New Delhi, Feb 28 (IANS) Many among the few thousands of students and teachers who marched in Delhi University's north campus on Tuesday against the ABVP, urging for peace and freedom of expression, said they did not have any political affiliation with either the left or right. They urged the ABVP to debate issues "intellectually" rather than indulging in violence.
The students were joined by professors and students from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Jamia Milia Islamia and Ambedkar University.
Many of them said they had joined the protest march against the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its students wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) as the two right-wing groups have been curbing the freedom of expression not just in academic spaces but across the country.
Many challenged the ABVP to come up and debate on issues "intellectually" rather than using violence against ideas that they don't support.
"Vandalism has become the culture of ABVP. It happened in SRCC and now in Ramjas. It keeps happening all across the country," Sri Ram College of Commerce professor, Avinash Jha, told IANS.
"We understand if ideas and opinions don't match but vandalising events and silencing others' opinions is unacceptable," he said.
A member of JNU Teachers' Association echoed what Jha said.
According to him, this protest was unleashed against the violence in the academic space. "Such marches should happen across the country as the space for ideas is shrinking," he said.
The protest also received support from a retired DU professor.
"My association with this university has been since I was 16. I am so proud of my university today because students here are defending the whole country," 70-year-old Madhu Prasad told IANS.
"RSS has nothing to do with our democratic nation. They sided with the British during the struggle for independence and now are they claiming to be nationalists."
"Students have stood up to the fear of the police and the government," she said, adding: "ABVP has not evolved in DU. They have only controlled the state power. RSS always grows when they control the state. They use the state machinery to find ways for themselves."
Girls outnumbered boys in the protest, which saw raising of slogans like: "ABVP, don't be creepy!", "ABVP, down down", "Lathi bankar khoon nahi, waad wivaad ki azaadi", "Delhi Police, Sanghi Police", "Gundo Ki Jaagir nahi, ye university humari hai!".
A student from Khalsa College, Anjali Sirohi, said in 2009 she lost her father who was an army officer.
"What is the purpose of my father having died as he fought for this country, if we have to live in such terror and if we cannot have the space and freedom to express ourselves, where are we heading?" she asked while speaking to IANS.
"Why do we have to prove our nationalism? Who do we have to prove it to? These fascists (ABVP workers) won't attack such a big rally today. They beat up my professors on February 22 when there weren't a lot of people in the protest."
Lady Shri Ram College student Hindolee Dutta said an investigation should be undertaken against the ABVP for creating turmoil in the campus. "We will make ABVP understand that DU stands together. Our protests won't fizzle out after a few marches."
The left-wing All India Students' Association (AISA) President DU President Kawalpreet Kaur was also present at the march.
"We don't need certificates of nationalism from ABVP. In this march, around 5,000 students have come together to fight your hooliganism. We warn you that if you repeat such activities, the number will rise to 15,000 and you will wonder who is a student from DU and who is from outside," she announced.
A placard at the march read: "ABVP and Police -- better love story than Twilight". The student holding it told IANS: "I am here to protest against the hooliganism of ABVP workers that gets the support of Delhi Police. I want the university to be free of their dirty politics."
"The other day we were just singing a song in the campus, and few people came to silence us," psychology student Priyamveda told IANS.
"Such is the scenario in the campus these days," said Priyamveda, adding she just wants her old DU back "where there is liberty to do what we want".
A communist teacher from JNU, who didn't want to be named, told IANS: "This is ABVP. More than a student wing, it is a group of hooligans. Saner elements should join them."
Delhi School of Economics student, Akshay Raghupathy was among those who were beaten up on February 22.
"I got beaten up by six ABVP workers. I have joined the march to raise my voice against the disturbances caused by them," he said.
A girl from Ramjas College said: "Many of my friends were beaten up by the police. There was so much fear of ABVP among them when they returned to their homes. This has happened in DU for the first time. I wish to convey that there is no space for violence here."
Hindu College student Tuhin Basu said the university wants and needs freedom of speech. "We are against this very essence of hypocrisy through the imposition of nationalism on us."