Student organisations and police clashed outside the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) Monday during a protest against the suicide of Hyderabad Central University (HCU) Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula.
As protesters began to march towards Shastri Bhawan to seek HRD minister Smriti Irani’s intervention in the issue, police imposed Section 144 and barricaded the road. When protesters tried to overthrow the barricades, police used 16 rounds of water cannons to stop them. Some students were allegedly injured.
Police said close to 70 protesters were detained in four buses and taken to the Parliament Street and Mandir Marg police stations. They were finally let off around 8 pm, after CPI leader D Raja and CPM leader Nilotpal Basu intervened.
“The protest turned violent and several police officers, including an Additional DCP and SHO of Connaught Place police station, were injured,” said DCP (New Delhi) Jatin Narwal.
Around 300 students from various Dalit and Left organisations including the Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association (BAPSA), Students’ Federation of India (SFI), All India Students’ Association (AISA) and the Democratic Students’ Federation (DSF) joined the protest.
The protesters demanded that Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, HCU Vice-Chancellor P Appa Rao and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) HCU President Susheel Kumar be booked and sacked from their respective positions. The Hyderabad police booked Dattatreya and Rao Monday.
Vemula — along with four other Dalit scholars from the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) — had been suspended by the HCU administration in the last week of December after being found guilty by the administration of indulging in “anti-national activities”, including “attacking” Kumar at a screening of a documentary on the Muzaffarnagar riots.
“Dattatreya and Hyderabad MLC from BJP, along with the ABVP, intervened to paint these students as anti-nationals and extremists for their crime of organising a documentary screening on Muzaffarnagar riots. Dattatreya wrote a letter to the MHRD asking for strict action against these students,” said SFI state secretary Sunand.
Besides the students, the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) general secretary Jagmati Sangwan, Delhi University teacher Apoorvanand and filmmaker Nakul Singh Sawhney were also among the protesters.
Some of the students ran inside the Central Secretariat Metro station premises to evade police, but were subsequently detained.