Marathi pupils cower on campus - Raj-baiters ransack Maharashtra guesthouse, varsity unions organise protests

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By CHARU SUDAN KASTURI in Delhi
  • Published 4.11.08
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New Delhi, Nov. 3: Delhi University student Ramesh Medge insists he isn’t a “mamma’s boy”, but says he is more than ready to accept his mother’s latest plea — to avoid stepping out of his hostel alone late at night.

“She’s scared, and justifiably so,” said Medge, an MA history student, politely refusing to allow himself to be photographed.

Born and raised in Pune, Medge says he is scared he may be trapped in a storm that originated in Mumbai but is now silently brewing across Delhi’s campuses.

Students and student bodies at Delhi’s varsities are slowly preparing — some individually like Medge, others collectively — to tackle growing tension on campuses over Raj Thackeray’s anti-north Indian campaign.

The first spark was lit last week in Ghaziabad. On Wednesday, Marathi students at Mahanand Mission Harijan PG College in the capital’s satellite town were attacked, allegedly by an Uttar Pradesh student leader and his goons.

Police sources in Ghaziabad confirmed the victims stated in their FIR that the attackers “mentioned Rahul Raj and Dharam Dev” while kicking them in their hostel rooms.

Patna boy Rahul Raj was shot dead by Mumbai police after he flashed a revolver on a local bus, shouting that he wanted to kill Thackeray, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief.

Dharam Dev, from Faizabad, was lynched on a Mumbai train last week allegedly by a Marathi-speaking mob after he refused to give up a seat next to the window.

“There are definite fears that this tension could manifest itself in violence. Students from north India have legitimate grievances and must be given an opportunity to air them. But Marathi students, too, should be made to feel safe here,” DU Students’ Union (Dusu) president Nupur Sharma said.

Sharma belongs to the BJP’s student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).

The All India Students’ Association (Aisa) — CPI(ML)’s student wing — that controls the JNU students’ union has launched a campaign targeting Thackeray’s “regional identity-based politics”.

Addressing a protest march at DU on Saturday, speaker after speaker from the organisation warned that any agitation against Thackeray should not be anti-Maharashtra.

“We are planning a Delhi-wide agitation against hate politics. We will hold a campaign in the university against the violence,” the JNU students’ union president, Sandeep Singh, said.

Yesterday, the Aisa burnt effigies of Thackeray at JNU, where over 30 per cent students are estimated to be from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. In contrast, Marathis comprise only one or two per cent of the student population in DU and JNU.

Like the Aisa, all student groups clarified their agitation would be non-violent. “We will probably hold seminars and meetings to try and diffuse the tension,” Dusu leader Sharma said.

But for some students, violent retaliation against Marathis on Delhi’s campuses was “inevitable”.

“How much should Bihari and UP students tolerate? I want to appear for the UPSC and other public exams. But students like me get beaten up if they go to appear for exams in Mumbai,” said Sanjeev Kumar, an MA political science student at DU.