February 7, 2013
ANTI-MODI PROTESTS ROCK DU CAMPUS
While the heavily fortified campus premises of the Sriram College of Commerce (SRCC) was sanitised with unprecedented police fortification, with armed and equipped riot cops swarming all over, along with water cannon vehicles and brutal lathicharges and top officers ‘supervising’ the show, it was not really a cake walk for Narendra Modi as he showcased himself as a ‘corporate and development’ brand in Delhi. A sharply divided and polarised Delhi University was rocked by massive, relentless and fiery protests against Modi’s visit, with hundreds of non-violent students and teachers facing continuous water cannons and brutal lathicharge. Scores of students and teachers were severely beaten up and others badly injured, even while there was no real provocation.
A large number of students, many of them not affiliated to any party or outfit, joined the anti-Modi protests. Several teachers too joined. There was big and strong participation of Left student groups including DSU, AISA, AISF, SFI, KYS, JNUSU, among others, including Students’ Islamic Organisation.
Angry and militant students shouting slogans, shook the barricades repeatedly, climbed onto them, and a few times dismantled one barricade on the far left. However, not one act of violence was instigated by the protesters, including scores of girls and boys; no stones were thrown, there were no violent skirmishes. Most of them were seen angrily arguing with the cops, including officers, and questioning Modi’s credentials, despite the Gujarat genocide of 2002, where scores of women were also raped. The facebook and social network was filled with appeals to join the movement against Modi. One appeal reminded everybody that while “we remember” the girl who was raped inside a bus, her body brutalised, no one should forget Kasaur Bano of Naroda Patiya in Ahmedabad whose stomach was slashed open by Bajrang Dal top leaders, owing allegiance to Modi.
In this high tension zone, sometimes, empty plastic water bottles were thrown at the police. One ABVP student who climbed the water cannon, with tacit police support, was hit with a chappal from the Left camp and an empty plastic bottle followed. The anti-Modi protest was continuous since late afternoon, passionate, unrelenting and strong, with slogans against “mass murderer fascist Modi” — but there were no violent skirmishes with the cops.
And yet, the police, in riot gear, under sudden instructions from the top brass of Delhi Police, quite unreasonably, suddenly charged at the anti-Modi protesters, beating up all and sundry brutally and again and again. Even the students were surprised by this sudden violence on part of the police. Despite the brutality, the students’ regrouped and did not react violently – not even once. The protests continued, with more fire and energy.
Despite this, even while emotions ran high and some senior professors also got dragged, pushed, lathicharged and beaten up by the cops, the angry protest against Modi remained peaceful and confined behind the barricades outside the SRCC campus inside which Modi was being shown ‘live’ on some TV channels.
Hardnews reporters witnessed the sudden violence by the police which happened without any clear provocation. One student was hit directly on the head by a lathi: he collapsed. He was even then hit all over with boots and lathis by a ‘mob of khaki-clad policemen’. Two students were literally dragged from behind the barricades, beaten up by hordes of cops, dragged on the street while being beaten up, and then dumped inside a police van. Another was literally taken hostage without any real reason, and then beaten up and taken inside the camp of a pro-Modi ABVP-BJP group.
Ironically, the ABVP and BJP cadre, some of them with flowers for Modi, were repeatedly allowed to break and jump barricades and taunt the anti-Modi protesters on the other side of the barricade. Some of them came up right up to the other camp with pro-Modi banners while the cops seemed totally complacent and blind and deaf to their provocative actions.
While several cops at one go brutally beat up these students and dragged them towards the other barricade with a handful of pro-Modi supporters, even the ABVP groupies joined the cops in beating up some of these ‘detained’ students. Some teachers, including senior women academics, too were badly manhandled, abused, dragged, pushed to the ground and hit, and then hit with lathis. Significantly, there were only a few women cops, who came much later; most cops who did the beating were male. Hardnews saw one young girl being hit on the chest by a rampaging male cop.
Even while ABVP cadre on the other side shouted ‘Delhi Police Zindabad’, even when they beat up Leftist students along with police, there was no reaction from the top brass, including two women officers, standing at point-blank range observing the whole show. When some TV and print reporters questioned this ‘bias’ and ‘modus operandi’ of the police, a police officer, Dr Rajneesh Garg, shouted back, “You do your job, I will do my job.” But why this bias, reporters asked. Why are you allowing ABVP cadre to jump and pass through barricades, and then beat up students so brutally along with the police, he shouted again, “Okay, yes, we are biased. You do whatever you want. This is no time for argument.”
Ironically, the small ABVP students’ camp was also filled with many elderly men and politicos, who were clearly not students. The anti-Modi protesters, however, were huge in number, all of them were students and teachers, and outmatched them in spirit and resilience, something which might mark a shift in Delhi University students’ politics in the days to come. The Rightwing was on the back foot, despite Modi, and despite the tacit alliance with the cops.
“I was beaten up by the cops; lathicharged,” said a professor from St. Stephen’s College. She, along with another senior teacher from Hindu College were beaten up, pushed and manhandled. Not one police officer was ready to listen to their point of view, even as they were pushed around.
Even as the sun set, hundreds of students continued to peacefully protest outside the college, while more teachers joined them. Teachers at Maurice Nagar Police Station at Delhi University informed Hardnews that five students were detained, including perhaps a girl, 20 students were badly injured, and five teachers were also injured because of the police brutality. The protest continued: the students shouted “killer Modi go back!”