Protest against Delhi university for barring two students for a year for screening BBC documentary

About 20-25 students have been detained at the Burari police station, a student body representative informed
Protest at DU over debarring two students | (Pic: Manik Gupta)
Protest at DU over debarring two students | (Pic: Manik Gupta)

As a repercussion, Delhi University (DU) debarred two students for a year for screening the controversial BBC documentary on Gujarat Riots. The move has not gone down well with the student community, which organised a mass sit-in protest today, March 24. However, the situation went further downhill with police appearing on the scene.

"Students gathered at Arts' Faculty against the arbitrary notice debarring two students have been brutally beaten, manhandled and detained," says Anjali, Secretary, DU unit of All India Students' Association (AISA). She tells that as the students started to speak on the "arbitrary" debarring notice, police, guards and CRPF personnel arrived and took the students away.

About 20-25 students have been detained at the Burari police station, the student informed. "We will not be silenced by such measures. To protect our campus democracy, dissent will continue until this notice is withdrawn," she added.

Speaking about what led to today's protest, DU AISA president Manik Gupta said they got to know about the students being debarred from media reports. "The university did not communicate anything in writing to the students. After the order was issued we went to the Proctor for clarification and submitted a memorandum, demanding that the action taken against the students be revoked," he said.

"Thrashing such punishment will not only be bad for the democratic environment of the campus but will also severely affect the concerned students," the document says. However, the Proctor did not listen to the students, they claim, but were told notices would be issued. the meeting took place on Tuesday, March 21 and the said notices were issued on March 22.

The students organised a protest march after this on the same day, in front of the Arts' Faculty, demanding that the notices be taken back. But when nothing such happened, they decided on the sit-in protest, which they had planned to continue indefinitely.

According to a report by PTI, various student groups screened the documentary on January 27. On March 17, DU took action against 8 students, including the two debarred students, Ravinder and Lokesh Chugh. The other six students were doled out a "less strict punishment", as mentioned in a memorandum issued by the university. Manik informs that these students were asked to submit apology letters to the administration.

Nonetheless, they are irked over the varsity's stand. "The documentary was not banned. As a democratic campus, students should be free to pursue any activity of their choice. Barring students is not just," the president says with concern. The student also raises questions about how the whole exercise was carried out.

"We went to meet the Proctor with Ravinder, but he was not recognised. How can a student be debarred and not recognised? It is a huge deal, after all! Next, the media reports quoted the university's statement that Ravinder belongs to Law. But he is a student of Philosophy!" Manik says in a distressed tone. 

Asked why action was taken against these particular students, he said, "I feel they were randomly chosen. I have spoken to Lokesh, who is a PhD scholar, and he asserts that he wasn't even present at the screening." The student body representative adds a committee was set up to look into the screening incident, but the inquiries were conducted by it in a highly arbitrary fashion.

With these instances, topped with today's detention incident, the students seem to be planning another protest. "AISA Calls upon students of DU to unite against the onslaught on dissent and democracy! Take back this draconian diktat," states a press release from DU AISA. Other student groups, including the Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS) and Students' Federation of India (SFI), have shown solidarity and condemned the university's stand.

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