ABVP Attacks Newsclick Reporters: A First Hand Account
I went to cover the protest yesterday (22nd February) with my colleague Souradeep. When we reached Ramjas college, the gates were locked. Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP) members were not letting some 50-60 students come out of the college. Eventually the ABVP members came out and attacked the protesters who had peacefully gathered there. I saw 2 members from ABVP – Mahamedha Nagar, and another girl punch and kick Abha Dev Habib, a DU faculty member.
The police tried to create a physical distance between the attackers and the protesters. But they sneaked in from the side and caught hold of students. My colleague Souradeep, some journalists from Quint, and I were manhandled. Our camera and other equipments were broken. Not only that, the ABVP mob had taken a part of the camera which the police then got from them to give back to us.
In spite of the attack, the march started. ABVP started throwing bricks and stones on the marching protesters. A student was hit by a stone; he was bleeding profusely and was taken to hospital. Despite such acts of violence, the police did not detain any of them. They were still only trying to create a physical distance between the two groups.
The procession resumed and reached the Arts Faculty. ABVP members continued pelting stones, chappals, bottles, anything they could find!
Near the Patel-Chest red-light they started breaking glass bottles. The police got the nearby shops shut down, because the ABVP members were picking up anything they could get their hands on from shops to hit the protesters. The ABVP members continued abusing, sloganeering and gesturing vulgarly to women.
As the protest gathered at the Maurice Nagar police station, the ABVP members blocked the entrance to the station, not allowing anyone to enter. Some Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) members came to the front, after which the police escorted some of us inside. We talked to the ACP, along with the DU faculty and a few protesters. The police refused to let us file an FIR. They asked us to have faith in the police.
Later, after some prominent student leaders and faculty members addressed the gathering, the DUTA members left. Many protesters left as well. Some decided to stay put till the FIR was filed. Once the teachers had gone, the police brutally lathi charged the remaining protesters and allegedly detained some.
Later in the evening, I heard that some ABVP members went to some Paying Guest Accommodations (PGs) in Vijaynagar, to intimidate and threaten students who were in the protest (mainly member of Pinjratod). We were getting reports till 10 in the night that the campus was not safe. People were posting their addresses on social media, in case some students needed to stay away from the unsafe PGs!
Around the time when the stone pelting happened, I approached a police man and asked why they were not stopping the stone pelting: what if more people got hurt? After all, it wasn't just small rocks they were throwing, but bricks too. To which he replied, “tum sab ek jaise ho!” (you are all one and the same!)
Many police officers wore no name batches. Sometime during the middle of the ruckus, I asked one of them their name, to which I got a reply, “thane me chalo, wahan naam bataoonga” (follow me to the station and I will tell you my name).
While the intolerance of the ABVP goons knows no bounds, clearly the police know where their loyalties lie.
I have hesitated to write a personal account until our editor asked me to file a story with my byline. The reason behind my hesitation is the fact that one cannot claim exceptionalism to an incident which spared no one. I want to make it clear at the outset that several other faculties, students, and journalists were assaulted, and I claim no exceptionalism whatsoever.
First: some clear facts. This was not a Left versus ABVP clash, nor was it an AISA versus ABVP clash. The march was called under the banner “Save DU” and described as a joint march by students and teachers.
When I arrived at Ramjas college at 1:15 p.m., the crossing at Chatra Marg had several policemen. A group of students and journalists waited on the footpath opposite the Ramjas College Main Gate. Some of the students said that a group of people from Ramjas college who had wanted to take part in the protest were not allowed to leave by the ABVP.
At this point, we could hear chants of “Bharat Mata ki Jai”. The slogans were accompanying music to the grand entry made by the ABVP to cameras framed still at the Ramjas College Main Gate. What followed was absolute mayhem.
The two groups (one comprising teachers and students on the footpath, the other at the Main Gate comprising members of the ABVP, lest there were people who shouted “Bharat Mata ki Jai” out of sheer love for the nation), began sloganeering against each other.
The Delhi police, easily outnumbered, tried to contain both the sides. In the meantime, ABVP members climbed onto the police van, still reclaiming the right to love Bharat Mata. I was right in the middle of both the groups, filming both the sides. Before I could realise, a clash erupted between two individuals right beside me, and I began filming it. There were a row of scooters and bikes parked near the footpath and I was stuck. I found a photograph in The Hindu today, which has this moment captured.
I cannot exactly recall the next round of incidents: I got hit and fell on the ground. A round of blows followed, and my glasses were broken.
I went to fetch a new pair of glasses, and joined the march to see where my colleagues were. I met Apurva Chaudhry, my colleague from Newsclick who was reporting the same incident, and she explained that she too had been hurt.
As the march continued towards the SRCC gate, the marchers halted for a while. Soon, stones and bricks made their way magically from the side of the ABVP. They had no hand in all of this.
At the turning towards Maurice Nagar police station even glass bottles were thrown. We can safely assume from here that there was a case of rioting. Shopkeepers and numerous photostat shops soon began closing their shutters. At the Maurice Nagar station, eggs replaced stones, bricks, and glass bottles. Apurva and I lodged a complaint at the Maurice Nagar station.
That students can attack their own teachers is perhaps unprecedented. Abha Dev Habib, who spoke on the incident, said:
"Mahamedhaa Nagar, ABVP activist and a student of Miranda House, realised that I recognised her very well. For the first time I was assaulted as a protester while participating in a peaceful protest. Mahameda despite recognising me as a teacher of her college did not hesitate to pull my hair and raise her hand on me.
It was not an 'ABVP – AISA' clash as projected by many reports. It was ABVP let loose on students and teachers who wanted to protest the assault on university spaces by ABVP-RSS-BJP. The attack on teachers came from an understanding that in all the universities it has finally become a joint Student-Teacher Struggle against their regressive agenda."
Protests are important. The teachers and students who took part in the march did it knowing that a conference on any subject can be held in the university. However, it is also important that in the light of growing unrest, safety comes first. Forming a human chain does not prevent protestors from bottles, eggs, stones and bricks.
In such a situation, Prasanta Chakravarty, had the following advice: “My physical health condition apart, it is obvious to everyone that it is a far better idea to organise systematically, rather than being martyrs, against a powerfully organised force which also enjoys full state support.”
The footage recovered from Souradeep's camera can be seen below:
First published in Newsclick. Published here with minor edits.
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