaction against the outsiders who attacked the students of JNU on January 5, 2020.
Video footage shows that the police were standing passively at a safe distance when the attacker brandished the pistol and only after he open fired that they overpowered him.
“Cops just watched as man brandished a pistol and shot our student, the incident has shook our faith in police”, says Jamia VC Najma Akhtar.
Eyewitnesses report that the police did not pay any attention to their shouts for help, did not let the ambulance cross the barricades, and the victim had to jump over the barricades to reach it.
Special CP Intelligence Praveer Ranjan, in defence of the police, has stated, “By the time police could react, the person had already fired. Everything happened in seconds.”
Experts claim that the police was supposed to take up the standard line of action of immobilising the attacker using stun guns, as practised in many countries. However, instead, the police stood as “mute spectators” to the incident.
The incompetence and lethargy of the police can also be pointed at the fact that an armed person could walk up a barricaded street among unarmed protestors in the presence and full-view of the force.
The shooter has been called ‘mentally deranged’—that he had been radicalised, brainwashed and he was showing erratic behaviour in the past few days.
His social media posts bring out hatred towards a specific community, as he writes, “I’m about to bring them azaadi”; “You may have heard of tandav, now you will see…”; “Chandan bhai, ye badla aap ke liye” (referring to Kasganj youth Chandan Gupta who was shot dead in a communal riot on Republic Day, 2018 in Uttar Pradesh).
Later, Facebook took his account down.
Political Blame Game
Following the incident, political parties engaged in hurling blames at one another.
“We are giving pens to children, they are giving guns”, said Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal. He advised Amit Shah to take care of law and order in the capital and demanded Shah’s resignation after which Shah tweeted about asking Delhi Police to take “strongest action”. Shah has also been termed as the “most incompetent Home Minister India has ever had” by AAP.
Rahul Gandhi, Congress leader, asked who paid the attacker. Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari also said, “The manner in which an unknown person opened fire at Jamia Millia Islamia University is a result of this hatred, the atmosphere that’s been created in this country in the last one month.”
CPI(M) has stated, “Hate speech, call to violence by ministers and BJP leaders, and silence of PM has led to this shameful outcome”, the party’s general secretary D. Raja believes the incident to be a “direct result” of derogatory comments made by BJP leaders during their assembly poll campaigns.
Bajrang Dal has denied the shooter to be its member, condemning the violence. The blame-game and slogan politics continue.
Jamia Teachers’ Association has laid the blame on Union Minister Anurag Thakur for the shooting. The minister’s “Shoot the traitors” slogan on January 27, allegation that anti-Indian activities were taking place at the epicentre of anti-CAA protests, Shaheen Bagh, has resulted in his banning from the campaign by the Election Commission for 72 hours.
Thakur had raised the slogan, “Desh ke gaddaron ko” eliciting the crowd to respond as “Goli maaro saalo ko”. A day later BJP MP for West Delhi Parvesh Verma said, “These people will enter your house, will abduct your sisters and mothers, rape them, kill them, that’s why today is the moment… Modi ji won’t come to save you tomorrow, Amit Shahji won’t come… Today is the time, if people of Delhi wake up, it will be good for them.”
These provocative speeches have caused mass affront and have been held responsible for the shooting incident.
On February 1, 2020, another incident was reported where a man fired in the air during anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh while he said, “Humaare desh mein aur kisiki nahi chalegi, sirf Hinduon ki chalegi”.
The minor who had fired on January 30, 2020, has been sent on preventive custody for 14 days and he has confessed about buying the pistol for Rs.10,000 a day before the incident.
The following course of action and updates are much awaited as the anti-CAA protests in Shaheen Bagh continue before Delhi elections.