Delhi Police on Monday came under severe criticism after a video, allegedly showing its officers roughing up students protesting the alleged suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula, became viral on the internet.
The students had gathered outside the RSS office at Jhandewalan in central Delhi on January 30 demanding justice for Rohith, the 26-year-old University of Hyderabad’s research scholar whose suicide last month triggered anger and protests among all across the country. The demonstration was organised by the Joint Action Committee For Social Justice.
The video, shared by students on social media, shows police officers cane-charging the protesting students. In the 1-minute clip, apart from the police, some men in plain clothes can also be seen beating them. A constable is seen dragging a female protester by her hair and pushing her down.
“Students were brutally beaten by police and people in civil dress who must be RSS people. We were peacefully leading a protest march but extreme force was used on us. Even girls were not spared and beaten up by male cops,” Shweta, a student of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), said.
Police denied allegations that students were roughed up by those in plain clothes.
“The protesters got violent and attacked police personnel. We had to resort to mild lathi charge. They were detained and later released. We will look into allegations against any particular officer,” a police officer said.
Another officer said that the protesters climbed two layers of barricades and later threw banners and posters at police personnel when they were stopped at the second line of barricades.
Two journalists, who have alleged that they were beaten up while covering the protest, claimed that the police action was “unprovoked”.
“I had gone to cover the protest and found myself being assaulted by members of Delhi Police who also shattered my camera. These policemen were aggressive, possibly because I was shooting pictures at the back of the rally,” one of the journalists, who was allegedly beaten up, was quoted as saying by PTI.
“Male personnel manhandled the female students, dragging and pushing them, scenes that I was about to capture with my camera. This was when the police attacked me,” he said.
He and a photojournalist, who was also covering the protest, claimed that their cameras were snatched away and later smashed by police.
The video has triggered sharp reactions from politicians and the common people alike.
AAP Delhi convener Dilip Pandey tweeted, “What a new low in Indian politics. Male cops beaten up female protesters, RSS workers too joined DP in this brutality (sic).”
Swati Maliwal, chief of Delhi Commission for Women, said the incident was “unacceptable” and questioned the absence of women constables to control the demonstration.
Bollywood actress Swara Bhaskar tweeted a video of the protest and said, “Shame on #DelhiPolice for beating peaceful protestors @ March 4 #JusticeForRohithVemula ! #DalitLivesMatter #shame (sic).”
(With PTI inputs)