In the past week, protest after protest have clogged the streets of Delhi University’s North Campus. Two clear factions have shaped up. One has students who demand their right to free speech. And the other comprises ABVP supporters who vow to protect their country and their university from whom they call anti-nationals.
On Thursday, a saffron sea of supporters marched to “save DU from anti-national elements”. The Quint brings you the humans who made up this mass of protesters.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
"Arrey, what do they mean by azadi for Kashmir? Is it azadi from AFSPA or terrorism? They're not clear about it," a law student says, adding, "I've also been reading books on communism and socialism like Mein Kampf".
When I request him to pose for a photograph, he hesitates and disappears into the crowd.
Many others I met at the march, in fact, were hesitant faces in the crowd. They made up a significant mass of the protesters, but unlike the participants of an earlier protest – DU Against ABVP Gundagardi – several couldn’t recognise any of the speakers or pin-point at their own motivation to be at the march.
The ABVP Foot Soldier
I bump into a girl who’s handing out pamphlets. She introduces herself as a party worker and a student of Deshbandhu College.
"Freedom of expression – you're right, we should have the right to free speech, but to what end? Can you raise slogans against India too?" she asks.
Not a ‘Blind ABVP Supporter’
A large number of law students turned out for the ABVP protest. Manisha, a student from DU’s law faculty, strikes up a conversation willingly.
"See, I am a law student. I'm not a blind ABVP supporter. Everybody has the right to express their views, but Umar Khalid is, what we call in law terminology, an "accused". How can they invite him? I criticised the ABVP when they had cancelled the screening of Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai. But calling Umar is unacceptable."
"So, is it okay if a documentary on Afzal Guru's ‘flawed conviction’ is screened at Ramjas College?" I ask. "Of course!" she shoots back.
The Saffron ‘Poster Girl’
I find a recognisable face in the crowd, one who has made several appearance on primetime news debates since the Ramjas issue erupted. Mahamedha Nagar is visibly busy, being an ABVP office-bearer.
"Let's hurry, okay?" she says, panting while taking long strides to walk up to other ABVP activists.
"The teachers and students of Ramjas have hurled abuses at me, they called me a bitch, they called me a whore and they hurt me too," she says, showing the injuries on her hand.
I ask her about the ongoing violent slogans in the background – “Bharat ke gaddaro ko, goli maro, goli maro (shoot the traitors).”
“See, the actual slogan is ‘Bharat ke gaddaro ko dhakka maaro’, but sometimes, in the heat of the moment, things happen,” she justifies before swiftly joining her party members.
A passionate supporter of ABVP and a student of Economics from Deshbandhu College, Rohit Sah says, "I will define nationalism for you. Kashmir se Kanyakumari tak, aur Assam, matlab Guwahati, se Gujarat tak jo unity hai, that is nationalism."
"But”, I interrupt, “What about the other north-eastern states?” He says, "Matlab that too..."
"All these English teachers have been grading me low because I am from ABVP. Tell me, is that fair?" he laments.
A Parental Bond
Rohit is joined by a fiesty girl, Richa, who says, "Look, you media people, you can make heroes out of communists if you want. But you should report protest like this one too, does it look violent to you? I have ‘liked’ The Quint's Facebook page. I like you guys, but your reportage is making me sad."