Published: 19th November 2019
What Delhi Police told JNU's blind poet-student during assault: Andha hai toh protest mein kyun aaya?
Shashi Bhushan Pandey is no stranger to lathicharges. He has been protesting for students' rights and rights for the specially-abled right from school. He had gone viral for his singing and poetry
Shashi Bhushan Pandey, one of the students from Jawaharlal Nehru University protesting against the hostel manual and fee hike, was beaten with batons and lathis, thrown on the ground, punched and kicked even after he repeatedly told the Delhi Police that he was blind. The police then asked him to run for his life but continued to hit him from behind.
Shashi, who is also a poet and goes by the pen name Samad, has a question for the police — were they dispersing students or hitting terrorists? What was the need to be so brutal?
Shashi is no stranger to lathicharges. He has been protesting for the students' rights and rights for the specially-abled right from the time he was in school. "I have been lathicharged in Gorakhpur, my native place, in Banaras when I was studying History at Banaras Hindu University but what they did yesterday was brutal. My friends had formed a human chain around me when the police started lathicharge. But the Delhi Police hit them, pulled them away and dispersed them. Once they caught hold of me and started hitting me with batons I told them that I was blind but they kept hitting me. 'Andha hai toh protest mein kyun aaya?' (Why did you come to a protest if you are blind?) They asked and then threw me to the ground and kicked and punched me," recounted Shashi who was later taken to the AIIMS Trauma Centre by his friends. "Then they let me go and asked me to run off. But as soon as I tried to move away from them they hit my legs with a baton and I fell. My friends had come to my rescue by then. I was traumatised by the brutality with which they were hitting the students," added Shashi.
Reciting poetry at an event
The Delhi Police had allegedly lathicharged the students protesting outside the Jawaharlal Nehru University, near the Jor Bagh Metro Station. Over two thousand students were there at the time along with Shashi. The incident took place a little after 7.30 pm. Shashi recounted Monday's horror but also added that the mindset towards the specially-abled needs to change. "Prime Minister Modi named us Divyang and people started applauding. This just alienates us from the public. That's all. When he comes and gives us mobiles people see that as a noble deed but no one cares to see if the blind person is able to use it or not," he added.
The JNU Visually Challenged Students Forum condemned the attitude of the Delhi Police towards the peaceful march of the JNU students demanding accessible and affordable education for all. "We have observed that the Delhi police has grossly violated the democratic right of protest for the affordable and accessible education of students with disability. The students with disability have been brutally thrashed by the Delhi police during their peaceful participation in the march. The JNU Visually Challenged Students Forum strongly condemns the insensitive and ableist attitude shown by the actions of the police, which does not regard it a democratic right of students with disability to protest and raise demands for accessible and inclusive higher education. We call for the inclusive mode of protest for all," said a statement from the forum. "We demand an apology from the Delhi Police and the need for sensitisation of the Delhi Police towards the basic human rights of demanding inclusive and accessible education for all. Therefore, we are also holding a peaceful protest against the Delhi Police from tomorrow at 2 pm," it further added.
Released from the hospital close to midnight, Shashi is set to join the students for today's protests as well. "I need to be there. I will fight for my education. I fund my own studies. My poetry pays for my Master's studies in Modern History in JNU. I won't be able to survive the fee hike," he added. Shashi had become an online sensation overnight when a video of him singing one of Pakistani poet Habib Jalib's ghazals. He now hosts a weekly programme on shayaris for one of the online media outlets. He is also an accomplished poet himself.