Students and Teachers Protest Against ABVP’s Vandalism In DU And Their Continued Assaults On Academic Freedom

Ramjas College of Delhi University’s North Campus had called for seminars on ‘Cultures of Protest’ on 21st and 22nd February 2017. On 21st February, JNU activist Umar Khalid was invited to speak on ‘The War in Adivasi Areas’ in the session on ‘Unveiling the State:

Regions in Conflict.’ Before the event began, an ABVP mob gathered outside the college and threatened to unleash violence if the “anti-national” Umar Khalid was to speak. The Delhi Police flatly refused to disperse the mob, and instead told the organizers that they would be responsible for consequences if the talk were to proceed. The College Principal then cancelled permission for Umar Khalid’s talk – and the organizers continued the session with the remaining two speakers on the panel. But the ABVP surrounded the seminal hall, locked participants in, and hurled stones into the room, smashing a window, hitting people outside with hockey sticks and rods. The Police did not detain or arrest a single ABVP cadre for this open vandalism and violence.

Protest March on 22 February from Ramjas to Maurice Nagar: On 22nd February, AISA and other student groups had called for a peaceful march from Ramjas College to Maurice Nagar Police station demanding action against those who not just disrupted the entire event but also pelted stones in campus giving threats of violence to students. The ABVP goons first barricaded Ramjas students and faculty inside the college, so as to prevent them from joining the march. The entire event saw a complete inability and inaction from the police who did not do much to control the situation. The impunity ABVP enjoys in Delhi University and the silence covert support they enjoy from Delhi Police was extremely evident as the students and teachers who participated were physically assaulted by the ABVP. They attacked the march with bricks, stones, bottles and sticks, singling out women and queer activists for abuse and violence. Professor Prasanta Chakraborty of Ramjas College was attacked just outside the college – ABVP cadre grabbed him from behind, tried to strangle him with his own muffler, knocked him down, kicking and punching him. He had to be hospitalized. Several students were also injured and had to be hospitalized. The Police that watched this rampage, refused to file an FIR. In fact, ABVP mounted atop a Delhi Police vehicle and raised triumphant slogans from there! Protesting students gathered to sit outside the police station, demanding that the complaint that they had submitted be turned into an FIR. Instead, Delhi Police lathi charged the peaceful gathering, taking several away in two buses to drop them far away at Hauz Khas two hours later – even as ABVP goons continued to roam the streets, singling out and attacking students at bus stops, metro stations, and in hostels. Kawalpreet Kaur, the President of the AISA Delhi University addressed the protest and said, ” I am totally aghast by the state of affairs our academic institutions have got into. It is still difficult to believe that stones were being pelted in a DU college just for organizing a literary discussion. Such attacks are an attack on freedom of expression and free speech that our academic institutions embody. It is also really shameful that the Delhi Police too is serving as an uninformed arm of the ABVP.”

Protest at ITO on 23 February: On the morning of 23rd February hundreds of students and faculty members from Delhi university and other universities gathered at ITO to protest against the police inaction against vandalising and assaulting ABVP cadre and also for themselves assaulting students carrying out a silent protest against ABVP’s vandalism. The protestors demanded action against cops who had attacked students, journalists and teachers and also against senior police officials who appeared unwilling to curb ABVP’s reign of terror in DU. As the pressure from the protestors built, Delhi Police shared that they were suspending three of their constables. However, the students and teachers insisted that the Delhi Police could not be allowed to get away by making three lower ranked personnel as the scapegoats for police inaction that was decided by higher rank officials. They resolved to continue their struggle against the ABVP-Delhi Police nexus and for safeguarding their academic freedom and culture of debate, dialogue and dissent.

JNUSU’s solidarity public meeting with DU: on 27 February a public meeting was held in JNU in solidarity of the ongoing movement in DU. Organised by JNUSU, the meeting was addressed Prof. Nandini Sundar, Apurva Chaudhary (journalist), Kawalpreet (AISA, DU unit president) and others. The JNUSU and JNUTA also gave a call to join the Save DU march on 28 February.

Even as faculty and students across the country have expressed solidarity with students and faculty of Ramjas and University of Delhi in their struggle against ABVP attacks, five days after its brutal attacks on students and teachers at Ramjas College, ABVP again displayed its intention to not allow any dialogue and debate in the campus in its Tiranga Yatra held on 27 February. The same faces who were caught on video attacking students and teachers were present labelling everyone with a different opinion as ‘anti-national’ and deserving attacks. But students of DU have unequivocally rejected these goons as their media-hyped Yatra’ did not attract even 100 students.

On 28 February, thousands of students and teachers of Delhi University, joined by students and teachers of other Universities in Delhi, held a March against ABVP Gundagardi. They marched to reclaim the North Campus of Delhi University from the terror and violence unleashed by ABVP against teachers and students. The most popular slogan in the march was ‘Lathi goli khoon nahin, vaad vivaad ki azaadi’ (We don’t want sticks, bullets, blood – but the freedom to debate.’ Students sang songs, and raised slogans ‘University campuses belong to us, they’re not fiefdoms of thugs,’ and ‘ABVP Why So Creepy, Delhi Police Why So Sleepy?’ The March began from Khalsa College and culminated at the Vivekananda Statue in Arts Faculty, where students from DU, as well as the JNUSU President Mohit and former JNUSU President Kanhaiya and the DUTA, JNUTA Presidents and Jamia Teachers’ Association leaders addressed the gathering. Sitaram Yechury of CPIM, D Raja of CPI, Kavita Krishnan of CPI(ML), KC Tyagi of JD(U) also addressed the gathering.