JNU redux at DU: Violent clashes over Umar Khalid invite

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New Delhi, Feb 22: Violent clashes broke out between two student groups outside Ramjas College here on Wednesday, leaving many injured as police rounded up dozens of protesters, a day after the ABVP forced the suspension of an event to be addressed by JNU student Umar Khalid, jailed last year for sedition.

New Delhi: AISA activists stage a demonstration against ABVP at Ramjas College in New Delhi, on Feb 22, 2017. (Photo: IANS)
New Delhi: AISA activists stage a demonstration against ABVP at Ramjas College in New Delhi, on Feb 22, 2017. (Photo: IANS)

At least a dozen students and a teacher were wounded after a group demonstrated against the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) — the RSS student wing that dominates the students union in Delhi University.

Some of them tried to march to the nearby Maurice Nagar Police Station but were stopped by a group of ABVP students. Police blocked the road from Patel Chest to the police station with barricades amid slogan shouting by the two warring groups.

The ABVP side chanted “Bharat Mata ki jai” and “Desh ke gaddaron ko, jootey maaro…” The other side countered with “ABVP ki gundagardi nahi chalegi, nahi chalegi”.

Some students were locked inside the college as All India Students Association (AISA) activists alleged ABVP members surrounded them and didn’t allow the march.

“We were attacked, police did nothing. Our students were bleeding. They hurled bricks at us,” tweeted Shehla Rashid, who was also invited for the two-day seminar and was at Ramjas during the clashes.

She alleged that the ABVP activists, with the help of police, “unleashed brutal violence on our peaceful march”.

The ABVP, however, denied resorting to violence or forcing the college to cancel the invite to Khalid and Rashid.

“There was no violence. The ABVP always promotes discussion. But you need to maintain decorum…The college students and teachers didn’t want Khalid,” ABVP leader Abhishek Verma said.

Those wounded in the clashes included English Department teacher Prasanta Chakravarty, who was admitted to Hindu Rao hospital with minor injuries. Also admitted were three students.

A.K. Goyal, medical superintendent at the hospital, said they had suffered some bruises but there was “nothing serious”.

Students threatened to camp outside the police station as police refused to file an FIR against ABVP for alleged violence on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police Esha Pandey told IANS that “adequate deployment” of police was made outside the college to stop the situation getting out of control after clashes “between two student outfits over their ideologies”.

“We have controlled the situation. We will take all necessary action after investigating the matter…and maintain peaceful ambience (in the college) for students,” Pandey said, adding no FIR had been registered till Wednesday evening.

Saikat Ghosh, a Delhi University teacher, said the situation was “completely chaotic inside the college which was locked from inside by the ABVP students”.

“Many students had to escort their teachers inside against the feral and abusive mob. This is totally unpardonable. How can police side with these goons,” Ghosh said.

On Tuesday, a large group of ABVP students disrupted the first session of the two-day seminar at Ramjas College on Indian tribals — a subject on which Khalid is writing his PhD thesis.

The ABVP raised slogans denouncing Khalid as an “anti-national” and forced the organisers to suspend the day’s event on Tuesday.

Khalid was among the students booked for sedition for allegedly raising anti-national slogans at the JNU on February 9 last year.

The violence at the college triggered sharp reaction from the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi told reporters that the “climate of intolerance is expanding day by day after the arrival of the BJP government.

“Ramjas is just an example. It is happening across the country,” Singhvi said.

AAP spokesperson Ashutosh said: The “ABVP is used by (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi to kill every educational (institution)… from JNU to Ramjas… Police is conniving”.

Amnesty International’s India chapter head Aakar Patel said: “Universities are supposed to be safe spaces for debate and discussion. But the events at Ramjas College are a shameful reminder of how intimidation and threats continue to restrict free speech on university campuses.”