The clash of ideologies between two student groups at the Jawaharlal Nehru University last year now seems to have spilled over to the Delhi University north campus. Today a clash broke out between Left students and those from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad after invitation to JNU scholar Umar Khalid and Left student leader from JNU Shehla Rashid Shora for a seminar at Ramjas college was cancelled. Policemen were unable to control the rowdy crowds and spectators and journalists were also among the people caught in the clash and many were beaten up. At least 20 students were reportedly injured after the clash.
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Umar Khalid came under spotlight when he was accused for sedition last year after the February 9 incident in the university. The Ramjas Literary Society had organised a two-day seminar ‘Culture of Protest’. Umar, who calls himself an Ambedkarite and is part of Ambedkarite student group BASO, was a speaker along with Shehla who is part of Leftist student group All India Students Association (AISA). But reportedly the RSS- and BJP-backed ABVP protested and subsequently their lectures were cancelled. The Left students and some teachers were protesting against the cancellation when a group of ABVP members came and a clash broke out between the two groups. The group from JNU went to a police station as well alleging vandalism by ABVP.
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Members of AISA said that ABVP members pelted stones at them and shut the seminar hall. They further claimed that ABVP students cut power supply. ABVP has denied all allegations levelled on its members. Shehla told reporters that they were attacked and ABVP members pelted bricks at them. She said many were bleeding due to injuries they suffered at the hands of the ABVP.
The ABVP denied these claims as well and said that they did not have any part in the cancellation of Umar’s and Shehla’s talks. ABVP leader Abhishek Verma claimed that there was no violence and the college students and teachers didn’t want Umar Khalid to speak.
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According to Indiasamvad, Ramjas college principal, Rajender Prasad said, “While the seminar will continue we decided to cancel the participation of these two students. It is not that we do not advocate freedom of speech but it had to be done keeping peace and harmony of campus in mind.”
Umar Khalid was charged with sedition and jailed last year for his alleged role in an event in JNU in which anti-India slogans were reportedly raised.
The tussle between the ABVP and Left-leaning students leaders is not new. The Right-wing student organisation obviously doesn’t hold much support or numbers in JNU and in its students union. In the past year, there have been other incidents as well where both groups have clashed and physical violence is not new to this tussle.
The only difference this time is that the incident moved out of the JNU campus. But, the principal’s statement shows that there is still an element of fear/prejudice against some students from JNU or belonging to a certain ideology and it is seen as convenient to clamp down rather than letting free discourse take its way. Same has been seen in JNU where its famed culture of protest on a myriad number of issues is being curbed by the JNU administration.