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Clashes on protest street

New Delhi, Feb. 9: Jantar Mantar, Delhi’s protest street, witnessed a brief clash between right-wing cadres celebrating the hanging of Afzal Guru and human rights activists and Kashmiri students protesting against it.

The cadres drawn from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Shiv Sena and the Bajrang Dal also roughed up the other group.

Police waved batons and arrested over 20 protesters, mainly Kashmiri students from JNU and Delhi University, freeing the space for the motley right-wing group of about 20-25 workers to burst crackers, distribute sweets and raise slogans hailing Afzal’s hanging.

The rival sides had gathered at Jantar Mantar around the same time in the afternoon.

The students held placards that said “I am Afzal, hang me too” and chanted slogans of “Azad Kashmir”. The Sangh and Sena cadres snatched the posters, tore them up and called the protesters Pakistanis.

The police, deputed in large numbers, chased the students and nabbed them.

For some time, participants in three other protests — one demanding Gorkhaland, another the widening of NH 24 and the third gallows for the Delhi rape juvenile suspect—joined in and raised slogans against the students.

Later, those protesting against the hanging assembled in an auditorium. Taking an extremist position, they said “India was a terrorist state” and Afzal a “visionary”.

Nirmalangshu Mukherjee, a professor of philosophy at Delhi University and author of December 13: Terror over Democracy, a book that raises questions over Afzal’s trial, did not join the protest but termed the hanging a “very, very dark day for democracy”.