Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Delhi Police detains former DU Dalit teacher protesting casteism, ransacks protest site

Dr. Ritu Singh, a former Delhi University (DU) faculty member, was detained by the Delhi police on Tuesday evening after the ‘forceful removal’ of protest tents and belongings of protestors, including Ritu Singh and her supporters, from the demonstration site outside the Arts faculty of the Delhi University campus on Monday. She was released over 7 hours later.

The Dalit scholar has been on a strike for over 135 days, protesting against caste discrimination.

She has been on a street strike, urging the removal of Daulat Ram College’s Principal, Dr. Savita Roy, alleging caste-based discrimination and her subsequent removal from the position of Assistant Professor.

Since the starting of the protest outside gate no. 4 of Delhi University’s Arts Faculty, it has evolved into a symbol of resistance. Blue and tricolour flags adorn one corner, while a bookstall featuring Dalit literature enhances its allure. A huge banner of Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, the father of the Indian Constitution, was recently erected at the protest site.

However, on Monday, the Delhi police swept the entire area and confiscated the belongings related to the protest and the protestors.

Ashutosh S Bodh, a law student at Delhi University and a supporter of Singh, said to Maktoob that upon reaching the protest site on Monday to resume their demonstration, they faced repeated obstruction from the Delhi police.

Bodh said, “Security guards and police officers cleaned and washed the protest site with water, reflecting a Manusmriti mindset, as if Dalits had occupied the space and it needed cleansing.”

Maktoob was informed that Dr. Singh, in another attempt to resume the protest, sat on the street holding a poster of Dr. Ambedkar. While speaking to the media, she emphasised how Dr. Savita Roy, whom she accused of discrimination, enjoys impunity while she herself faces alleged “harassment” from state authorities.

Addressing the media on the site, Singh stated, “The ongoing peaceful demonstration adheres to constitutional norms, yet we encounter opposition. The police claim my lawful removal, yet no documentation is provided upon request. It seems the hurdles arise from this being a protest for a Dalit cause by a Dalit.”

She said, “Does this suggest that women, particularly those from marginalized backgrounds, are denied the right to protest?”

A banner by Delhi Police also appeared at the protest site, enforcing Section 144 in the area, prohibiting any kind of gatherings of more than 4-5 people in force from December 26 to February 23, 2024.

However, the protestors claim that the banner was never there before the protest was removed on Monday.

At approximately 5:30 pm in the evening, Delhi Police detained Dr. Singh along with at least 15 supporters. They were released at 1:00 am on Wednesday.

Dr. Singh’s detention has sparked a row on social media platforms and in general with people pouring in for her support.

Student groups from across the university on Wednesday came together to exhibit solidarity for Dr Singh.

“The DU authorities are consciously attacking the dissent voices against the making of educational spaces to agraharas. The arbitrary acts of Delhi police show that the minority aspirations are not given the proposed safety measures promised by the state system,” read a statement by Fraternity Movement.

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