Blood on DU's streets: when ABVP cadres went on a rampage at Ramjas College
Cadres belonging Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) went on a rampage in Delhi University's North Campus for the second consecutive day on Wednesday.
Stones were pelted, students thrashed, and even journalists were assaulted.
All this came just a day after the RSS-affiliated students' outfit disrupted a seminar at DU's Ramjas College, forcing the authorities to cancel it altogether.
How the clash began
Protesting against the “assault on academic spaces”, activists belonging to the Left-aligned All India Students' Association (AISA) and Students' Federation of India (SFI) took out a march on Wednesday at Ramjas College.
“Our protest was in solidarity with those who were assaulted in Ramjas College yesterday,” Shehla Rashid, former vice-president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union, said.
However, the ABVP organised a counter protest against what it called the “entry of anti-nationals”, and this led to a showdown between the two sets of protestors outside the Ramjas College gate. This began around 2 pm.
The Delhi Police personnel deployed at the scene tried to keep the two sets of protestors apart, but with limited success. ABVP cadres repeatedly broke the police cordon and assaulted the protestors, especially women. Prasanta Chakravarty, from the university's Department of English, had also been beaten up earlier.
“They pulled my hair and slapped me,” said a female protestor, weeping. She was too scared to say anything more and did not want to be named. A friend, who was accompanying her, said that the police did nothing to prevent the ABVP cadres from attacking her.
Their supporters even threw stones and bricks, injuring a number of protestors. A few protestors suffered head injuries and had to be given medical help. A student named Burhan was hit on the head by a brick. Bleeding profusely, he had to be taken to hospital.
Several journalists – Taruni Kumar of The Quint, Avinash Saurabh of News Click, Souradeep Roy of India Writers' Forum, a female journalist from a leading national daily as well as this reporter – were also assaulted by the ABVP's supporters.
What were the cops doing?
While the police didn't succeed in containing the protestors, some individual police personnel, such as one sub inspector Rohit, did actively try to get the ABVP cadres to disperse. Rohit could be seen trying to drive them away with a lathi. However, a number of other police personnel could also be seen cracking jokes with ABVP cadres.
At around 2:40, the police began guiding the Left protestors towards the Maurice Nagar Police Station, but they were attacked again on the way. But around 10 minutes later, ABVP cadres came from another direction, through the Arts Faculty gate, and began assaulting the protestors as well as journalists.
Five of the ABVP supporters, which included a girl, assaulted Shehla Rashid outside Daulat Ram College, pulled her hair and tried to snatch her phone. This reporter, who tried to intervene, was also assaulted by the ABVP cadres.
Throughout the way from Ramjas College to the Maurice Nagar Police station, the ABVP side pelted stones at regular intervals.
At Maurice Nagar P.S.
The two sets of protestors reached Maurice Nagar Police Station around 3:15 and camped there. The shops near the neighbouring Christian Colony area were shut down immediately. Hawkers were driven away either by the police or by ABVP supporters.
The standoff outside the police station lasted for nearly three hours, and the ABVP and Left protestors shouted slogans against each other. The Left-aligned protestors' slogans of “Inquilab Zindabad” clashed with the ABVP's “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”.
Accusing the other side of being traitors and exorting them to be killed, ABVP cadres shouted “desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maaro saalon ko”. They also threw eggs at the protestors, one of which even hit a policeman.
Cops assault protestors
At around 6 pm, the police addressed the protestors, promising them that action would be taken as per law. But they refused to provide a copy of the FIR. The protestors agreed that they would peacefully end the protest and leave if they are provided with a copy of the FIR.
The students continued their peaceful protest amidst the pelting of stones and occasional assaults by the ABVP. The police then gathered many of the protestors in the middle of the road and began thrashing them. Several people, including Catch reporter Vishakh Unnikrishnan, were injured.
According to an SFI student, at least 20 protestors were injured to the point that they were bleeding. Students were manhandled and taken away from the protest site and detained.
Interestingly, the ABVP cadres who were at the protest site were asked to leave minutes before police started thrashing the protesting students. Some ABVP cadres remained and were seeing talking to the police personnel.
The police told the media, some of whom were also beaten up during the scuffle, that action will be taken against whoever started the violence. However, they did not respond when asked why an FIR had not been lodged.
“The police were just not bothered with the pelting of stones and physical assault by the ABVP. Instead they beat up those who were protesting peacefully,” said Kawal Preet, the DU head of AISA.
“The stones that were pelted could have easily killed someone. Some had head injuries and the police still found it hard to lodge an FIR,” said Rashid.
However, the ABVP remained unrepentant. Some of its workers said they would take such action again.
Some of the police personnel seemed to share the sentiment. “Those who raise slogans against the country should be treated this way,” one police officer told Catch on the condition of anonymity.
(With inputs from Vishakh Unnikrishnan)