Thousands march against govt's 'high-handedness'

Slogans raised for Rohith, JNU's Kanhaiya Kumar

Shouting slogans against the “institutional killing” of Rohith Vemula, the Hyderabad student who recently committed suicide, and denouncing the “high-handedness” of the BJP government at the Centre, thousands of students and teachers from various universities marched from Ambedkar Bhawan to Jantar Mantar here on Tuesday.

The JNU case in which student leader Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested on charges of sedition also figured on posters and slogans.

The father of Umar Khalid, the JNU student wanted by police, shared the dais at Jantar Mantar, where Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi also put in an appearance.

As protesters passed Gole Market, schoolchildren and passers-by cheered. The marchers spoke of a range of issues during the protest.

Apart from Rahul Gandhi, politicians like D Raja, Brinda Karat and Arvind Kejriwal aloso joined the protest. Rohith Vemula’s mother was also there.

Demanding a laws to ensure that college and university students don’t face discrimination on campus, the Rahul Gandhi accused the BJP government for “crushing” the voice of the youth.

“Rohit Vemula was a symbol of India's future and his voice was crushed and buried. This is happening in universities across the country and students’ voices are being muted,’’ he said.

Khalid’s father present
Umar Khalid, wanted by police for questioning in a sedition case, stayed put on the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus.  His father shared the dais with student leaders.

“Khalid’s father joined the march today because he felt empathy with Rohith’s mother. Like Rohith’s family, his family is also being targeted. He is branded as the father of an anti-national. He came today to register his protest against the witch-hunting which is going on these days,’’ said Mohit, a JNU student and an activist of the All India Students Association (AISA).

Students from JNU, members of the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI), Bahujan Samaj Party and the Aam Aadmi Party students’ wing Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Samiti (CYSS) participated in the march, along with students from Delhi University and Jamia Milia Islamia.

“The march is just not about Rohith or Kanhaiya. The situation today is such that tomorrow it can happen with me also. They talk about making the country a superpower, but the way the present government is going against all the free-thinkers and intellectuals, I wonder how can India become a superpower,’’ said Imraan, a student from Jamia Milia Islamia.

Some protesters said they were appalled by the “anti-intellectual’’ atmosphere under which educational institutions like FTII, Hyderabad University and JNU are being targeted by the current government.

“The associates of the BJP, like RSS, ABVP, Delhi Police and some media organisations are working like the IB chief, qualifying someone as national and some as anti-nationals. On one hand, they are talking about restoring the glory of the ‘Bharat Mata’, and on the other they are threatening to rape the mother and sister of Umar Khalid. What hypocrisy is this?’’ said Imraan.

Rohith committed suicide on January 17, triggering widespread protests. Five Dalit students, including Vemula, were suspended in September following a clash with a leader of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).

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