By Abhishek Jha for Youth Ki Awaaz:
Some 20-30 students turned up at Gujarat Bhawan in New Delhi on July 15 to protest against the attack on seven members of a Dalit family in Una town of Gir Somnath district in Gujarat. Even these students were not allowed to protest and were asked to return after submitting a memorandum to the police present at the Bhawan. The students asked that at least representatives be allowed to go inside for submitting the memorandum but they were not allowed to do so.
On July 11, members of a gau-raksha group had beaten up seven members of a family, who were skinning the carcass of a cow. A video of the incident, which was also circulated on social media, showed them being attacked with iron rods and sticks while some of them were tied to a car.
The protest, called by the JNU Students’ Union, also had a few students from Delhi University. They raised slogans of “Jai Bhim”, against the politics of beef, and in support of Mohammad Akhlaq’s family, against whom an FIR of cow slaughter has recently been registered by the U.P. Police.
Speaking to the media, Shehla Rashid, Vice President of the JNU Students’ Union, said that they are protesting “against mob-justice”, which she said is being done in the name of cow-protection all across India in anticipation of the U.P. Assembly elections. She also said that they are demanding that the culprits be punished and the Gujarat government condemn the incident.
Umar Khalid of the newly formed Bhagat Singh Ambedkar Students’ Organisation (BASO) said that “it is a shameful thing that we are not allowed to protest.” He said that the state should not promote such attacks. He also spoke about rumours of an exodus in Kairana in Shamli district of Uttar Pradesh in June that were later rubbished by news reports. Khalid was also asked questions on one of his recent Facebook posts on Burhan Wani and on Zakir Naik by a Zee News journalist but he declined to comment. Earlier, when he had just arrived at the protest site, some media-persons were seen exhorting a police person to detain him.
The memorandum submitted by the students, signed by two JNSU councillors and the JNUSU Vice-President, asks the culprits of the incident to be prosecuted in a “fast-trial” and the survivors to be rehabilitated. It also asks all “terrorist groups working in the name of cow-protection” to be banned to prevent further such incidents. As the demand for raising slogans or even making speeches were refused by the police, only this memorandum could be submitted. The protest lasted only a few minutes, before the students and police argued over the permission to protest, and finally settled for the submission of the memorandum.
Responding to a question on a news report on invitations not having been sent out by the JNUSU to Rohith Vemula’s family or the Ambedkar Students’ Association of University of Hyderabad for a national convention of students to form a committee for drafting the Rohith Act, the JNUSU VP told YKA that invitations had not been sent out to any student organisations. She also said that the convention has been postponed to allow participation by various student groups and that is the reason why students were at the protest.
The Convention was to be held on July 15 and 16. However, on July 14 JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar posted on the event page that the event will have to be rescheduled to work out “some logistical issues and for some further deliberation”. He said in the post that the decision for postponement had been taken after “consultation with fellow activist and other organisations”. BASO had criticised the “lack of communication and consultation with other student organisations particularly students leadership in HCU” on July 13.