Around 500 students and teachers of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) on Tuedsay held a public meeting and a march in solidarity with the students of Delhi University’s Ramjas College that witnessed clashes between Left-backed AISA and RSS-affiliated ABVP on February 22. The march for the cause of free speech started from the university’s Arts Faculty and culminated at Bab-e-Syed, the university gate, where teachers and students addressed the gathering and recited poems.
The participants, which also included AMU Teachers’ Association’s former and current secretaries as well as retired professors, were of the opinion that “the event at Delhi University, where not just students but teachers and senior academicians have been brutally beaten up by ABVP men, has brought forth the dire need of protecting and safeguarding the spaces of universities”. They underlined that discussions and debates needed to be held without fear and violence on campuses.
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In the public meeting, eminent historian and AMU’s retired professor Irfan Habib cautioned the gathering about the “growing fascist tendencies” in the country. Condemning the Ramjas incident, he said it marked a “new low in the narrative of threat to free speech, democracy and the right to protest in today’s India”. He said the incident was part of a “systematic move to crush India’s tradition of peaceful protests which began nearly two centuries ago during the British rule”. Habib also lauded DU student Gurmehar Kaur, who started a social media campaign against the ABVP, saying she is as a role model for the country’s youth. Retired Prof. Wasi Haider outlined the importance of standing up for such causes.
On February 21, a two-day seminar on ‘Cultures of Protest: A Seminar Exploring Representations of Dissent’ was organised by the Ramjas’s English department and Literary Society. Umar Khalid, a JNU student who was arrested on charges of sedition last year, was among one of the speakers. Fellow JNU student Shehla Rashid was to speak the next day. However, ABVP protested against Khalid’s participation in the seminar, which led to clashes between workers of the RSS-backed outfit and seminar organisers. The seminar was cancelled. Clashes continued the second day during a protest march of DU teachers and students led by AISA and SFI members to the campus police station to protest against the “ABVP-led vandalism”.