By Mirza Wardah Beg:
Students of Delhi University and All India Students Association (AISA) organised an event titled ‘The Idea of University’ on October 27, at the Faculty of Arts in North Campus. The purpose of the event was to discuss what a university should be and how to regain freedom of expression inside campuses; it questioned why voices of dissenters are constantly stifled. Ironically, an event which was to examine why hooliganism and violence are becoming a part of everyday university life, saw a brawl between the organisers and participants of the event and members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).
Halfway through the programme, speaker Kavita Krishnan, Secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, was reportedly disrupted by members of ABVP, led by Amit Tanwar, the Delhi University Students Union president. ABVP members allegedly physically attacked the people present at the event and demanded the event to be called off. Kawalpreet Kaur, president of AISA’s DU unit, wrote in her Facebook post, “As our event was going on, ABVP started holding a parallel event and started throwing ‘LUX SOAPS’ on us. One of that soap was thrown at me when our event was going on. The ‘soap’ meant that I need to clean myself, my mind and my body and passed sexist comments on me. As if a ‘BHARAT MATA’ should be well groomed and tidy. After that, the event was disrupted and AMIT TANWAR, the ABVP led DUSU President came towards us and punched me on my face which made me lose control and as a result I fell down.” (sic)
According to pictures that are doing rounds on social media, ABVP had displayed posters on the site of the event that branded AISA as ‘anti-national’ and ‘rapist’ among other things. Moreover, Madhurima Kundu, one of the organisers, said, “After sometime the programme had started, some ABVP goons tore away our posters and banners. Among them was the banner of Rohith Vemula (his portrait and a quote by him). They tore it down and stamped and kicked it and threw it away.” (sic) What further enraged the students was that all this happened in front of 50- 60 Delhi Police personnel, who allegedly didn’t do much to control the situation.
On the other hand, members of ABVP accused AISA activists of initiating the brawl in an attempt to gain publicity. They’ve claimed that they were holding a peaceful protest against ‘communist elements’ when AISA members attacked them. A post being shared by various ABVP supporters and on a Facebook page called ABVP Hindu College as well, says, “Constantly being rejected by the student community of DU, AISA has been trying to rake up caste and religion to harness votes. ABVP strongly condemns these tactics of the left brigade. The culture of political violence of Kerala, West Bengal and JNU will not be tolerated in DU.” (sic)
“The University is ours, it belongs to us – students. The university also belongs to these people who caused disruption today. We coexist in a university. That’s what the idea of university is all about,” said Kawalpreet Kaur in her final speech towards the end of the event.
The organisers also said that they faced a lot of difficulties in getting permission to hold the event. They were not allowed to use a microphone. Apart from all this, the event was addressed by various eminent personalities and academics like Anup Dhar and Satish Deshpande. Around 300 people attended the event as well.