PUNJABI UNIVERSITY authorities shut down the varsity till October 15, a day after a violent clash on the campus left 10 students injured. The clash took place late Tuesday night, during a continuing stand-off between students and university authorities since September 19. The campus was closed Wednesday on account of Agrasen Jayanti. “We have declared a three-day holiday to ensure that there’s no more violence on the campus. We have enough police and personnel of Rapid Action Force to keep the campus secure. Police are doing their job and we don’t want any untoward situation on the campus,” Dr Manjit Singh Nijjar, Registrar of Punjabi University, told Chandigarh Newsline.
Police have also booked seven students of the university on charges of assault, wrongful confinement, rioting and criminal intimidation. Nobody has been arrested yet. A case was registered on the complaint lodged by Amarjeet Singh and a female student, who also figure among the 10 injured and hospitalised in Tuesday’s clash. Those booked include Harwinder Singh Sandhu, former president of Secular Youth Federation of India (SYFI), Lovepreet Singh, president, Students’ Association of Punjab (SAP), Jatinder Jeetu of Organisation of Punjabi University Students (OPUS), Jatin Verma, Vicky Rajput, Tejpreet Singh Sohi and one unidentified student.
Hundreds of students gathered in front of the vice chancellor’s office at Guru Tegh Bahadur Hall and protested against Tuesday night’s violence on the campus. Students also condemned police that reached almost an hour after the clash began in front of Amrita Shergill hostel.
“It’s not only the physical education department’s students who attacked us. Organisations such as NSUI (National Students’ Union of India) and SAP were also involved. This is an attack from the university authorities more than anything else. Girls and boys are being forced to leave as the university is shut for the next two days and the weekend. It’s an attempt to weaken the movement,” said Akash Bansal, a student leader.
A majority of students from the Amrita Shergill hostel also took out a march condemning yesterday’s violence and joined the protesters outside the V-C’s office. With lathis in their hands, they raised slogans of “inquilab” and “nari mukti”. Students were supported by organisations such as Bhartiya Kisan Union Dakonda, Democratic Teachers’ Front and Lok Sangram Manch, among others.
A college teachers’ union, which had been protesting in front of the V-C’s office since October 1, also condemned the violence. “I think the authorities are trying to make students fight each other and they’re doing a good job of it. Ask anyone on the campus and they’ll tell you. This is not a clash, it’s an attack,” said one of the college teachers.
“One of the protesters fractured his knuckles and a finger of his has almost been ripped off. Who’ll take responsibility for this? We even compromised on our own demands and told the authorities we were ready for the 11 pm curfew, but this attack has shaken us. We will not back down,” said Jasmeet of PSU Lalkaar.
We were pulled by the hair, boys slapped us: Protesters
“All the girls were terrified. I was surrounded by six of them behind the V-C’s office and I begged them not to hit me. They roughed me up, pulled my hair and clothes. Three of them ran away when a light fell on us and the other three escaped when a security guard came running towards us,” alleged a student in her statement to the police demanding stern action against the assailants.
Eyewitnesses at hostels said a swarm of girls and boys crossed the barricade at 7.45 pm and started attacking the women walking outside their hostels.
“The girls in the mob were pulling our hair and punching us. Those of us who managed to hide were pulled out and slapped. Even the boys didn’t spare the girls. They were all armed with hockey sticks, rods and sharp weapons,” said a resident from Mata Gujri hostel.
Amrita Shergill, Silver Jubilee, Mata Gujri and Bibi Sahib Kaur hostels are all located in one row. The area is barricaded and closes daily after the 8 pm curfew. However, residents said the security stood aside when the mob crossed the gate at 7.45 pm.
While the chief of university security was not available for comment, the security personnel stationed at the V-C’s office said they were ill-equipped to deal with a mob. “We don’t even have lathis. We are all ex-army and absolutely capable of handling situations if we are equipped enough. Only two security personnel are stationed here at one time; how can they handle a mob of over 200?” said a security guard, who did not want to be named.
Akash Bansal, a student leader, added that there were reports of molestation on the campus but not a single girl was ready to come forward and report the matter. “Girls are all scared now. They’re saying it’s all right to stay inside and we don’t want to support the protest,” said Samriti Sharma, a prefect from Bibi Sahib Kaur hostel.
Arnpreet Kaur from Amrita Shergill hostel said, “What security are the authorities talking about? Where was the security when girls were attacked so brutally outside their own hostels? I wasn’t even supporting the protest because my parents were against it. Now, even my dad supports it as he can see the failure of the authorities.”
Another student, Neha, from the same hostel, alleged that a girl from their hostel was brutalised by a group of boys when she was returning from the gurdwara.
“She is not coming forward. We sat outside the V-C’s house till 2.30 am but no one came and even asked us what the matter was. Even our warden arrived half an hour later,” added Neha.
Police said they were doing their best to keep the campus secure and had stationed cops at “sensitive” points on the campus.
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