On August 4, it came as a blow to the activists of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) when media reports quoted Delhi Police saying, “Video footage of alleged ‘anti-national slogans’ raised in Ramjas College in February, during a fight between ABVP and All India Students’ Association (AISA) over an invitation to former JNU student Umar Khalid, appears doctored.” ABVP’s national media convener Saket Bahuguna condemned the Action Taken Report (ATR) as “irresponsible and self-contradictory”.
If this has given you a notion that the ATR report, which was submitted in the court after five months of the incident, is fair and unbiased, you might be wrong. When I went through the nine-page report the police submitted to the court, all I could find is that the report tries to strategically exonerate the ABVP, which orchestrated a systematic violent attack against the students and professors of the university, by implicating us—the victims.
As a student of English literature in Ramjas College, and a member of the organising committee of ‘Cultures of Protest’, the event in which Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid were invited to talk, I was able to locate the narrative disjunctions in the report and the intention of the police to act as the saviour of the ABVP.
The report quite comfortably assumes that the presence of the speaker, Umar Khalid, is enough reason for the ABVP to oppose the event and get his invitation cancelled. The report begins with a claim that, “…spot visit was made by the local police and it was observed that around 100 students of…, majority of them from JNU…”. The report goes on, “…student of FSI (presumably SFI) from JNU and various other colleges had come in support of Shri Umar Khalid.” The absurdity of these statements can be revealed with a simple enquiry. How did the police ascertain the students were from Jawaharlal Nehru University? Was there any screening of students, at all? Moreover, the seminar was open to all. Hence, the presence of students from various other colleges makes it impossible to make an individual identification, in any case. The police, therefore, seem to be extremely absurd by making these unclear, vague claims.
Secondly, there is a clear attempt on the part of the Delhi Police to justify the violence of the ABVP by pitting the insanely animalistic violence against a peaceful and instant march by the group of professors and students. The report paints a biased, false and extremely misleading picture of what was a one-sided violent attack by the ABVP as something of a “breach” between both groups. In a shameful manner, the police have turned the world upside down by claiming that the victims themselves begged the perpetrators to hit them! The web of lies and falsehood don’t stop there. The police pat their own back by claiming it was their “timely intervention” which helped “pacify” the situation. Anyone who was present there on that day will vouch for it, like I do, that the police who saw the mayhem taking shape in Ramjas, stood back and remained mute spectators while the ABVP went on a rampage.
Finally, the report quite confidently claims that the CCTV footage from the college has not been obtained by the police before filing the ATR. The carelessness on the part of the investigating agency has ruined the most important aspect of evidence. The footage of the CCTV installed in the college can show how the ABVP strategically organised a mob. On a more serious note, the police seem to have completely foregone our witness statements where we categorically mentioned the turn of events, in greater detail. The fact that no considerable weightage was given to the victims’ statement shows the callousness and partisanship of the police department as a whole. The entire narrative portrays the battle as a Left-Right battle, whereas, it was a ghastly attack against the individual and collective liberty and a profound violation of the constitutional morality of this country.
At a time when campus elections are inching closer, and the ABVP stands unmasked in the eyes of the students of the university, this report works as a major tool for polarisation. The report is manipulated and can mislead a whole bunch of students in the university who have joined this year.
Being a student of the five teachers whose names have been mentioned in the ATR for instigating violence, it is my duty to put this on record. This kind of structural violence propagated against the academia is brutal and must not be tolerated. The five dedicated intellectuals have spent decades of their lives thinking critically and questioning the state at crucial points. The implication of these five intellectuals is a schematic movement by both the police and college authorities to jeopardise the constitutional framework of the country by trying to make a ground for the ABVP. An attack on the fundamental pillars of higher education is a blow to the entire community of rational and critical thinkers, and it shall not go unanswered!