By Akhil Kumar:
Akhil Kumar shares his personal experience of what went down at the anti-Modi protests, yesterday, 6th February 2013 at the Shri Ram College of Commerce, University of Delhi:
My fingers hurt even while I am writing this but the story needs to be told, another tale of the fascist state repression and the devious designs of right wing extremism. The north campus of the Delhi University looked like a fortress with all measures in place to welcome the “hero” ofÂ GujaratÂ I was there to protest Narendra Modi’s visit to Sri Ram College Of Commerce, filled with anger and disgust at his attempt to invade academic spaces for electoral propaganda. I left for the protest totally unprepared as we planned on a peaceful demonstration; laptop bag slung on the shoulders and placard in hand, I did not anticipate the horrors that awaited us.
As we entered the protest site through the Arts Faculty entrance, we saw giant ABVP hoardings and posters welcoming Modi to the university. Their “activists” were all over, many of them perched on tree branches like monkeys and seemed to have found it as the ideal place to welcome their “Hanuman”; the image of theÂ banar senaÂ was hard to ignore (Yes, I should be accused of Blasphemy by any religious Hindu for desecrating Hanuman). Hundreds of students were already present there shouting slogans and waving black flags, it was heartening to see so many students raising their voices in unison against communalism and right wing fanaticism. Chants of “Modi lao desh bachao” “Dekho kaun aya, bharat ma ka sher aya” were promptly countered by “Communal Modi go back” and many others. The anger and disgust against the communal politics of Modi was palpable, all of us spoke out with the accumulated rage of the victims in Gujrat. The clinched fists, raised voices and the fiery expression on the faces showed how passionately the students felt for the victims. It’s a shame for a politician who is being projected as the next Prime Minister to be so afraid of innocent unarmed students that he needed three layer barricading and heavy deployment of police in riot gear. Why can’t he come out and have a dialogue with the protesters and face his critics? Clearly, he has no answers for the horrific crimes he has committed.
The police did not even bother to conceal their support and tolerance for the hooligans of ABVP who even climbed on the water cannon and openly indulged in sexual harassment and violence. They passed lewd comments and made vulgar gestures standing right next to the policemen, I would have clicked pictures had my phone not been rendered useless by the water cannon. I was shocked to see that many teachers from Delhi University also openly threatening the protesters, abusing us with the most horrific expletives while their students brandished pointed sticks saying “khoon kar dunga”!Â We felt helpless and outraged at the police working hand in glove with the goons. When we broke through the first barricade, the police started bashing us ruthlessly with their lathis in full swing and they enjoyed every moment of it. They laughed, mocked us, hurled vulgar abuses and passed derogatory comments while hitting us. It was clear that they had no intention to disperse or control the crowd, they chased us down and dragged some of our protesters to their side of the barricade and left them at the mercy of the ABVP goons. A few girls fell down in the rush and the police trampled them, one of them was unconscious when we rushed to help and had to be taken to the hospital. The ABVP students openly threatened girls with comments like “Jo Gujrat me hua tha wahi tumhare sath bhi karenge”.
The police trained their water cannon at us and I cannot forget the smirk on the face of the person who was operating it just before he started aiming at the defenseless protesters. I was caught in the jet and fell face down as it hit me straight on my legs, struggling to get up from the mud. I lost all faith in non-violent protests that very moment. I was hurt, shocked and infuriated; not that this was my first encounter with water cannons but because of the smile on the policemen’s faces as they enjoyed the brutality. When I again went to the barricade, I was beaten up and hit where it hurts the most; the excruciating pain in the knuckles and ankles stand testimony to that. Some of the policemen passed snide remarks and laughed at us all the while.
The barricades were finally removed when Narendra Modi left and we immediately marched to the Maurice Nagar police station to demand the release of our detained friends and fellow protesters. Exhausted, battered, drenched and feeling defeated I accompanied them bare foot as my shoes were dripping; the ABVP goons followed all the way trying to bully us. We staged a protest in front of the police station and refused to move until the police freed all the protesters and lodged our complaints against them and the ABVP goons. They tried to intimidate us and refused to lodge the complaint, they even tried to grope some female protesters when they went in for medical examination to check for the injuries from the lathi charge. We went in nevertheless and raised slogans against the police, the administration and the right wing fanatics. For over two hours we sat inside the police station premises and sang songs of resistance and raised slogans until the police apologized publicly.
I could not write about this yesterday itself as I was too disturbed and shaken up.Â We were successful in driving across the message that Modi’s crimes will never be forgotten, that he is not welcome here. Let us all occupy every corner of the city and turn them into sites of protest, let us say it loud and clear that the voice of resistance can never be silenced.
Images:Â A very special thanks to Shafaq Khan for the photographs.