The two versions of the Ramjas college violence: Umar Khalid and ABVP's Saurabh Sharma clash on facts

A year after the 9 February event in JNU, campus unrest is back in news. Read both sides of the story.

A year after the infamous 9 February incident in JNU campus that led to three students being charged with sedition, student politics in Delhi is back in news. But this time campus unrest has spilled over from JNU to a Delhi University college.  While some students claim prohibitory orders under Section 144 have been imposed in North Campus following reports of violence in Ramjas college, Delhi Police has denied it.  But how did the situation come to be so bad? Well, the culprits are old — Left affiliated All India Student’s Federation (AISA) and RSS backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). The current ruckus in Ramjas college is an offshoot of the same ideological war that ravaged JNU campus last year.

AISA leader Shehla Rashid, ex JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid emerged as lasting names of student’s politics from this ideological struggle churning in JNU. Kanhaiya and Umar are currently out on bail. They were arrested on charges of  sedition for allegedly shouting anti-India slogan at an event to commemorate the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, last year. The events had triggered a nation-wide students’ protest raising questions like – whether under the BJP rule students’ politics and the right to dissent was under threat, whether ABVP’s on campus actions had the backing of BJP.

Ever since Kanhaiya and Umar came out of jail, along with Rashid, their prominence in student’s politics has only increased. In fact, it was Rashid’s and Umar’s presence in an event in Ramjas college invited the wrath ABVP.

Th trigger for the ongoing AISA-ABVP conflict that is being flashed on national television  is a rather innocuous event titled ‘The culture of protest’ organised by Ramjas students. What angered ABVP students is the fact that along with documentary filmmaker Sanjay Kak and professor Bimol Akeijam,  Umar Khalid was invited to speak as one of the panelists. He was to speak on “The Adivasi Areas” which the ABVP students interpreted as “he is going speak in favour of Naxalism”. According to them Umar Khalid — out on bail shouldn’t be allowed to speak at Delhi University events.

ABVP students locked the seminar room of Ramjas and reportedly resorted to stone pelting and later celebrated the cancellation of the event with sloganeering. Today, when AISA took out a protest march another bout of violence broke out. Reporters from different news organisations were allegedly attacked by ABVP “goons”. However, ABVP has denied charges of violence. “We don’t resort to stone pelting. These anti-nationals have learnt stone pelting from Kashmir. We don’t do such things,” was ABVP member and and ex JNUSU joint secretary Saurabh Sharma’s response to questions to allegations of violence by ABVP cadre. He also says that AISA should not make a hue and cry about the cancellation of Umar’s event. “They didn’t allow Baba Ramdev to enter JNU, why are they crying victim when we block ‘anti-national’ Umar Khalid,” says Sharma.

In it’s latest press release ABVP has claimed that it was AISA students who did the violence.

“It’s a shame that the communists once again resorted to their cheap tactics based on creating media spectacle. These shameless creatures pelted stones at innocent audience in Ramjas college yesterday. They followed up by repeated acts of violence today. People like Umar Khalid are spearheading such mob violence which must be met with seriously by the police. Those involved in encouraging such violence should be booked immediately.”

Students from the other camp have been incessantly posting instances of ABVP’s alleged goodaism in campus.

shehla umar-2 umar

You can watch a video glimpse of the incident yesterday.

We spoke to both Umar and Saurabh to get their versions of the story and asked whether the students’ politics was taking a violent and ugly turn.

Here is the transcript of interviews.

Interview with Saurabh Sharma

What happened yesterday?

Umar Khalid was called to an event at Ramjas college along with a JNU professor and a journalist/documentary filmmaker. Basically the event was organised to discuss Naxalism.

No, the topic of the talk was “Culture of protests”

No the word ‘Naxal’ was mentioned. In fact, he doing his Phd in Naxalism. (Fact check: Omar was speaking on Adivasi movements. The word Naxalism wasn’t mentioned anywhere. Not that it makes any difference )

So, what’s the problem in that? 

No no. We don’t have any problem. Many people are doing their Phd on RSS as well.

So, what’s your problem with Umar? 

No we don’t have any problem with Umar. The common students of Ramjas had a problem with him. And professors of Ramjas had a problem with Umar Khalid. They said Umar Khalid had already brought bad name to JNU and now they are doing the same to Delhi University colleges as well.

Did they come to you with these complaints? 

No, they went and spoke to the Principal of the college.

Yeah, so you should have let the principal deal with the situation instead of butting in with your protests? 

No, the principal didn’t even know that any such talk was to happen in the Ramjas campus. He came to know after the student’s complained.

So, did the principal have a problem with the event?

No, but the common students were against it.

So you are saying ABVP doesn’t have any problem with Umar Khalid?

Of course we have a problem with him. We will not let a person like him who raises slogans like “bharat ke tukre tukre kar denge” to speak anywhere. (When confronted that it is still for the court to decide whether they really raised the slogans, Sharma said he was an eye-witness of the 9 Feb event and he was sure about his facts.)

So how did the protests happen?

We are against the event. And what hue and cry are they raising over it. They are talking about freedom of speech. Didn’t they stop Baba Ramdev from stopping entering JNU politics. And Baba Ramdev and Umar Khalid can’t even be compared. He is a Yoga Guru.

And what about the violence? 

No, it was AISA students who resorted to violence. They have learnt the art of stone pelting from Kashmir. We didn’t do anything.

So many accounts of journalists being attacked by ABVP are doing the rounds.

You know how biased media can be. Aisa students might have beaten them up mistaking them for ABVP students.

You just said a while back that even AISA doesn’t allow your events. So, basically it’s about revenge. That they don’t let us organise our events, so we will not let theirs happen. Is this where student’s politics in India headed and do you want to be part of such vindictive politics where violence is a norm?

First of violence is the weapon of the communists. We never do it. And what student’s politics are you talking about. Why should we have such people in student’s politics who protest against the “judicial killing of Afzal Guru” or for that matter call for “Bharat ki barbaadi” (Same old, same old)



Interview with Umar Khalid (As spoken to Zainab Ahmed)

What happened yesterday?
Delhi University’s Ramjas College organised a two-day long seminar “Cultures of Protest”, which had to be cancelled after ABVP members protested against the participation of Jawaharlal Nehru University students, Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid. They said court has found me guilty so I shouldn’t be participating in the seminar. But the reality is that no chargesheet has been filed against me, forget the court finding me guilty!

Did you attend the seminar?
Even after knowing that I face threats from a lot of people, Delhi Police refused to provide protection to me or for that matter anyone and warned the organisers that they would not be able to provide protection to those attending the seminar. They also said that the organisers will be held responsible if anything happens to anyone.

What happened today? Why did AISA protest?
It wasn’t AISA which protested. In fact, it was a common students’ teachers march against whatever happened yesterday. However, ABVP, like always, resorted to violence.

Don’t you think student politics is now all about ABVP vs the left parties?
Students’ movement these days is between those who are fighting “for democracy and against democracy”. And not just democracy but also against higher education. ABVP is the privileged sinister that is enjoying a good support from our government.

But why so much of violence?
Ek tarfa violence hai. Sarkar aur ABVP violence karti hai. We protest logically, not violently. Apni baat karte hain par hatha payi nai karte. Na hi Jhut ki Rajneeti karte hain.

(With inputs Zainab Ahmed and Sagrika Kissu)