New Delhi, (IANS) Joining a protest march of students and teachers here against what they called “bid to curb freedom of speech and expression in academic institutions”, the opposition parties on Saturday attacked the government accusing it of “fascist politics”.
They also assured the students of raising the issue in Parliament with increased intensity.
Hundreds of students and teachers walked from Mandi House towards Parliament in the national capital, raising slogans against alleged violence by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and its student body Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) on the campus.
They were stopped by police near Parliament Street Police Station.
The students were joined by CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI National Secretary D. Raja, Janata Dal Chief General Secretary and National Spokesperson K.C. Tyagi, Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj India Party and professors of Delhi University (DU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).
Mother of JNU student Najeeb Ahmed, missing since October last year, also joined the protest from Jantar Mantar.
D. Raja attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), saying these “fascists (BJP) never believed in democracy”. “It is our country and we have to fight against these fascist and dictatorial forces,” he said.
“They (BJP) have no respect for constitutional morality. We cannot expect it from ABVP and BJP. We will ask government what they want to do with the student community.
“You are not just students, you can vote. You have a right to decide who should rule. We will continue our fight against fascist forces for the sake of our country,” Raja said.
Yechury said this issue would be raised in Parliament. “Whatever you decide, it’s your right. No one can take it away from you. You are the future. You will have to decide tomorrow the kind of nation you want.”
Tyagi assured the students that their concerns would be raised in Parliament “more forcefully”.
Jawaharlal Nehru University student Umar Khalid, accused of seditious speech, also slammed the government, saying “fascist politics” was going on in the nation.
“Today, fascist politics based on lies is going on in the nation. M. Venkaiah Naidu (union minister) is saying they will bring ‘Azadi’ slogan under sedition law.
“These are the people who said why students indulge in politics, they should study. They should then first shut down their student wing ABVP,” said Khalid.
“The government does not have any problem with politics, but they just can’t tolerate politics of resistance, politics of dissent,” he said.
“If they take away our rights, we will indulge in politics. We have our differences. If we don’t unite, we won’t survive. If we do, they won’t,” Khalid said addressing the students.
Incidentally, the violence at Ramjas college on February 22 had erupted following the forced-suspension of an event to be addressed by Khalid.
The students present at the protest said the February 22 incident was not a clash between two groups “but an attack by ABVP activists on students and teachers”.
Abinash, a student of Ramjas and one of the organisers of the seminar where Khalid was invited, said he finds it difficult to “recount how we were beaten, slapped and how stones were pelted on us”.
“It was an attack, not a clash. Ramjas has now become a militarised zone. I could never understand why would teachers be attacked.”
The ABVP activists had “tried to kill us” for indulging in a dialogue, Abinash said.
“I see the perpetrators of violence in the same space every single day. It’s harrowing,” he added.
Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav said this was not a matter only of Ramjas College or Delhi University but a “fight for the very idea of university”.
He added that the fight was also against those who were “trying to hijack our nationalism of uniting people and turning it into nationalism of dividing them”.
“We can’t win this fight against such a big lie through half-truths. The whole truth is that the onslaught on universities started in the era of Congress and Left parties.
“If we have to fight for the autonomy of our universities, we will have to fight wholeheartedly. We should show them that we are ready to invite our opponents to debate with us in whatever space we have,” Yadav said.
JNU Professor Nivedita Menon said the ABVP was upset and indulging in violence because it was afraid of the voice of the students.
“They are afraid because they are the dissenters, not us. We, who believe in peace, are the mainstream voice of the nation. Those who indulge in violence and fear the power of thought are the dissenters.
“We won’t let them win at any cost… We are the ones who will preserve the nation’s values and her freedom through democratic means,” she said.
Najeeb Ahmed’s mother, who had voluntarily joined the protest, asked the student community to show the same support for her son and remind the government about him whenever it starts forgetting him.
The peaceful march was part of a series of protests being organised by different student organisations in the wake of the February 22 violence at Ramjas College.
Clashes had erupted at the college between two student bodies after the ABVP forced suspension of an event to be addressed by Umar Khalid.