Prof Haragopal and other activists had gathered to launch their Save Education Yatra in Hyderabad.

In a crackdown on activists, who were protesting at Gun Park in Hyderabad on Friday, the Telangana Police allegedly manhandled prominent activist and educationist Prof G Haragopal. The activists had gathered at Gun Park, under the banner of Save Education Committee and were planning to launch a national campaign ‘Save Education Yatra’ to ensure free education for all. The campaign also aimed to remind the ruling TRS of its promise of free education from kindergarten to postgraduation.

However, claiming that the gathering was illegal as they did not take prior permission, the Saifabad police allegedly manhandled the activists and forcefully bundled them up in vans. Visuals from the protest show professor Haragopal being pushed around by police, as they try to detain him. He then falls on to the ground before being picked up and shoved into the van. Few students were also reportedly injured during the scuffle.

The professor later was taken to Bollarum police station while others were let off. Others who have been detained include Prof Vishweshwar Rao and Prof Laxminarayana

Saifabad police Venkat Reddy said that the gathering was illegal and caused inconvenience.

“We did not register any case. The students didn’t let the police detain the activists, so we had to forcefully take them. No charges were filed against them. This is only preventive detention,” he said.

He further added that one girl, who had fainted during the commotion, is well and has gone to home.

Speaking to TNM, professor Haragopal, who has since been released, said, “The police did resort to rough treatment.” He said that the yatra was a 100-day national campaign, demanding the Centre to ensure that the poorest of poorest gets quality education for free.

The committee’s general secretary and prominent educationist Professor G Haragopal, the organisation’s President Professor Chakradhar Rao and Organising Secretary Professor Laxminarayan were among those held. The Telangana Police allegedly shoved and pushed Professor Haragopal and others who had gathered. The educationist reportedly fell when the police were trying to detain him and injured his knee. Those detained were taken to different police stations across the city.

“The system seems to be reaching an intolerant point,” Professor Haragopal said after being released from Bolarum station. “Detaining and arresting people who are peacefully gathering to express their discontent is the new normal that is being set in all over the country and Telangana is keeping pace with that new normal.” He pointed out that the organisation was 40 years old and its meetings have never been disrupted in such a manner.

Activist Sandhya who also took part in the protest said, “This is the first time that Professor Haragopal has been manhandled in this manner. Even under the Andhra regime, we didn’t face such brutality. Both the Centre and KCR government specifically have been attacking the educationists. This is really shameful. If civil rights activists don’t condemn it, it will be a shame.”

Professor Laxminarayan said the organisation had applied for permission at both the Saifabad police station and the police control room. The police, however, claimed they anticipated that the demonstrators would take out a rally, for which permission had not been granted. Those held were only taken into prevention custody, Venkat Reddy, a police officer at Saifabad police station.

The committee has been a vocal critic of the state government’s lack of efforts to recruit teachers at government schools, junior colleges and universities. It has been critical of rampant privatisation of education and the government’s policy of inviting foreign universities to set up campuses in the state, said Padmaja Shaw, a retired professor and journalist who is also a member of the committee.

Prof Haragopal works at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Hyderabad and is also a Visiting Professor at NLSUI in Bengaluru.