Students protesting in front of the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Bhawan in Delhi on Friday against the repeated attacks on Dalits in UP were detained by the Delhi Police. They were protesting in the capital following the deaths of two young Dalit girls in Unnao. The third girl – their cousin – is fighting for her life at Regency Hospital, Kanpur.
The girls, aged 16, 13, and 17, were cousins, and had gone to fetch cattle fodder from a field which belonged to their family at around 3 pm on Wednesday, February 17. When they did not return till late in the night, some of their family members along with the neighbours started searching for them. The girls were found lying in their field in an unconscious state, the police said.
Several organisations took part in the protest, including the Phoolan Army, All India Students’ Association (AISA), Students’ Federation of India (SFI), and Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS). However, the police did not let the protest go on for long, saying that the students did not have permission to protest in the area.
The protesters were surrounded by hundreds of police personnel in riot gear as soon as they approached UP Bhawan. The police had been present in the area since morning, ready with water canons and Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses to detain the protesters. The area around the building had been heavily barricaded, making sure that the protesters did not have enough space to assemble. Section 144 had also been imposed in the area.
The protest began around 1 pm in the afternoon. Within ten minutes the students were surrounded, dragged and coerced into two buses which took them to the Mandir Marg Police Station. Speaking to Newsclick from inside the police station, Dolan, a MPhil student at Jawaharlal Nehru University, and a member of AISA, said: “The police has locked the door behind us. They have noted down our names and phone numbers. They are threatening to file FIRs against us.”
However, the Delhi Police’s threats did not discourage the students. Sloganeering continued even behind closed doors inside the Mandir Marg police station. Priyansh, a postgraduate student at Ambedkar University and an SFI activist, told Newsclick that “we were protesting against the violence against the Dalit girls in UP, but the police detained us within ten minutes. Every time people protest the police brutally attacks them, detains them, does everything possible to stop them from protesting. This government only claims to be democratic, but its actions say otherwise.”
“Since the BJP came to power in 2014 the attacks on women, Dalits, and Muslims have increased significantly. Women are raped here and the ruling party takes out rallies in support of the rapists. The women are offered no dignity even in death. We demand that UP Chief Minister Ajay Singh Bisht resigns immediately because this anti-women government cannot continue to stay in power. No matter how many times the police detains us we will continue to protest. We will continue to raise our voices against the atrocities that the BJP government fails to notice,” Dolan added.
Paribhasha, an SFI activist, told NewsClick that when members of the administration “detains students, or for that matter anyone for protesting against rape, they take a stand. They announce to the world that they do not care about women, that violence against women does not matter. As students, and as citizens of this country, we have to keep protesting, because staying silent is not an option anymore.”