Editor’s Note: On February 21, members of Akhil Bhartiya Vidya Parishad were accused of using violent means to stop an event on the “Culture of Protests” to take place in Ramjas College since they thought that the organisers of the event had invited “anti-nationalists” to the event. The next day, students of the college organised a protest to retaliate use of violence among other forms of intimidation by members of ABVP. This too was disrupted by members of the Parishad. Various proofs in the form of first-person accounts, pictures and videos of ABVP members physically and verbally assaulting protesters throughout the day in North Campus have surfaced since then. The police has been accused of doing nothing while this was happening and the FIR lodged against members of the party allegedly had distorted facts.
Students from across the country, and even from outside the country, are standing in solidarity with students of Ramjas. Read the statement of solidarity penned by alumni of the college along with the Ramjas SU’s statement here:
Nostalgia is made of more than just happiness. It is sulphurous too.
To many who spent three or more years of their life in Ramjas College, visuals of violence in and around it on 21 and 22 February 2017 have been a source of deep, personal shock. The footpath and the areas adjoining the college gate were often sites of lingering conversations between friends, offering moments of respite from studies, tensions accruing from impending exams or relief to those who had just accomplished a hectic ECA festival and were there catching up their breath or exhaling smoke.
The ABVP struck twice, once attacking the college Seminar Room and then coming back the second day to attack students. In the hundredth year of Ramjas’ establishment, a college founded at a time when protest was an active ideal for most Indians, this singular episode of planned, institutional violence against students and teachers is a grim reminder of the brute silencing of interrogation, peaceful protest, dialogue and dissent being normalised across our colleges and universities, and in our society at large. The audacity with which these perpetrators and their ideologues brand entire institutions and diverse communities of students and academics as anti-national—and therefore fit recipients for their brute censure—also gives the lie to the intellectual and effective bankruptcy of a rapidly emergent cultural orientation premised on simplistic binaries of good and bad, right and wrong, national and anti-national. In a society—and nation—whose ideals are peace, dialogue, and inclusion, these attacks on students and teachers point to the deep ideological rot in the perpetrators’ conception of nation, nationality and nationalism.
As an alumnus of Ramjas College, I cherish the right to self-determination and open debate. I feel outraged that the students’ and faculties’ right to decide what discussion to hold and whom to invite for it within college premises was usurped in this manner. It is disturbing that this violence rippled across the campus as it were, with students being followed, identified and harassed in their personal spaces for having asserted their right to listen to discussions on Bastar and for not bowing down to bodily attacks perpetrated through stones and fisticuffs by members of the ABVP and their affiliates.
Most alumni like me are invested in our respective professions, but the foundations of study and work were laid for us by Ramjas’ teachers and the college’s vibrant culture of extra-curricular instruction. This experience has proved fundamental to our engagement with our immediate workspaces, surroundings, power structures, and our nation. Denying current and future students their right to freely and openly debate issues of their choice in fora of their choice is tantamount to denial of a basic academic right. Threatening and manhandling academicians guided by the spirit of enquiry towards a generation of dialogue will prove detrimental to the quality of collegiate education in our nation. We collectively issue the following statement of solidarity with Ramjas’ students and teachers in this moment of crisis:
As alumni of Ramjas College we, the undersigned, wish to publicly state on record the following:
Ramjas College has for long been characterised by open debate, free thinking, and healthy interrogation of social and cultural norms in the best traditions of the liberal arts and collegiate education. We support all students and faculty of Ramjas College in light of the unprovoked violence unleashed against them by alleged members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and the Delhi University Students’ Union on 21 and 22 February 2017.
We strongly and unequivocally condemn the actions of these organisations and persons threatening the democratic and inclusive spaces of our alma mater. The upward spiral of violence in our colleges and universities in the name of nation and culture is a matter of utmost concern: we are extremely disturbed by the failure of the state and of government functionaries to quell such violence.
We owe a debt of gratitude to Ramjas College and its faculty for all that we are today: the scope and space to think and feel freely and fearlessly; to evaluate for ourselves the truths of society and nation; and the constant encouragement to exceed our limitations and excel in pursuit of economic and cultural inclusivity and the right to self-determination for all.
Some of us were office bearers and members of the Ramjas College Literary Society, a unique organisation actively committed to nurturing critical thinking amongst students. We feel proud to have been part of this organisation and vouch our complete support to our teachers and juniors for courageously carrying forward this interrogative tradition in these times of crisis.
Colleges and universities need to have the financial, administrative, and intellectual autonomy to be powerhouses of open and untrammelled exchange of ideas. We urge relevant authorities in Ramjas College, the University of Delhi, and the Delhi Police to take strict legal action against those members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and the Delhi University Students’ Union who have manhandled faculty and students and destroyed public property in the name of nationalism and Indian culture.
The Student Union of Ramjas has also released a statement saying that while they condemn the violence that took place in the university, they oppose the “presence” of “anti-national” personalities in the college: