Pune: Twelve students of the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) were arrested by the police on Saturday after a fight broke out between two groups over violence by activists of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in Ramjas College, Delhi. The arrested students include seven from the RSS-affiliated ABVP and five of the Students Federation of India (SFI) over posters being put up in the University area. Police arrested the students following FIRs filed by both the groups.
Students belonging to the SFI were putting up banners walls near the university canteen late evening on Friday when they were abused and assaulted by a group of about 25 ABVP activists. The SFI members then retaliated, sources said. The area near the canteen is full of posters and banners put up by both groups. SFI slogans read “Protest against the ABVP goons who beaten up professors in Ramjas” and “People are scared despite being in power”. The ABVP posters countered with “Get rid of communists who are against the nation”.
Nasir Shaikh of the SFI said, “We were planning a protest meeting on February 27 and have received permission from the university administration and also the police. We wanted to express solidarity with students and professors at Ramjas College who were beaten up by ABVP for organising the program Culture of Protest.”
“In November last year, the state government had taken a decision to shut down a polytechnic college in Solapur. Students who were protesting against the decision by texting state education minister Vinod Tawde were told that the college would be shut down.” He added, “Sometime ago, a BJP MLA Prashant Pracharak had recently made a derogatory remark about army wives.”
“We wanted to protest against these events. And hence we were putting posters at the university campus. At that time, 20-25 ABVP activists, most of them were not students, and came from outside and began tearing apart the banner and assaulted us with stocks, etc. This is no way to oppose someone.”
However, Pradip Gawade, an ABVP secretary in Pune, refuted these claims. “The SFI members are lying that we tore their posters or beat them. On Friday morning, we held a protest rally condemning the decision of the students of Ramjas College to invite Umar Khalid and also burnt his effigy. During our protest, members of SFI abused us and raised slogans criticising ABVP. They tore apart posters we were distributing. They also tried to beat us.”
He alleged that SFI activists were supporters of terrorism and Naxalism, and refuted the charge that any outsiders had entered the campus and assaulted SFI activists.
The university has constituted a committee to enquire into the matter, according to W.V. Gade, vice-chancellor of SPPU, and added that serious action would be taken against anyone found guilty. “A university allows the right of free expression for everybody. They can protest without hurting others. But beating up each other over a difference of opinion is unfortunate.”
University sources said that after the state government passed the Maharashtra Public University Act in December 2016 (allowing elections to students unions that were banned 20 years ago), there were fears that clashes between student groups would increase. The first round of elections are due in May and June. Meanwhile, security on the university campus has been increased.