The recent violence at Delhi University’s Ramjas College over a controversial leftist activist’s visit to the college, has led to accusations being made rampantly by all interested parties, individuals and student bodies. Both ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad) and the liberal, left-wing students’ group have their own side of the story, with controversial remarks by a martyr’s daughter as well as some celebrities. We bring to you the gist of what has been happening without taking any sides.
What Actually Happened?
Here is how the entire controversy brewed over:
- Delhi University’s prestigious Ramjas College protested against the invitation of leftist activist Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid, to a seminar at the college on the occasion of its Centennial Anniversary.
- The students demanded cancellation of both the invitees expecting disturbance in harmony.
- The students of Ramjas College were displeased with the idea of inviting Khalid, who is facing trial at Delhi High Court for raising anti-India slogans during a February 2016 event in JNU, organised to condemn the hanging of Parliament attack convict, Afzal Guru.
- The students, led by Students’ Union president Yogit Rathi, appealed to the college administration to cancel invitation to Khalid. The college principal yielded to the demand.
- When the organisers of the programme, members of left-affiliated Democratic Teachers’ Front (DTF), came to know of the development, they refused to back down and insisted on having Khalid on the programme.
- On February 21, 2017, the day the programme was scheduled, activists of All India Students’ Association (AISA) and Students Federation of India (SFI) from JNU, along with other DTF teacher-activists, when prevented by the security attempted to barge into the venue and started raising anti-India slogans.
- Scuffles broke out as the protesting students tried to march to the police station and the police was deployed to control the situation.
ABVP’s Stand On The Issue
The ABVP was founded in 1948 with the objective of channelling student energy towards the task of national reconstruction, inspired by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)
In response to the accusation of trying to restrain the freedom of speech of students, the ABVP alleged the following:
- ABVP denies that it has been violent.
- However, the student union is also unapologetic about opposing ‘anti-nationals’.
- According to ABVP, they were present only on February 22 on request from the students of Ramjas College who were at the Maurice Nagar police station demanding action against the violent left activists.
- ABVP alleges that the leftist activists – comprising largely of non-DU students, especially from JNU and their teacher activists resorted to their “azadi” theatrics and started beating up DU students and ABVP activists.
- The police resorted to lathi-charge to dispel the crowd in which many of ABVP activists, especially women, were injured.
The Liberal And Leftist Wing Stand
The liberal and leftist wing students believe that they are being oppressed by the ABVP.
- They feel that last February JNU student leaders were wrongfully arrested on charges of sedition.
- This time it is the forced shut-down of a seminar on ‘cultures of protest’ on February 21 at Ramjas College.
- They allege that the ABVP resorted to violence and threw bricks and stones at them.
- Students allege that the police “did not touch the ABVP students” during Wednesday’s violence because they are affiliated to the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is in power at the Centre.
- The leftist wing students believe that the ABVP is applying silent censorship and is consolidating its grip on India’s universities.
Enter Gurmehar Kaur, And Other Celebrities
In this entire fracas, the student of Lady Shri Ram College and martyr’s daughter, Gurmehar Kaur went Live on Facebook with a placard that said, “Pakistan did not kill my Dad, War killed him”. This added fuel to the fire already raging. She further questioned: “The students who were attacked by the ABVP were Indians and they call it nationalism. What kind of nationalism is this?”
Since the time she went viral with her placards, Gurmehar has been branded as an anti-national on Twitter and told her father would not be proud of her stand. She has alleged that she has received many threats on Social Media, including rape threats.
In response to Gurmehar’s placard-video, without directly referring to her, cricketer Virendra Sehwag tweeted a picture of himself holding a placard which said, “I didn’t score two triple centuries, my bat did.” Randeep Hooda in turn supported this statement of Virendra Sehwag.
A Reminder of the Rights Pertaining to Freedom of Speech as per Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India
Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution makes the “right to freedom of speech and expression” a fundamental right. However, the First Amendment to the Constitution, made on June 18, 1951, states that “interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with Foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence” will be paramount and freedom of expression will not be unconditional.