In an incident which bore a stark resemblance to the violence witnessed in the Patiala House Courts in New Delhi on February 15 and 17, a group of about 150 to 200 lawyers attacked a protest demonstration organised by Left parties, their affiliate student organisations and civil society and women rights activists in Allahabad on Thursday.
The attackers allegedly hurled abuses at the women and other protesters and assaulted them with sticks and rods, leaving many of them injured. The protest had been called to demand a fair probe into the Jawaharlal Nehru University incident and Rohith Vemula’s death, and to seek the release of JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar and other arrested students.
As part of the programme, for which prior permission had been taken from the town administration, members of six prominent Left parties – the Communist Party of India (Marxist), CPI, CPI (Marxist-Leninist), Socialist Unity Centre of India, Revolutionary Socialist Party and All India Forward Block – as also of the Students Federation of India, All India Students Association and All India Democratic Students Organisation, trade union leaders, women rights activists, civil society and academicians –had gathered to submit a memorandum to the president of India through the district magistrate.
However, at around noon, as the protesters began their peaceful gathering near the Allahabad collectorate, a group of 15 to 20 lawyers arrived at the spot and began accusing the assembled people of being pro-Pakistan and anti-national. They shouted “Vande Mataram”, “Go back to Pakistan” and “traitors” at them. Then, according to the district secretary of CPI(M) K.K. Pandey, some of these lawyers phoned their associates and soon about 150 to 200 lawyers gathered at the spot and attacked the protest with sticks and rods.
According to Rama Shanker Singh, a doctoral candidate at GB Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad, one of the trade union leaders, Avinash Mishra, sustained serious head injuries in the attack. Even the women were not spared by the lawyers and two of them, identified as PUCL district secretary Utpala Shukla and Prabha, were also injured. In her complaint to the police, Utpala said the culprits had used offensive and abusive language against the women and even threatened them with rape. Some other activists, including Jitendra, Ashutosh, Bhim Singh Chandel and K.K. Pandey, also suffered minor injuries.
A complaint was registered at the Colonelganj police station under IPC sections pertaining to attempt to murder, outraging the modesty of a woman and rioting. Later, a district official also reached the police station and received the memorandum which was to be submitted to the district magistrate.