200 charged with rioting at Fergusson College

The Pune police have registered a case of rioting against about 200 unidentified people following a clash between workers of the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and a group of student activists of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), student wing of the BJP, and the ABVP at the Fergusson College on Wednesday.

Wednesday’s clash at the college followed the disruption of an informal meeting organised by the ABVP.

The authorities of the Deccan Gymkhana police station, where the case was registered late on Wednesday, said the process of identifying the persons from various organisations was under way. CCTV and video footage of the incident were being scrutinised.

The clash on Wednesday follows a series of protests and counter-protests at the college since Tuesday when an informal meeting organised by the ABVP, called the ‘Truth of JNU’ and addressed by the unit’s JNU president Alok Singh, was disrupted by Dalit students.

College principal R.G. Pardeshi had called in the police to restore order, and filed a complaint seeking the arrest of the Dalit students for raising anti-national slogans. He later withdrew the complaint.

On Wednesday, NCP MLA Jitendra Awhad visited the college in an attempt to show solidarity with the Dalit students protesting against the anti-national charge made by Mr. Pardeshi. Mr. Ahwad was heckled by BJYM activists while stones were thrown at his car after he spoke to Sujat Ambedkar, the great-grandson of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. The incident was condemned by NCP leaders, including MP Supriya Sule, Mr. Pawar’s daughter.

On Tuesday, Mr. Pardeshi had written to the police, asking that the ‘guilty’ students be identified and penalised for alleged “anti-India remarks” following a verbal slanging match between a group of left-leaning, Ambedkarite students and ABVP activists at an event where ABVP student leader Alok Singh was speaking.

The Ambedkarite group raised slogans in favour of JNU Students’ Union leader Kanhaiya Kumar, Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula who committed suicide, and demanded freedom from the stranglehold of rising Fascism, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Principal expresses regret

PTI adds: Mr Pardeshi on Thursday expressed “regret” over the letter written to the police wherein he had sought action against individuals for allegedly raising anti-national slogans on Tuesday.

Mr Pardeshi has already retracted his statement wherein he had stated that such slogans were raised, calling it a “human error” while drafting the letter. Mr Pardeshi said in a release today that “the education institute does not believe in taking sides.”

“The letter, which was issued to the police, was written in tremendous tension due to the chaos on the campus. The said letter was drafted by my office and I had little time to verify the contents.

“It is purely a human error and it was not intended to hurt feelings of any person or group and as an educational institute, we do not believe in taking up sides,” the release said. Mr Pardeshi said the letter given to the police stood withdrawn.“In this episode, if any person is hurt, we express regrets,” he said.