Dear Journalists, Please be Objective; Acknowledge that the ABVP Was More Violent at the Ramjas Protest

I was amazed at the extent to which almost all media houses misrepresented certain basic facts while reporting the events at Ramjas on 22 February and the days following. Here are certain instances:

Fact 1. The Seminar “Cultures of Dissent” at Ramjas College was organised by the Literary Society of Ramjas College and the Department of English.

Fiction: This was an Umar Khalid event.

The seminar included several speakers on several issues. Umar Khalid was one of them. It is the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) that can’t see beyond the name Umar Khalid. When the media calls it an “Umar Khalid event”, it sees the event in the same way as the ABVP does. Neither does it interrogate the need for holding such an event, nor does it raise questions about freedom of speech in the university.

What can be an alternate headline? An example from The Wire:

“ABVP Disrupts, Vandalises Literary Event at Ramjas College”

Fact 2. The protest against the cancellation of the talk at Ramjas College was called under the banner of “Save DU”. It was a joint, non-partisan march by students and teachers who wanted to march from Ramjas College to Maurice Nagar Police Station.

Fiction: The protest against the cancellation of the talk at Ramjas College was called by All India Students' Association (AISA).

Neither was the march called by the CPI (ML) affiliated students’ organisation All India Students’ Association (AISA), nor was it led by them. It is true that members from AISA were present, and articles can and must speculate the role the group may play in the upcoming DUSU elections. But several protestors came from colleges which are not affiliates of DUSU. Besides this, students and members of other political groups in the campus, such as Pinjra Tod, too, were present. In fact, ABVP beat up the Students' Federation of India (SFI) Delhi state President so badly that he has fractured his right hand and broken a tooth. To make the protest an AISA versus ABVP one, delegitimizes the moot cause: the question of freedom of speech in a university campus. It is not that the speakers who were invited at the Ramjas seminar agree with each other. They were there to debate, discuss, disagree with their panelists, or with the audience.

Fact 3. The Delhi police was biased in its approach. ABVP was more violent.

Fiction: Both sides suffered casualties.

Please, let us put a stop to this nonsense. Stones, bricks, glass bottles and eggs were thrown from the ABVP side. The Delhi police did form a human barricade. But what happens to stone pelters in India? Surely, all stone pelters are equally punishable under the eyes of the law, but some stone pelters are more equal than others. I am not suggesting that the Delhi police should have used pellet guns, but one set of people receive pellet injuries, another is let scot free. Equality, everyone?

Fact 4. In a video, we (Indian Writers’ Forum) claimed that the reporter was beaten by the ABVP. Several asked, prove they are from the ABVP. I provide three visual evidences.

A photograph in The Hindu where I am shown filming a scuffle:

Photo by Shiv Kumar Pushpukar/ Image courtesy: The Hindu

A news report in NDTV. The incident is filmed from 00:25 – 00:30. Click here to watch.

A news report from India Today where the same incident is filmed: Click here to watch

Footage that has been recovered from our broken camera. Click here to watch.

I filmed the entire time from the side of the students and teachers. No one touched me. In fact, when I tried to go to the other side and film some bits from the other angle, individual police officers requested me to stay put, saying that it was likely I might get thrashed again.

As I had explained before, facts can be examined. And I lay bare the facts of the case. The following narrative emerges from these facts:

It is time to call a spade a spade. The ABVP side was violent. The protestors showed as much restraint as possible. Journalists, professors, students have been beaten up. We can all come to a consensus that this is not how a university functions.

This article was first published on Indian Cultural Forum




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