February seems to mark the month of rage and protests for students in Delhi. February 2016 witnessed the assault on JNU by the combined might of ABVP, corporate media, Delhi Police and the BJP and a fightback by JNU students and faculty that stunned the powers that be . February 2017 has come upon us with the news of ABVP assaulting students at Ramjas college and disrupting a seminar with an equally vibrant response taking shape in the university.
It was also the February of 1982 when Delhi University erupted with a massive mobilisation of students from across several colleges in protest against the murderous assault on Dilip Simeon, a lecturer at Ramjas College by a coterie close to the principal of the college. The backdrop to this was allegations of corruption against the college administration and a severe clamping down of voices of protest against the principal. Simeon’s crime was that he joined a group of hunger strikers demanding release of salary of Sita Ram the head gardener, who had been denied his dues without any inquiry. On 16 February, Simeon was accosted near Qudsia Park by six young men who had followed him in a car all the way from home. He was beaten severely with iron rods, His left leg broken in two places and the upper part of jaw permanently damaged, with five teeth lost. But for his helmet, he might have suffered severe skull injuries too.
What followed was a massive protest of students under the banner of Committee Against Goondaism that first led to the principal being forced to go on leave and finally his suspension for trying to barge into the college accompanied by goondas. Kartar Singh, has the distinction of being the first ever principal of Delhi University to be suspended for breach of peace and violence. For that entire year Ramjas college became a battle ground between students and faculty who were struggling to bring in a more democratic functioning in the college and the ABVP and NSUI backed goondas who for the first time were feeling the heat of resistance and a student unity that was neither scared of them nor cowed down by their violence. On more than one occasion they were chased out of the college premises by students no longer willing to put up with their intimidation.
It was those years that gave Ramjas College the legacy of being a space alive with progressive ideas, discussions and events; and that is what bothers organisations like ABVP who are committed to the task of snuffing each and every sign of a critical knock on their doors; and therefore the persistent attacks. As one old Ramjas hand remarked, “We weren’t finished then. And we aren’t finished now”.