Delhi’s Ramjas College was witness to ugly scenes on Wednesday as students belonging to the RSS’s students’ wing, the ABVP, went berserk causing large-scale violence against the supporters of the left-leaning All India Students’ Association.
AISA members were protesting over the cancellation of invite to JNU student Umar Khalid to speak at an event.
Almost a dozen students and four journalists were injured in the clashes. Journalists who were victims of the violence unleashed by the ABVP members included Catch News’s Aditya Menon and Vishakh Unnikrishnan, Heena Kausar of Hindustan Times and Taruni Kumar of The Quint.
— The Quint (@TheQuint) February 22, 2017
ABVP members were, however, kind their ‘own’ journalists as they reportedly welcomed the arrivals of Zee News’s crew. Aditya said that there was a sense of excitement as soon as the reporter from Zee News arrived at the spot.
Some ABVP workers were heard saying, “Hamaray waalay aa gaye (Our own journalists have arrived now).”
The genesis of the clash was an invite to JNU students Umar Khalid, facing sedition charges, and Shehla Rashid to address a seminar on Culture of Protests which was withdrawn by the college authorities on Tuesday following opposition by the ABVP.
A section of teachers, students and members of left- affiliated AISA, who were agitated over the college’s decision to “bow down” to “threat to freedom of speech” had decided to march to Maurice Nagar police station demanding action against ABVP members for alleged vandalism.
The ABVP members, however, did not allow the march to proceed and allegedly locked the students and teachers inside Ramjas college while AISA members tried to barge inside the premises to “rescue the captives”.
“The students have been locked inside and those trying to come out were beaten up by ABVP goons. We tried to barge in inside the college to rescue the students but they are attacking us as well. They have come prepared with hockey sticks,” an AISA member said.
College Principal Rajender Prasad said he is in discussion with the teachers who were organisers of the event and requested both the groups to not disrupt the peace and harmony in the college.
Abha Dev, a member of DU Teachers Association, claimed that besides “several students”, three teachers of different DU colleges — Prasanta Chakraborty (English), Suvrita (History) and Mousumi Bose (Philosophy) — were injured in the clashes and taken to Hindu Rao hospital.
While Khalid was among the students charged with sedition in connection with an event at JNU last year where anti-national slogans were allegedly raised, Shehla Rashid, former JNU students union vice president, was instrumental in the movement against the students’ arrest. The two students were scheduled to take part in a session during a two-day seminar on “Culture of Protest” organised by Wordcraft, Ramjas college’s Literary Society.
— Heena Kausar (@heenakausar19) February 22, 2017
Khalid was supposed to speak on ‘The War in Adivasi areas’ which happens to be his PhD subject as well, while Shehla’s session was scheduled tomorrow. Members of Delhi University Students Union (DUSU) and RSS’ students wing ABVP gathered outside the college and shouted slogans demanding that the invite to the “anti-nationals” be cancelled. Organisers of the seminar claimed that the ABVP members “pelted stones, locked the seminar room and cut the electricity supply”, a charge denied by the ABVP.
“While the seminar will continue we decided to cancel participation of these two students. It is not that we do not advocate freedom of speech but it had to be done keeping peace and harmony of campus in mind,” Ramjas principal Rajendar Prasad said. Vinita Chandra, professor at the college’s English department and one of the organisers, said, “They locked the seminar room, cut the electricity supply and pelted stones at the window as well. I wonder why police was not involved in handling the situation”.
The principal did not comment on the allegations of lockdown and stone pelting. Police officials claimed that they were present on campus and there was no violence. DUSU President Amit Tanwar claimed that they raised slogans objecting to the two students’ presence on campus but the protest was not violent. “We were against invitation to anti-nationals for addressing a seminar and we shouted slogans demanding that the event be cancelled. However, there was no violence and it was a peaceful protest,” he said.
Umar Khalid alleged in a Facebook post, “I hear a mob of more than 100 ABVP pseudo-nationalists have gathered at the gates of Ramjas College with hockey sticks and stones threatening of large scale violence if an anti-national like me is allowed. “What is ABVP scared of? A discussion on war against adivasis?”
“Police tells the organisers that it will not protect me or them from any attack by ABVP and the organisers will be held responsible for any violence by ABVP. Such is the state of democracy in our country where attackers are given complete protection and those facing attacks are held responsible for the attacks on them,” he alleged.
(With PTI inputs)