“I saw my friends being dragged by their hair, slapped and brutally thrashed by the Students’ Association of Punjab (SAP) goons,” said Pooja, as she explained what transpired in the Punjabi University campus last night.
The University in Patiala has garnered attention as its female students have been protesting for over a month to demand a curfew free access to their hostels. The protesting students of the university had surrounded the Vice Chancellor’s office during the past one week to compel the administration to engage with students on their demands.
In an instance that occurred in the later half of Tuesday night, the protesting students became targets of brutal violence reportedly in the hands of SAP members as well as members of the university’s sports department.
Speaking with NewsClick, Gurpreet Romana who was present at the spot explained, “A gathering of nearly 150 protesters was attacked. They were all carrying dangs (sharp edged objects), and although we were greater in number but we did not have anything on us to defend ourselves with. It was utter chaos and extreme violence being unleashed on us to scuttle our protest.”
Pooja added, “The female students were abused, beaten up and many of us also received threats.” The violence left many students in the campus injured, while some even had to be hospitalised due to excessive bleeding.
The students questioned as to how violence of this scale was allowed to transpire under the administration's nose. Pooja said, “They had put barricades so that even my parents could not cross and come to meet me. I am finding this particularly hard to understand as to how these goons carrying dangs with an intention to harm us could enter the VC’s office where we were protesting?” Angered by the repeated targeting of female students she also highlighted that the enraged female students went after the goons with hockey sticks to scare them off.
Another student told NewsClick, “To me the entire episode looks pre-planned. We were earlier told very subtly that something big may happen, which goes to show that the security that is a puppet of the administration was given this information. However, once the students were beaten up and seriously injured, it took over an hour for the police to come and control the situation.”
Amidst the volatile situation an atmosphere of fear is looming large at the university campus. The students on the ground have stated that despite all this violence, the administration has not made any efforts to communicate with the protesting students.
NewsClick had previously reported that the issue surrounding the curfew for female students has been ongoing for a month and the demands of the female students of the Punjabi University have been repeatedly sidelined by the administration. The university is unleashing all the repression it can to ensure that their voices are not heard. Previously, the provost and some teachers had also called up the parents of a few students slut shaming them to ensure that their parents would take the girls back.
Currently, the university is to remain shut for two days as declared by the administration, while some students have also been compelled to leave the hostels and return to their houses.
However, all this has failed to deter the spirit of the students, who are currently holding meetings to decide the future course of action. A march has also been taken out inside the campus. The students have sworn that they will not back down to the pressure being put on them by the administration.