I sat terrorised, as a friend of mine said, “I don’t feel safe in the campus anymore,” over the phone. He went on to narrate the story of hooliganism that took place at Delhi University’s Ramjas College on February 21 and 22.
The ruckus created by Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), accusing Umar Khalid, Shehla Rashid and their supporters of being ‘anti-national’, has made the North Campus of Delhi University a scary place for students and teachers.
The violence that began with a seminar organised by the literary society of Ramjas College, was not the first of its kind. Pelting stones, hurling hockey sticks, shouting slogans and protests are now common in academic institutions in India.
This isn’t an isolated case. Over the past one year, the increasing vandalism in the universities has not only raised the question of freedom of speech, expression and democracy, but also of the unnecessary terror that has crept into learning spaces and how it has stymied the climate of intellectual inquiry.
It started with the havoc created in Jawaharlal Nehru University on February 9, 2016. The JNU incident made nationalism and the political freedom of students part of national debates. Since then, several happenings all over the country have disrupted the calmness in educational institutions.
A case almost identical to what happened in Ramjas took place in October last year, when ABVP and organisers of an event got into a brawl during an event where it was being discussed how freedom of expression could be regained inside campuses.
Also, on the list, is the chaos created by ABVP on May 6, 2016, at Jadavpur University (JU), where beatings followed the controversy over the screening of two films. ABVP’s protest against the presence of JNU professor Nivedita Menon at a conference in Jodhpur University is also one such absurd instance. Be it Jodhpur University or Delhi University (DU), every event, every little matter is politicised and made gargantuan.
Now, hooliganism in campus spaces has escalated to the point that students in North Campus are afraid to step out of their homes. It is ironic that ABVP’s brutal behaviour at Ramjas college was meant as a protest against the ‘anti-national’ speakers of a seminar on ‘Culture of Protests’.
It is a shame that this blatant display of political power is now being looked at by the police with a blasé attitude. It is a shame that innocent people and students have been threatened and beaten up to the extent of hospitalisation.
It is a shame that the government does not take any action to curb such atrocious acts. It is a shame that educational institutions have been reduced to a forum of vandalism and violence.
No matter how much the freedom of speech and expression of students is curbed, and no matter how many times they are beaten up, no one can take away the fire that lies within the students.
The fact that even after ABVP’s first attempt to stifle their voice, students retaliated again with a massive protest and how students from all over the state joined them at ITO yesterday, proves that their wild desire for struggle and resistance will remain forever unrestrained.