PUCL Bulletin, April 2003

Delhi University students protest police brutality

-- By Namami, Vijaya, And Manasi (Students of Delhi University)

To protest against the brutal and inhuman treatment meted out to the Dharna of the Progressive Welfare Forum of the Blind (PWFB), a seminar on 'Human Rights In Delhi University' was held at Tagore Hall in Delhi University (DU). The Vice Chancellor, the Pro Vice Chancellor, Dean Students' Welfare, Dean of Colleges, and the area DCP and ACP were invited to present their respective positions on Human Rights in the University, on 21st January 2003.

However none of Delhi University officials could find time to attend the seminar. Ms. Vimlesh Yadav, S.H.O. Maurice Nagar represented the police department. Among the main speakers were representative students and teacher groups who have been functioning as watchdogs of human rights in DU. Mr. D.N. Kalia Member, Academic Council, presided over the seminar. Sunil Kumar Mohanto, General Secretary of Progressive Welfare Front for the Blind (PWFB) gave a verbatim account of his movement to get relevant provisions of Persons With Disability Act implemented in Delhi University since 17th of October 2002, when an indefinite dharna was started in support of this demand. He also narrated in detail the oppressions the visually impaired agitators had been facing since 22nd December 2002, when the Delhi University authorities dismantled the tent that had been pitched by Sunil Mohanto's organization. A detailed description is given in the PUCL-DU report titled Jailed for Demanding Implementation of Law, which was presented by Sarfaraz.

Uma Gupta from All India Students Association (AISA) told the house that the police first arrested visually normal persons, which frightened the visually impaired. She alleged that the Vice Chancellor is not talking to them because he is guilty. Uma Gupta further accused the police of misguiding the media. She said that the charge sheet which has photographs of the students do not show students engaged in violence against the police. Police is also blamed for projecting the sticks used by the visually impaired as weapons. (In Tihar jail, the authorities put the visually impaired in immense difficulties by taking these sticks away.) Uma added that the authorities are snatching away the right to agitate and resolved her organization's determination to take back this right. Suryakant, one of the arrested persons who was on dharna at the time of dismantling of the tent said that on the night of 21st December 2002 the toilets were closed for them and they had no alternative but to manage till morning. Early in the morning at 6:00 am the police force started pulling and beating up other boys sleeping there.

They made them take off their clothes and footwear and beat them up and told them to run away from there. In that condition he went to Sunil Mohanto's house and from there to police station and finally to Khalsa College where police arrested him along with others. At police station, he was again beaten up because the police recognized him from the dharna. He was kept in Tihar jail without any footwear. When he was released on bail, another prisoner lent him a pair of chappals, which he wore on the Seminar day too. Ramprasad, another eyewitness to the incident of 22nd December said that he had just come after taking his bath and was wearing his trousers when the police started beating him. He was not even allowed to pick up his purse or his shirt. He charged the SHO Maurice Nagar for being inactive.

While this narration was going on, Ms Vimlesh Yadav, the SHO Maurice Nagar came. Obviously the audiences had a lot of questions to ask to her and it became a tough task to make them wait for their turn. The audience was quite upset with the word 'sympathy' which was being repeatedly used by the authorities towards their cause. Keshav asked the SHO that, what had the visually impaired done that they were charged U/s 147/148/149/186/353/308 of the IPC? Sunil Mohanto pointedly asked the SHO that, how come Manohar Lal's injuries became so serious that he had to be admitted in the ICU? Because he (Sunil Mohanto is partially blind) saw Mr. Manohar Lal's head bandaged at Khalsa College when he (Manohar Lal) hit Sunil Mohanto in the legs and even had bandaged head at Maurice Nagar police Station when he, with Mr. Sanjeev Parmar Additional SHO Maurice Nagar, was beating Sunil Mohanto and four other students belonging to AISA. Sunil also pointed out that the chargesheet, which has photographs of these students, does not carry any photograph of visually challenged hitting police personnel with lathis. Students also demanded disciplinary action against Additional SHO Mr. Sanjeev Parmar.

They were at a loss to understand how a handful of them (about 87) that too, visually impaired could not be handled by a big police force belonging to Maurice Nagar, Timarpur, and Civil Lines police Stations. They opined that the police version of the story that 16 policemen were injured, two of them seriously in the scuffle with these 89 visually impaired, shows that the police in Delhi was not capable of handling sensitive security problems of the National Capital Region of Delhi. It was suggested that if the visually impaired could handle the police so effectively than the police jobs should go to the visually impaired. They also asked whether the visually impaired were charged U/s 308 because the police personnel got beaten up by them. One of the arrested persons mentioned that, in his whole life he has not even scratched any person with his fingernail. But the police had charged him U/s 308 isn't it the police which converts innocent men into terrorist by arresting and putting them behind the bars under such sections.

The SHO was also asked that, if the police personnel received such serious injuries why was MLC not done? Manjula Gulati pointedly asked whether the police had orders to beat up and arrest these persons. The students were amused with the SHO's reiteration that she was sympathetic to their cause and that this is why the visually impaired were booked only U/s 308. The SHO also said that she had been in constant touch with the persons sitting on dharna. To this she was asked as to why her police force did not provide any protection to those who were peacefully sitting on dharna. The SHO told the house that the University authorities and not the Delhi police dismantled the tent. As the University authorities foresaw law and order problem while dismantling the tent and removing the visually impaired, they had requested for the presence of the police force to control the situation. Her admission virtually implied that the police was there to protect the university authorities from the visually impaired not vice versa.

This really upset the audience. Uma Gupta of AISA asked her how come the police were to protect only the authorities and not the students? She also asked the SHO that why didn't the police intervene when the University authorities were violating the human rights of the persons with disability?

Dr. Uma Chakravarty felt that police used different sections of IPC in convicting different classes of protesters. She wondered whether anti Mandal agitators who often became violent and destroyed properties worth millions of rupees were also convicted under section 308 of the IPC. Navin from the Democratic Students Union (DSU) highlighted his organization's stand on violations of human rights in Delhi University. Mr. N.D. Pancholi gave many instances of Delhi University authorities insensitivity to the violation of human rights within the campus. He quoted the recent instance of Jordanian Ph.D. student who had to leave the hostel because he incurred the wrath of the fundamentalist forces in the campus. He also gave instances of police violating human rights of the innocent people. In this context he also referred to the recommendations of the police Commission and the successive government's refusal to implement these recommendations. He further added that Article 19 of our Constitution gives every Indian citizen the right to assemble peacefully anywhere. To close the seminar, Mr. Dayal Singh Pawar gave a vote of thanks


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