Ten Questions to Gujarat Police: The curious case of Lathi Charge in Gujarat’s varsity

No action against Police despite thrashing students, manhandling faculty members and creating chaos in a prestigious academic institution of the country.

Vadodara: On the eve of Independence Day this year, when President Ram Nath Kovind was addressing the nation from the Lutyen’s Delhi, in another part of the country, innocent people were facing the brutalities of the nation-state. Yes, Vadodara from where PM Narendra Modi was elected by a margin of 5.7 Lakh votes.
TOI reported on the “Violence shames Sanskarinagari’s MSU campus.”
Students of All India Students Association (AISA) had staged a ‘dharna’ at the Sanskarinagari MSU campus in August after Nitin Barad’s nomination was rejected for the post of faculty general secretary (FGS,) in the faculty-level students association. The officials rejected the candidature on the grounds that as per the rules, if any student is found guilty by a disciplinary committee in the past, he or she is not eligible to contest in polls. But AISA supporters started protesting against the decision.
Dr. Dharmendra Shah, a teacher at Department of Botany, who is also a senate member, was also reportedly threatened by the cops. “I was only trying to placate the students. Suddenly, when I saw the cops rushing towards them, I tried to intervene,” Shah told TOI.
City police commissioner Anupam Singh Gehlot told TOI that police had tried to peacefully persuade students to vacate the premises. “As the students got aggressive, the additional police force was called in. Sayajigunj police inspector said that had the cops not intervened, the agitating students would have assaulted the dean,” Gehlot said, adding that he had sent DCP Deepak Meghani to the spot for inquiring into the matter.
On the same day, Ujjawal Krishnam, a student of MS University of Baroda and a team member of Sabrang India mailed Commissioner of Police, Vadodara City, demanding an explanation on the mishap. He didn’t get any response, the application reached Sayajigunj Police station after almost a month of the incident.

Ujjawal Krishnam investigated the incident and found serious lapses in the procedural methods. Here are some ten questions by Ujjawal Krishnam for the Gujarat State:
1. There is still no FIR against police and vigilance officers who physically tortured students with proof recorded on camera. I filed an application with CP on the same day [CP 220/18] but it took almost a month to process. What could be a reason? Why was I notified on September 10 whereas I had filed the complaint on August 14? Disturbing and suspicious!
2. No policeman was suspended despite their barbaric act. The reason given was that the police saved Dean of Science Faculty who could be attacked if they had not intervened. Was there any further investigation in the case? As per my investigation, the dean was sitting in his office and was quite safe while the students were protesting outside his office and were sitting on the ground. There was no chaos, CCTV camera records can be checked. So, was the statement given to justify the act of police?
3. Is permission required to express a dissenting voice? Does one need police permission to sing a dissenting song in their own house?
4. Who ordered the lathicharge? it is still unknown. The college concludes by 6 pm and the time of the protest was between 5:00 pm and 5:35 pm. Is it illegal to voice and practice free speech?
5. Two students who were brutally thrashed were Denish Kothadiya and Ashutosh Gupta. Ironically, the police made Denish write an apology letter saying that he was misbehaving with PI Haresh Vora but nothing like that happened. They are being pressurised now as I am actively following up the matter and so, PI is disturbed. I believe, PI is putting some pressure via his contacts so he can run scot free. Hence, this case must be investigated by retired Judge or a SIT where there will be no involvement of any close connection of Sayajigunj Police Station.
6. Ashutosh Gupta, who was seventeen at the time of incident can be seen in photos how he is being pulled and physically tortured. Police didn’t follow the Juvenile Act while dealing with him. No further investigation took place and no local child protection unit of state government took note of it.
7. University Senate member Dr Dharmendra Shah, who also happens to be a professor of Botany department, was mishandled by local PI. Why didn’t police take his official statement? He still stands by his words. Whatever the police did was unjustifiable.
8. AC Sharma, Dean, as per media reports, denied his appeal to police for the lathi charge. So, who gave the police this right? Why was there no FIR against vigilance officers who were also doing the same? Police should know that AC Sharma will not file any case against his own students. Police have no option left now except taking an internal action; CP has asked ACP ‘A’ division to report on the issue. The only accused now are those who committed this serious crime.
9. Why didn’t University administration penalise vigilance actions and file complaint against Sayajigunj police? Is there some internal understanding between the two?
10. This is clearly a severe human rights violation and pinpoints the need for police reform. Question remains, why was this case suppressed?

Shaukat Indori, Gujarat State Secretary of Association for Protection of Civil Rights(APCR) Gujarat says, “We will not let this issue go. If it has happened today, it can happen to someone else too. Police have to take strict actions against culprits.” Social activist Jitendra Chandwani adds, “People are angry and they want immediate action after the issue has resurfaced. We will drive a campaign and urge people to file independent complaints. We will soon send the briefing to Human Rights Commission, Governor of state and CM if commissioner fails to sack involved policemen. Ashutosh was a juvenile when he was tortured. His shirt was torn and he is still scared. None can save the police if this matter goes to court. The incident, truly, is beyond measure.”
“I have demanded the suspension or discharge of involved policemen and vigilance officers. All involved people should also apologise to victims. If state government and police department don’t follow it up and discharge the mentioned people, I will fight this case, our legal team has taken a note of it. I will be consulting my lawyers for further actions. We all are ready to approach the court and stand for the legal battle if internal police action is not immediately taken against the perpetrators. If the police department is defending the blots, there is nothing left in this democratic nation to feel less ashamed of,” Ujjawal said.
“I guess the commissioner is conscious enough. He being a top cop will not be inviting an unnecessary court reprimand on the issue and disrepute to the office by doing injustice to victims,” he said.
The questions put the integrity of the Gujarat varsity at stake. Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, the renowned institution of western India bears the name of Sir Sayajirao Gaekwad III, one of most illustrious leaders who gave India its own international bank, Bank of Baroda. This institution draws learners from various parts of the country. It appears that the university is a puppet in the hands of others. The real issue is the inaction of university administration and the reasons why the university administration didn’t even file a complaint against the police who assaulted their own students and teachers. This is disappointing and baffling.



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