Delhi University's Ramjas College, for the second consecutive day, remained besieged by violence on Wednesday between the Right wing students' group ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad) and others, including Left aligned groups like AISA and SFI.
Despite heavy police presence outside Ramjas College, violence broke out again at 1 pm with the ABVP activists clashing with the police and students from the opposing group, including those from Left wing groups like All India Students' Association (AISA) and Students' Federation of India (SFI), who had gathered in the university to protest yesterday's violent disruption of a seminar held at the college.
"Many students remained trapped inside the college campus and could leave only after 5 pm under heavy police protection," said a faculty member who did not wish to be named.
The fight, however, seems to have escalated much beyond the scope of a contentious seminar. Delhi University professor Prashanto Chakraborty was severely thrashed by ABVP supporters at a protest held in the campus against Tuesday's violence.
Several students and teachers have also received injuries, while a few journalists also reported being heckled and pushed around with their cameras and phones being damaged. Classes are suspended at Ramjas, and teachers who had turned up for a faculty meeting in the first half were asked to quickly disperse by Ramjas College principal Rajender Prasad.
The confrontation continued on Wednesday as some Ramjas College students, teachers and members of Left-aligned groups took out a protest march. ABVP members also forced their way into the college to prevent any further sessions of the seminar titled, 'Cultures of Protest'. Later, there were clashes outside the college and the University's Arts Faculty with ABVP activists attacking the others.
ABVP activists had on Tuesday prevented a seminar, organised by the college's Literary Society, from being held, and attacked the venue with bricks. The bone of contention was one of the speakers, Umar Khalid, a PhD scholar from Jawaharlal Nehru University, who was booked in a sedition case last year ostensibly for raising "anti-India slogans". The charges have not been proven so far.
"In fact, we had cancelled our invitation to Umar Khalid after the initial objections by ABVP aligned students. We told them we understood their emotions about Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid Shora (both JNU students and part of the protests last year) and had disinvited them, but somehow they continued to be violent. Today the ABVP people came back again perhaps to target the seminar. But we had already cancelled it. Even classes have been suspended after yesterday's violence in the college," a Ramjas College teacher, who is an eyewitness to the attack on Tuesday and Wednesday's violence, told WION. He was not willing to be identified due to fear of being attacked.
"They are profiling anyone from Ramjas College English department in hostels and paying guests accommodations in neighbourhoods like Vijay Nagar. ABVP people were constantly photographing our students at the seminar. There were young women students and teachers. They are scared," said the teacher.
By Wednesday evening messages were circulating on social media platforms offering assistance to anyone in need of a safe place to stay if they were worried about being attacked at their hostels or rented accommodations.
Ramjas College principal Prasad had apparently refused to grant permission to invite Khalid to the campus thrice, but since the students and teachers were reportedly keen, he gave in. But no written permission was issued.
On being contacted, Prasad told WION: "Academics should confront ideas, not people."
While some say this is just a manifestation of two camps, one Right-leaning, the other Left-aligned, trying to seize control of the prestigious institution since Principal Prasad is set to retire by February-end, others say these allegations are specious. "Some teachers in the History and English departments are perceived by some Right-leaning students as Leftist, but most of us are just liberals. If you are teaching Society, how can you only teach, 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' brand of education?"
However, those involved with organising the event said they had not expected this kind of violence since Khalid was not invited to speak on any controversial topic and after some students objected, his invitation was also withdrawn quickly.
"We were naive in not thinking of approaching police for security. We cancelled Khalid's talk since some of our students had objected. The police told us they could not provide us security at such short notice and anything untoward would be the responsibility of the college and organisers. Some of our students were disappointed with the arm-twisting and took out a march through the campus chanting azaadi, azaadi (freedom, freedom). They were confronted by ABVP members who were mostly outsiders. Only a small number was from Ramjas. Later, the police dispersed both the groups and asked us to continue with our seminar. We were locked into the conference hall when the ABVP people started throwing bricks through the glass windows. We were later rescued from our own college by policemen forming a human chain around us while outsiders armed with rods threatened and abused us. They came prepared," an organiser recounted.
"As we were coming out of the college, a young student looked at my colleague, who is in her late 50s, and abused her. He told her abki baar to bach gayi hai. Agli baar nahi chodenge (We spared you this time, next time you wont be spared)," the eyewitness added.
The violence has left the college fraternity shaken, most of whom say they have never witnessed violence at such a scale in at least two decades. "We are dumbfounded by what has happened... It was a jarring day for me as I saw some of our students being abusive and violent to us--even though they were outnumbered by outsiders," said another teacher.