I am a second year BA student of English literature at Ramjas college, Delhi University. For the past two days, there has been a severe upheaval at the college over the invitation to Umar Khalid to speak on the tribals of Bastar, a topic in which he has written a PhD.
Day before yesterday, the English Department, in collaboration with the literary society of Ramjas College, had organised a seminar, titled 'Cultures of Protest', in which several academics were invited to talk about dissent in the areas of gender, sexuality, community, language and so on. I wasn't present at the college on that day, but from what I gathered from my newsfeed, articles and videos is that a group of ABVP members had stormed into the college during the ongoing seminar, intimidated the organisers, stopped Umar's entry into the college and pelted bricks through the window of the conference room because they considered the event 'anti-national'. The police, inspite of being present, remained as a mute spectator to this violence.
The next day, students and teachers organised a protest rally from North Campus to Maurice Nagar police station against the hooliganism perpetrated by the ABVP goons and their violation of free thinking space in the academia. As they arrived outside the gates of Ramjas College in the morning, they were not allowed to go in and were attacked with slogans of 'Bharat Mata ki jai', 'desh-drohi', 'naxalbaadi'. Acknowledging the precariousness of the situation, they entered through the back gate but soon the goons came for them and started beating them up brutally.
I entered the college when the situation was curbed by the police and, to my utmost horror, saw one guy being chased till the front gate, receiving violent blows from the hooligans, with his girlfriend howling at this sight and eventually fainting. Her friend's hair was pulled and her head was bashed until she was pulled away by someone else.
After a couple of minutes of watching this silently, I went to the back of the college, near the canteen, where the protesters had gathered. While talking to my friends, who were in tattered clothes, I realised they had been attacked and had a few bruises and cuts. One of them was bleeding from the nose and was hospitalised along with a few others.
Outnumbered and oppressed as we were, we decided to carry out the protest somehow. To express our solidarity and freedom of speech we started singing songs like 'Hum honge kamiyaab' and 'Rang de Basanti'. Eventually, a few ABVP members arrived and hurled a chair, which hit one of our teachers in the waist.
We were surrounded by the goons waiting for an opportunity to get past the police and beat us for all they can.
We were surrounded by the goons waiting for an opportunity to get past the police and beat us for all they can. They towered above us with tri-colour national flags, insisted that we chant 'Bharat Mata ki jai', called us anti-nationals and told us to leave the country. We were held hostages in our own college as we sat for almost four hours, occasionally being showered with blows hurled, as the police shoved the goons off again and again.
Eventually, we were evacuated from the back gate by the police after we learned that ABVP henchmen were scattered all around North Campus. We were escorted in two police buses to metro stations beyond its vicinity.
At present, all of us are safe. From being beaten up to the mockery of our solidarity, we were assailed with all kinds of atrocities, but we did not give in an inch. We will still stand up to this hooliganism, which they call patriotism, and continue fighting for the day when ideas can be expressed freely and without fear in academic spaces.
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