Students, teachers march in Delhi University to protest ABVP's hooliganism
A day after members of the RSS-backed students’ group ABVP paraded through Delhi University’s north campus with the Indian flag as part of their Tiranga March against “anti-nationals”, over 500 students and others Tuesday took out a rival protest march, from the SGTB Khalsa College to the Arts Faculty, against the ABVP’s hooliganism.
The march comes in the wake of violence on campus last Wednesday and Thursday, after ABVP members ran riot over an invite to JNU student Umar Khalid, booked for sedition last year, for a literary seminar at Ramjas College.
Students and teachers came from the DU, JNU and Ambedkar University, holding placards and raising slogans for ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘reclaiming nationalism’, as the ‘fightbackDU’ march began around 1pm amid tight police security.
The Delhi Police, criticised for not stopping the ABVP attackers and instead roughing up protesters last week, ensured that the protest rally reached the Arts Faculty around 2.30pm without any disruption or violence.
While the leftists All India Students’ Association (AISA) participated in the march and the Congress-backed NSUI held a hunger strike outside the Arts Faculty gate, there was no particular politically-affiliated student group spearheading the protest – as reiterated by students addressing the crowd at the Arts Faculty.
Some of the anti-ABVP protests held last week had been organised by the AISA, and members of the two groups had clashed.
Another issue raised during the protest was the rape threats that Gurmehar Kaur, DU student and daughter of an army officer killed in the Kargil war, received on social media after she began the online ‘Save DU’ campaign against the ABVP.
Kaur, however, announced Tuesday morning that she was withdrawing from the march as she had “gone through enough”.
Maria, a student of Indraprastha College for Women, slammed the ABVP for “its sexist, casteist standards of nationalism”. Speaking at the Arts Faculty, she called out the group members for sloganeering “Bharat mata ki jai” while shouting “bhaag randi bhaag” at the women protesters last week.
“We (women) will not become mothers of India,” Maria said.
Many of the students who spoke invited the ABVP to “talk” about issues instead of resorting to vandalism and violence, while maintaining they did not want the right-wing group to “go back” as the DU believed in freedom for all manner of ideologies and expression.
Politician and academic Yogendra Yadav, who heads the Swaraj India party, also addressed the students, criticising both the 'left' and the 'right'. “It’s not about left or right, it’s about wrong and right,” Yadav said.
Kanhaiya Kumar, who was arrested on sedition charges last February while he was president of the JNU Students’ Union, as well as Shehla Rashid, who was then the vice-president, also addressed the crowd.
Some of the speakers even compared the recent anti-ABVP protests at the DU with the student protests at JNU, and Yadav jokingly congratulated the students gathered for getting there.