The same day at 10.30
a.m. Sunil Kumar Mohanto lodged a complaint of loss of goods at the Maurice
Nagar Police Station. In his complaint Mohanto says that original papers
of five persons with vision impairment, Rs.40,000/- belonging to the Progressive
Welfare Forum of the Blind (PWFB), two gas cylinders, two gas stoves,
the tent, 120 blankets, clothes, and other personal goods of persons sitting
on dharna and relay hunger strike, were missing. Mohanto in his complaint
asked for police help in retrieving the lost goods and tent from the university
authorities and pitching of the tent at the venue of dharna. As the police
showed no inclination to restore status quo he called the members and
supporters of Progressive Welfare Forum for the Blind to hold a meeting
to chalk out future course of action.
The team also visited
the Maurice Nagar Police Station to meet the Investigating Officer, Mr.
Manoj Kumar Tyagi on 11.01.2002 and thereafter tried to contact him on
phone. However, in spite of our repeated attempts the team was not able
to contact him.
In the meeting, they
sought 15 days time for discussions. On the 16th day, they again called
Sunil Mohanto. He was told that there is ban on fresh recruitments; and
hence their main demands could not be met. Mohanto says that he showed
them the Ministry of Finance, Department of Expenditure (E-Coord. (l))
branch letter dated, 21st June 2000, saying that it has been decided to
exempt the vacancies to be filled up by the persons with disabilities
from the applicability of ban order cited above. He also showed them a
letter given by Professor S.K. Sinha, (on 26.08.1996) the then Dean, Students
Welfare Delhi University assuring them to fulfill the promises made by
the University authorities as soon as possible. However, the University
authorities ceased all negotiations with them. The PWFB intensified their
struggle by resorting to relay hunger strike (from 27.10.02) and blocking
the road in the campus. During 65 days of their dharna and relay hunger
strike the Vice Chancellor never thought it important to talk to them.
On enquiry they were told that they are there for the security of the tent. These people started dismantling the tent on 22nd December around 6.30 a.m., injuring five of its occupants. In his complaint to the police, Mohanto says that original papers of five persons with vision impairment, Rs.40000/- belonging to PWFB, two gas cylinders, two gas stoves, the tent, 120 blankets, clothes, and other personal goods of persons sitting on dharna and relay hunger strike there were seized by the University authorities. Mohanto in his complaint asked for the police help in retrieving the goods and tent from the university authorities and pitching of the tent at the venue of dharna. However, Mr. S.C. Sharma, the Estate Officer denied the charges. He told the team that all the protesters voluntarily left the tent. However, in the zeal of explaining his and the University's 'sympathetic' attitude towards them he confessed that one of the protestors had complained of the loss of his flute, which was traced and given to him. Similarly another protester had complained of loss of his original certificates etc. The envelope containing these original papers, it was claimed, was traced and given to him. This narration of the Estate Officer proved that force was used to evict the protestors.
Thus, the protesters' charge that they were forced to leave the dharna site (in under garments) was correct. They were not even allowed to wear their clothes and shoes, laments Mohanto. At 10:00 a.m., he along with members of All India Students Association went to Maurice Nagar police station to lodge an FIR. He requested police help for retrieval of the tent and other goods and also the pitching of the tent at the dharna site. Additionally, the MLC of the injured had to be done. However, the SHO, expressed her helplessness. She did not agree to come to the dharna site and instead sent one of her Constable Mr. Razaak to the dharna site. Disparate, Mohanto called all the members and sympathizers of PWFB to come for a meeting to plan future course of action. As the members, friends, and sympathizers assembled at Patel Chest they were surrounded by the police.
From Patel Chest, they started proceeding towards Khalsa College. At Khalsa College bus stop, in Ring Road, police had put barricades and started beating and arresting them. He added that police was fully prepared and had come with photographers and video films etc. He further added that there was no lady police in the initial stages. AISA member, Uma Choudhary, also confirmed this. Male policemen escorted even the women students to police jeep. These male policemen were improperly handling the women protesters. Mohanto, Nitin, Vikas and Ravi were taken to Maurice Nagar police station where they were beaten up. Mohanto alleged that Manohar Lal, Head Constable had his head bandaged while he was beating them up at the police station. Even the photo attached in the charge sheet has his head bandaged. But in the media reports, the police have claimed that Manohar Lal was seriously injured during the confrontation with the protestors and admitted to the ICU. From Maurice Nagar police station, Mohanto and others were taken to the Civil Lines police station. Mohanto says that at Civil Lines police station, SHO Surinder Singh told him that the police was planning this whole exercise since 9:00 a.m. in the morning.
A large number of
visually impaired students who had come to attend the meeting called by
Sunil Mohanto were taken aback at this change of events. The police snatched
away their sticks and dumped them all in police vans and took them to
Timarpur police station. There, they were kept the whole day without water,
food, tea, or snacks. They were not even allowed to contact their friends
or lawyer. However, the policemen at the station assured them, that they
would be let off. According to Gabbar Singh, Vijay Gupta, and Kishan Pal
of Panchquinya Andh Mahavidyalaya there was a phone call from Maurice
Nagar police station around 4:00 p.m., after which, the police personnel
started filing charges against them. They were booked U/s 308, 144, and
184 of Indian Penal Code. Around 7:00 p.m. they were taken to Tis Hazari
Court and produced before the magistrate where the police read the charges
against them. They were not allowed any legal aid.
Ram Prasad, narrating his jail experiences told that, all the protestors were made to surrender their sticks, spectacles and money at Tis Hazari Court itself. While all their belongings were recorded there was no mechanism to ensure that the recording was accurate. Nobody even read out to them what was recorded in the paper. Deprived of their sticks, their mobility was seriously restricted. In Tihar jail both the toilets and bathrooms are situated in one remote corner and one had to walk long distance to reach there. Without sticks or escort, meeting the call of nature became an uphill task for these visually impaired. Further, water is a scarce commodity there. For latrine, water is stored in earthen pots. If the pots got emptied water had to be carried from the tap, which is in another corner.
Naturally, the visually impaired could not find the tap at a distant place by themselves. Nor could they carry water without the help of their stick. Without stick, without guide, in unfamiliar sanitary systems, and environment, the visually impaired often incurred the wrath of other fellow prisoners, as they could not be very accurate in using the W.C. and inadvertently spoiled the place. Same was the problem with drinking water. In barracks the prisoners sleep in rows whereas the water pitcher is kept in one of the corner. Without stick or guide the visually impaired could not reach the pitcher without stepping on other prisoners.
The situation became
worse after January 1st, 2003 when members (with vision) of AISA got bail
and came out. The visually fit could use the library facilities to read
or could play in the open field. But for the visually impaired there is
no Braille or cassette library in Tihar jail. According to the jail rules
every day between 6-11am and between 3 to 6 pm one could go in the open.
Deprived of their sticks they were not able to go to the open ground also
because the ground had trees and poles and the visually impaired did not
know the actual location of these trees or poles and they feared that
they might hurt themselves.