Chaos on the Campus: Why Allahabad University Students are on the Warpath?

Date:

Ghazala Ahmad | Clarion India

Several Allahabad University students got badly injured earlier this week as a tiff between student leaders and security guards snowballed into a free-for-all scuffle.

It all started when a former student leader, Vivekanand Pathak, was manhandled by a security guard and stopped from entering the bank on the varsity premises, a student leader claimed.

As the scuffle broke out on the campus, visuals of severely injured students began doing the rounds on social media. In the visuals, a student could be seen with a bandaged forehead, another with a bruised back and one more with a bleeding hand.

Reportedly two cars and a motorcycle were also torched.

It is also alleged that security guards fired gunshots injuring at least six students and some police personnel. The matter between the students and the guards was settled after the police intervened, it is learned.

“Vivekanand Pathak, a former student leader of Allahabad University and a member of the National Students Union India (NSUI), the student wing of the Congress, and his wife were headed to the SBI branch on the campus. They were stopped by a security guard and barred from entering the bank. In the tiff that ensued, the guard threw Pathak’s mobile phone on the ground and abused him and later attacked him with the butt of the gun,” said Adeel Hamza, a student leader present at the spot.

“There has always been a tiff between students and security guards since the students began their protest over a year ago and this incident could be an attempt to scare the students so they stop fighting for their rights,” Hamza said.

An FIR has been registered against six students: Harendra Yadav, Vivekanand Pathak, Ajay Yadav Samrat, Abhishek Yadav, Rahul Patel, Navneet Singh, and Satyam Kushwaha have been booked under several sections of the Indian Penal Code including rioting, intentionally causing hurt, endangering the life and personal safety of others, and an intent to provoke breach of peace.

An injured student who has been booked in the case, Harendra Yadav, told Clarion India that all pertinent issues were resolved after the proctorial team intervened. “But after a few minutes what we witnessed is unfathomable,” Yadav, a resident of Ghazipur, said.  “Security guards came with iron rods, pistols, and hockey sticks and began hitting us until we all began bleeding profusely. I was very close to being lynched, but somehow managed an escape and now an FIR has been lodged against me and others who were beaten mercilessly by the guards.”

For over a year, Allahabad University students are holding protests over the sudden huge increase in tuition fees. There has been a 300 per cent increase in the tuition fees for undergraduate courses. It now stands at Rs 4,151 per annum against Rs 975 per year earlier.

The students are also demanding the restoration of the students’ union that was replaced with a students’ council in 2019. Since then students of the 99-year-old university are on a warpath with the administration. 

Vivekanand Pathak told Clarion India: “I wanted to complete some formalities in the bank which is inside the university premises and then the argument spiralled into an attack on me and hundreds of others which resulted in severe injuries to several students.”

Universities, he said, are free spaces to think, discuss and debate. “But the university administration is adamant to shrink all the space for students’ dissent. It’s been over two years that students are demanding the students’ union election but the administration has not taken any notice.”

Pathak said the latest episode was “an attack on dissent, an attack on democracy.” 

However, the university administration blamed some unknown elements for the chaos on the campus. “In view of the unfortunate incidents of violence and serious misconduct that have taken place today, wherein unknown elements broke open the locks of the university gates which resulted in violence between them and the guards. Stone pelting and torching of vehicles have led to a panic-stricken situation,” a statement issued by the administration said. 

Richa Singh, a former office-bearer of the students’ union looks at the incident as part of a larger conspiracy against the protesting students fighting for their rights.

“The students on the campus are protesting in a very peaceful manner demanding their basic right to form the students’ union which is the essence of any democratic nation. But the way students are being treated and the usual attacks give a clear impression that the administration and the government are trying to discredit the dissent and defame the protesting students,” she said.

She added: “Students come to the university to seek knowledge and education but by booking them under criminal offences the admin is trying to keep them away from education and dissuading them from speaking for their rights.”

Singh also demanded strict action against those involved in violent activities against students.

“We tried to speak with the district administration to withdraw cases against the students but they rejected our demand,” Adeel Hamza said.

Clarion India tried to contact the university officials to seek their version, but several calls to them were unanswered.

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Photo: PTI photo shows a vehicle set on fire at Allahabad University in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, on Monday.

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