As Sri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) extended the red carpet to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, the Left faction of Delhi University (DU) rose in protest. SRCC had invited Modi to deliver the keynote speech at their undergraduate management festival.
The invitation sparked an outrage with hundreds of students and teachers gathering to protest his visit near the SRCC College gates with party flags and placards amid heavy police presence. Modi’s alleged role in the Gujarat riots and the belief that the visit was an attempt to manipulate the 2014 election campaign seemed to be the main causes of anger.
“India is a secular country and we want a secular leader,” said a student of Arts faculty. “Development in Gujarat is just one side of the picture. On the other side, we have riots and communalism. And, it’s not like the state has developed only because of Modi”, said Garima Singh, another student.
The protest was led mainly by parties such as the All India Students’ Association, the Students’ Federation of India and the Krantikari Yuva Sangathan.
Placards with slogans such as ‘Communal Modi get lost’ and ‘condemn the SRCC student union’ did the rounds, even as students and teachers voiced ‘Modi pe halla bol’. The protest was an attempt to block Modi’s entry to the university campus.
When the protesters tried to push the barricades and charge ahead, the police lathicharged them and fired a few rounds from water cannons. Many among those lathicharged were girls.
“We had deployed three companies comprising over 200 personnel. Since the protesters were trying to storm the barricades, we had to use water cannons, but that didn’t last for more than 40 seconds. Five protesters were detained and later released,” said Sindhu Pillai, Deputy Commissioner of Police (North).
There were some Modi supporters, with the National Democratic Teachers’ Front (NDTF) carrying placards welcoming the leader. “He is an elected chief minister and has been invited by a DU college. Why should there be a protest against his visit? What about freedom of expression?”said AK Bhagi, NDTF general secretary.
Scuffles broke out between the anti- and pro-Modi groups in the crowd. The police had to intervene to bring the situation under control.