|Students at the protest march against ABVP on the Delhi University north campus on Tuesday. (PTI)|
PHEROZE L. VINCENT, TT, New Delhi, Feb. 28: Thousands of students and teachers marched through Delhi University's north campus today in protest against the "hooliganism" that has been unleashed, a week after the Sangh-backed ABVP disrupted a seminar before going on the rampage outside a college the next day.
Members of Parliament from various parties, including the CPI, CPM and the Janata Dal United, as well as the local MLA - an AAP rebel - who reached the spot after the march had ended at the varsity's arts faculty, told the students they would defend their right to speak from goons, trolls and so-called "patriots".
"A hundred flowers will blossom here, some black flowers may also bloom, like the ABVP. A hundred flowers will bloom and a thousand thoughts will contend. Join any party you want. We will protect your rights," CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said, quoting Mao Zedong.
At the march, cries of "DU hamara aap ka, nahi kisi ke baap ka!" (DU is ours and yours, not anyone's father's) resounded through the arts faculty, where an ABVP leader had yesterday threatened to "cut" any finger raised on this nation.
Delhi University Student Union general secretary Ankit Sangwan had said "if anyone raises a finger on this country, that finger will be cut".
Today, at several points during the march - from Shri Guru Tegh Bahadur Singh Khalsa College to the arts faculty that went past Ramjas College - small groups of bystanders chanted slogans, calling the marchers traitors.
But they were drowned out as chants of " goondagardi nahi sahenge" (won't tolerate hooliganism) and "ABVP, why so creepy" reverberated through the campus.
The march, nearly a kilometre long, drew support from students' and teachers' unions of Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Last week's seminar at Ramjas was disrupted by the ABVP over invitations to JNU activists Umar Khalid, who faces a sedition case, and Shehla Rashid. A day later, ABVP activists attacked a Left-backed march to protest the cancellation of the seminar.
Today, as the march went past Ramjas, some students held up black placards that said: "We Support Nationalism. We Stand with Ramjas."
A police constable at the spot said the marchers numbered over 4,000.
The ABVP, which controls the Delhi University Students' Union (DUSU), has called a counter-march on Thursday. DUSU vice-president Priyanka Chhawri, who watched the march from behind a barricade, said: "You will see on Thursday how many turn out for our march. These are the people who indulge in treason and goondaism and they call outsiders to provoke trouble here."
An ABVP press release said: "The march consisted of hundreds of uncles and aunties who had nothing to do with you."
Two ABVP activists - Prashant Mishra and Vinayak Sharma - were arrested for assaulting Aman Kumar, an activist of the Left-backed All India Students Association (AISA), after the march. The ABVP has suspended both.
A Ramjas history student, who watched the march, said: "If the ABVP activists are intellectuals, they should counter Umar or anyone with debate. Every citizen has the right to speak."
"We are not ABVP, neither are we AISA," Miranda House student K. Deepthi, who was part of the march, told this paper. "We gave ABVP the mandate, year after year. We are anti-violence. We don't support slogans of the Left saying 'ABVP go back'. But we won't tolerate violence against seminars and plays. Enough is enough."
Anirban Bhattacharya, who was charged with sedition along with Umar and JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar last year, addressed a gathering near the Swami Vivekananda statue at the arts faculty.
"When a DU student raised slogans for the right to free speech last week, ABVP goons threatened him saying he would be sent to Rohith Vemula. Every time, be it the murderers of Rohith or those who thrashed Najeeb, our mere presence provokes them."
Dalit scholar Rohith had committed suicide last year after being suspended from Hyderabad University and student Najeeb Ahmed disappeared from JNU, both after clashes with ABVP activists.
Kanhaiya, who reached after the march, said: "Recently, the Prime Minister said if they (the BJP) win Uttar Pradesh, there will be a saffron Holi. Aye (Narendra) Modiji, we play Holi of all colours. We won't tolerate any monochrome Holi.... You want to oppose us, do so. But who gave you the right to beat people up?"
JDU MP K.C. Tyagi said: "Previous regimes have been a bit undemocratic. But this government follows Hitler's principles."