Had he not committed suicide, Rohith Vemula would have turned 27 on 30 January . The protest outside the RSS headquarters on that day was aimed at demanding justice for Rohith.
That was also the day Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948 by Nathuram Godse
Student groups from across the country decided to march till the Delhi headquarters of RSS, which some of these groups claimed was responsible for the death of both these men.
However, the Delhi police and some civilians thrashed these protestors, who weren’t more than 200 in number. Some eye-witnesses say that these “civilians” are members of the RSS.
A photojournalist working withCatch was also assaulted.
Horror stories from the protest site are still pouring in, even 2 days after the incident.
Below is a first person account of Sanghapali Aruna, a PhD student at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) who was also assaulted by the police. A video shot by her, of a student being mercilessly slapped and kicked by Delhi police constables, has gone viral over the internet.
According to the letter we had submitted to the police, we had to march from Ambedkar Bhawan towards the Keshav Kunj, the RSS headquarters in Jhandewalan. But as we began approaching our destination, the police blocked all roads leading to Keshav Kunj.
We tried to reach this place through alternative routes. We had walked a couple of kilometers, when I heard someone shouting. As I reached the place, I saw several policemen beating students, some of them even using lathis.
When such protests happen, my responsibility is usually to document and shoot videos, and this was what I was doing during this protest as well.
I saw 4 policemen surrounding a student and thrashing him — that’s the ratio in which the police action took place.
Almost every student who had come there to protest was being slapped, kicked and pounded with police lathis.
There were also two men in plainclothes who were taking turns to thrash the student protesters.
I have attended some protests and I know that 2-3 policemen in civilian clothes are always present, perhaps just to observe the protest from a distance.
But this day these “civilians” also joined the police in assaulting the protestors. The police didn’t even try to prevent this “civilians” from thrashing other people.
Then at some point I shouted at them to stop beating the poor students, none of whom were indulging in any violence.
As soon as I shouted at them to stop the assault, 2 things happened.
First, one of the 2 “civilians” got even more incensed and threw an iron rod at one of the students. The second thing was that the policemen turned towards me and began pushing me around and tried to seize my camera.
When I tried to protect my camera and they couldn’t reach it, they tried to hit it. The clip that has gone viral is what happened just before the policemen came towards me.
One student Jitendra Suna intervened when some policemen were beating a boy. He tried to convince the police to let the boy off. The police then turned to this boy and slapped him. And then someone hit him from behind. He eventually received 4 stitches on the head.
What amazed me about the whole incident was that even though female police constables were around, they just sat back and watched. The assault and lathi-charge was mostly carried out by male policemen. I saw a woman being slapped right in front of me by a male police constable.
We have been thinking of filing an official complaint. We haven’t done it so far because we don’t want to overshadow the bigger tragedy that is Rohith’s death. But we are contemplating filing a case soon.
What this incident has shown me is a glimpse of the might of the state and what it can do to people who try to change the current state of affairs.
As told to Suhas Munshi
Edited by Aditya Menon