On February 28, students of Delhi University boycotted their classes and gathered at the Faculty of Arts to protest against the communal violence in north-east Delhi, which has left over 42 people dead.
The slogan “ek aur danga dilli mein nahin sahenge (we will not tolerate another riot in Delhi)” rung in the air as students held a peace march, passing through Ramjas College, Daulat Ram College and Shri Ram College of Commerce.
When the violence broke out, on February 25, DU students – along with those from Ambedkar University, Jamia Millia Islamia and Jawaharlal Nehru University – had also gheroed Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s office demanding immediate action against those behind the violence. However, they were shot by water canons in return.
The next day, students boycotted their classes to march towards Lieutenant General’s residence and also held silent protests in their college premises.
Yesterday, students called for yet another boycott, and raised slogans against the politics of hate and inefficiency of the government.
The march also saw participation of some faculty members of DU.
“I am here in support of the protests against the growing violence in this country. Change will come only when the students remain mobilised and push back communal forces. I worry for my students from marginalised groups. Today, it’s the Muslims. Tomorrow it could be another community,” said Karen Gabriel, faculty member from the department of English at St Stephen’s College.
Ahaan* , a literature student, spoke about coming out on the streets, abandoning his privileges.
“I feel guilty that I didn’t speak up earlier. At a certain point, I felt guilty and ashamed almost as if I were a part of the attackers. We have failed on so many levels. Protesting is the easy part, the difficult part is to make structural changes which require a lot of thinking and introspection. Our privilege has blinded us. It’s absurd how we continue functioning normally while people are being murdered in broad daylight just kilometres away,” he said.
Reema*, a student from Manipur, shared her fear for being the next target if the identity-based violence continues unabated. “We don’t have a choice anymore,” she says. “I belong to a marginalised group. It scares me that I could be targeted next for my identity. If we don’t take a stand against this violence right now, it will repeat itself again in the future.”
Raniya Zuleikha, a political science student at Ramjas College and a member of the Fraternity Movement, recalled the night of February 25, when her friends were detained and beaten up by the police outside the CM’s office.
“The ‘normalcy’ we see right now is another face of fascism. Indians will unite against this fascism. Kejriwal won on Muslim, Dalit, and liberal votes but he remained silent when the violence broke out. Water canons were used on us when students gathered at his residence. Over 40 of my friends were detained and beaten up by the police. He [Arvind Kejriwal] should be out on the streets. I beg him to use his privilege because people are dying on the streets,” she said.
Students held placards mocking the Modi government and criticising the Delhi Police for their inaction.
Several placards and slogans called out the Delhi Police on their inefficiency during the violence. One of them read: ‘Delhi Police, khaki vardi phenk kar, khaki chaddi pehen lo (Delhi Police, replace your khaki uniform with khaki shorts)’
The march ended near the Vivekananda statue at the Faculty of Arts where students and teachers took turns to express their concern over the growing communal violence and the ruling government.
Jaishree Kumar is a poet, student-journalist, and a failed musician. She tweets @jaikumar7_
All images provided by the author
* names changed