Update, 22/2/17 at 4.06 PM: “Ramjas students who were going to participate (in today’s protests) have been locked inside college for two and a half hours now. People and teachers have been thrashed to the extent of hospitalisation. Police is doing absolutely nothing. People from outside Ramjas were protesting separately since we couldn’t join them. There was no police protection for them. They were beaten with rods. We heard about them bringing people with blades and razors. Right now, we have a handful police officers protecting us and some ABVP supporters have come back to physically assault us.”
Delhi University’s Ramjas College was forced to cancel a seminar on ‘Cultures of Protest’ on February 21 after Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad’s (ABVP) activists protested against the participation of JNU student Umar Khalid. Khalid, who was charged with sedition last year for organising an event to commemorate Afzal Guru’s execution, was to participate in a discussion on ‘Regions in Conflict’.
Khalid was invited by the college’s Literary Society to speak in the afternoon on a subject related to his PhD, which he is doing from JNU. His topic at the seminar was The War in Adivasi Areas. JNU professor Bimol Akoijam and documentary filmmaker Sanjay Kak were his co-panelists.
Although college principal Rajendra Prasad had granted permission for the event, members of ABVP disrupted the event even before Khalid reached campus, according to reports. Protesters allegedly threw stones and destroyed property despite police presence. The principal also tried to resolve the issue with the protesters through dialogue but could not succeed. He was forced to cancel the event after police advised him that the situation could get out of control. Khalid too alleged in a Facebook post that Delhi Police told the organisers that it won’t protect them or Khalid.
Professor Vinita Chandra of the College told The Indian Express that they were initially assured that the protest would be peaceful but it turned violent later. “But the protesters called police, who advised the principal to stop the event since there was no security. Teachers and students were pained by this decision. So we took out a peaceful march in the college. That is when the situation turned violent. Protesters started to hurl stones and manhandled teachers and the principal; police had to form a ring to protect us,” Chandra said.
“I have taught in the college for 30 years but have never seen so many police personnel in college or the situation deteriorate so much despite the presence of teachers,” she added. Police have since the violence claimed that their presence curtailed the violence and kept the “situation under control” when asked about the damage to property.
This is not the first instance of ABVP activists have held such a protest. In 2015 the organisation had disrupted the screening of the documentary Muzaffarngar Baaqi Hai at Kirori Mal College for being “anti-Hindu” and threatened violence against professors.
DUSU president Amit Tanwar, however, justified the recent protest, citing the alleged anti-national slogans raised in JNU on February 9 last year. “These people shouted anti-national slogans on the JNU campus. They called for destruction of India. How can we let them speak in DU?” he said.