A day after Panjab University saw its worst violence over the fee hike, the failure of Chandigarh Police to pre-empt the situation and take preventive action despite intelligence inputs is evident. Here’s how the police was caught on the backfoot:
The police knew about the plan of students to hold a protest against the 12.5% fee hike at vice-chancellor Arun Grover’s office in the heart of the campus at 9am yet it failed to deploy adequate number of cops. The violence began around 11am, giving the students enough time to assemble and scale up the protest.
The police sealed only the front gate of the vice-chancellor’s office at 10.30am but the students entered from another gate from the chemical engineering department that was unguarded barely 50 metres away.
The violence started when the students started forcing their way into the V-C office, demanding an audience with him. Only 50-odd cops were up against the surging crowd. They tried pushing them back from the stairs of the V-C office only to be targeted with stones. The stones were picked up from the landscaped parking area outside the V-C office. The students broke clay flower pots and targeted the security personnel, leaving 22 of them injured. Windowpanes of the V-C’s office were broken in the melee.
BACKUP ARRIVES LATE
The water cannon to disperse the protesters reached around 11.30am. Undeterred, the agitated students overpowered the cops and even snatched and broke their batons. Deputy superintendent of police Ram Gopal, who was leading the cops, was injured in the knee and was seen yelling at policemen hiding to escape the stone-throwing.
The cops later said that the orders to cane-charge the protesters should have come early as it could have prevented the stone-throwing. The protesters were tear-gassed around 12.30pm after which senior superintendent of police Eish Singhal arrived. By then the students fled to the adjoining chemical engineering department.
The police followed the protesters and went on an overdrive, rounding up every person, including three employees, near the vice-chancellor’s office.
The student leaders fled towards a hostel but were tear-gassed again. Forty of took shelter in a gurdwara on the campus at 1pm, hoping to escape the police that surrounded the building. After two hours of negotiations, all 40 surrendered and were taken into custody by 4pm.