Delhi University’s Ramjas College was forced to call off a seminar on Tuesday after heated protests against an invite to Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students Shehla Rashid and Umar Khalid, who was accused of shouting anti-India slogans last year.
Members of the college student union and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), which owes allegiance to the RSS, disrupted the event even before Khalid reached the campus.
Khalid was invited by the college’s Literary Society to speak in the afternoon on a subject related to his PhD, which he is doing from JNU. His topic at the seminar was The War in Adivasi Areas.
But before he could reach the college, members of the Delhi University Students Union (DUSU) and ABVP arrived and protested. They met principal Rajendra Prasad and objected to Khalid’s participation at the event, titled Cultures of Protest.
Prasad told Hindustan Times that the two students’ lecture has been cancelled because of protests as well as advice from police that the situation could go out of hand.
The protesters allegedly threw stones despite police deployment.
“A large group of students had gathered near the venue and were shouting slogans of Vande Mataram and Bharat Mata Ki Jai,” said Vinita Chandra, an English teacher of the college.
She said some of the students unhappy with the slogans went out of the conference hall and held a “peaceful” counter-protest, and walked back in a while later.
“But before the second session was about to begin, electricity to the hall was switched off and stones came flying in. Window panes of the hall were broken. I wonder why police could not stop the protesters from throwing stones.”
The English department and the Literary Society had permission from the principal for the two-day conference. Teacher Chandra said the president of the college student union had also given the go-ahead.
Ramjas principal Prasad tried to reason with the protesting students that they should confront ideas, not people, and engage the other party in a dialogue.
“But we had to cancel their participation in view of the situation. Also, several colleges had denied permission to let Khalid speak at their campus events,” Prasad said.
As the protests turned bigger, Khalid had to be turned back.
“I was told ABVP is protesting against my talk. They are behaving like goons and doing whatever they want to,” he said.
Khalid, a former member of the ultra-radical Democratic Students Union (DSU), was arrested last year on charges of sedition for his role in organising a rally at JNU to commemorate the anniversary of the execution of 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.
Anti-national slogans were allegedly shouted at the event. Following his arrest, Rashid, then the vice president of the JNU union, emerged as the face of a stir, demanding the release of Khalid and fellow students jailed for the controversial event.
DUSU president Amit Tanwar justified the protest.
“These people shouted anti-national slogans on the JNU campus. They called for destruction of India. How can we let them speak in DU?” he said.