Aravindhan Nagarajan, TISS, describes the events following protest in solidarity with HCU and Ferguson college

As is my disposition, this will be a slightly long post describing the events of yesterday. Many apologies. First up, let me state, that now more than ever before we must fight for our friends and comrades at HCU who are under siege. As a generation of students who are part of a resurgent and united students’ movement, we must support the struggles of the Dalit Scholars at HCU and the movement demanding ‪#‎JusticeForRohith‬. Now more than ever before we must provide all our strength, offer our succour and show our solidarity, to the JAC at HCU and the entire student community in HCU who are protesting against an injustice- the institutionalised murder of their colleague and the current supression and crackdown on their campus. The events that took place at Mumbai yesterday, have highlighted that we must ‪#‎StandwithHCU‬. Having said so let me clarify a few things here about what happened yesterday.

A joint call was made by left youth and student organisations to protest against the events at HCU and Ferguson college. This was scheduled for 5pm yesterday at Dadar station east. The police had denied permission for the same. When some of us gathered there at 5pm to figure out how we should proceed, the police were constantly following us, demanding that we leave. Their persistence was such that they followed us even when we were drinking tea 100 meters away from the station. This is the second time in the past month that protests at Dadar station have been stopped. Hence, we felt it was important to lodge a complaint/protest against the closing down of these places where we protest peacefully. We therefore decided to directly assemble at the Matunga police station (the jurisdiction of Dadar station east falls with this station) to file a letter in protest.

It was during this time, when we entered the police compound and sought to speak to some officers (around 7:30pm), that some police members started roughing up our comrades assembled there. This was followed by the police pushing us away, dragging a few people, and hitting people with lathis. While being dragged from the police compound entrance to where we were detained inside the police station, women comrades were manhandled, some of us from PSF were roughed up and slapped, but it was our comrades in DYFI, SFI and some from AISA, who got beaten up severely. While inside, 12 of us were placed in one room, where the police after some initial arguments and after hurling a few choice words, treated us properly. We were also taken for medical check up to Sion hospital to record injuries sustained. But some of our comrades who were taken to another room to be detained, were beaten up and sustained injuries. We were held up till late at night, and after different procedures were completed, we were eventually released. This was close to 5 hours later and now all of us are fine. This was for the first time that we have seen the Mumbai Police react and behave in this manner. And while speaking to some of them they admitted, that they were overworked (due to bandobast duties of various religious festivals and shiv jayanti) and were ordered to squash our protests and demonstrations.

And these actions describe to me what is at the heart of it all: The actions taken to decimate public spaces where we can protest, the failure to deal and negotiate with protesters, and the use of state machinery (including tired fatigued and exhausted police personnel) to squash protests, while dangerous and frightening, also belies a certain hope for us all. The ineptness of the current dispensation in power, to deal with a democratic protest, the inability to deal with the questions raised by the students’ movement and their unwillingness to debate and negotiate their position in the face of a democratic opposition, indicates their inability to function in a democracy. And it is here that we must see hope to carry on with our struggle and to be part of this student movement that we see today.

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