On Tuesday, a seminar at Ramjas College in New Delhi was cancelled after Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad members protested against the participation of Jawaharlal Nehru University students Umar Khalid (pictured above) and Shehla Rashid Shora.
The police had allegedly said they could not protect the seminar attendees, after which Khalid’s part of the seminar was cancelled. The ABVP’s efforts to stop Khalid, a key organiser of last year’s controversial Afzal Guru event at JNU, from speaking, and resistance from the college’s teachers and students led to a violent clash on campus. Stones were allegedly pelted at the conference room windows when organisers tried to hold the seminar in afternoon, without Khalid.
The talk was part of Ramjas College’s Literary Society and English department’s two-day seminar on “Cultures of Protest”. Umar Khalid was invited to speak on Tuesday and former JNU students’ union vice-president Shehla Rashid Shora, on Wednesday. Vinita Chandra, professor at the English Department, told Scroll.in, “The principal gave us permission after some hesitation but today [Tuesday] morning, we found some policemen asking students why their permission had not been taken.” She said the Ramjas students’ union president also sought permission to hold a peaceful protest. “We even asked him to join the seminar and speak there but they did not agree. By about 11.30 am, a large number of students gathered at the foyer and the sloganeering began.”
Chandra said around 200 to 300 students joined a separate protest and shouted Azadi slogans familiar from the JNU protests. “When we went in for lunch, the ABVP started attacking us,” said Chandra. The police finally managed to provide a safe passage out after about an hour and the group exited to chants of “Naxalwadi bhag jao” from the Right-wing.
Amit Tanwar, the Delhi University Students’ Union president from ABVP told Scroll.in, “Our members had gone to the principal yesterday [Monday] to complain about Umar Khalid’s participation and the principal said the programme had been cancelled.” He said the programme was slated to be held without permission and that the ABVP, which is affiliated to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh had a “silent march” after that. He denied that ABVP was involved in any violence or that they were present in large numbers. “It was ordinary students who protested,” he claimed, adding, “We do not want bad people who engage in anti-national activities on our campus.”
For a short while, seminar organisers had considered having Khalid participate through Skype. But that did not work out either due to the stone pelting. The Delhi University college has not yet decided if it will go ahead with Wednesday’s seminar.