Violence at Aligarh Muslim University and the role of Republic TV
Sharjeel Usmani of Aligarh Muslim University has put up the following first hand account of the events that happened at Aligarh Muslim University when the Republic TV crew went there today.
Dear friends in media,
I reached the campus at 9.30 am for attending my classes. All was well back then. Few students were organizing a picture exhibition of the all victims of hate crimes in front of History department. First Asifa memorial lecture was scheduled at 11 am in Cultural hall of Maulana Azad Library; Films on Palestinian struggle were to be screened in Kennedy auditorium at 4:30 pm.
I got a call from a friend that Republic TV reporters are creating problem in front of Social Science department. I reached there as soon as I could. There were students – 20 to 25 to be precise, and they were standing confused of what to do. There were two male cameramen from Republic, and two female reporters. I went and respectfully asked the first cameramen to stop the recording and move out. I said, ‘I know it is your job to do this but we don’t want you here, please leave’. The cameraman was a gentleman, and immediately detached his camera from the monopod. Things were peaceful until this reporter came to me and shouted, ‘who the fuck are you to tell me what to do, we are not leaving. We have been invited by the union President’.
‘With due respect, Ma’am, I am afraid you are mistaken, I have confirmed it with the union president and the university Public Relations Officer, you are not invited here. Please leave’, I replied. The cameraman interrupted saying, ‘Dekho kaise fadta hu tuk logo ki’ and he signaled the reporter to start reporting and she went, ‘We are reporting live from the university of terrorists..it seems..the students are trying to attack us..AMU is showing its color (pointing to the students who were standing there to see the scene)’. I along with another senior immediately went to the cameraman and tried to stop him from recording. He literally pushed me back and stabbed me with his pen, shouting and abusing. The other two female reporters went strangely very very loud and started telling us that we are manhandling with her. One of them came really close to us, and then got in argument with Anas bhai. ‘We are not going to get intimidated by you terrorists’, she said.
The university’s security officers had reached there by then and they intervened. The security officer was an old man, and to him, the other reporter was shouting so disrespectfully that I like many others got agitated. I went straight to her pointed her to leave immediately. I won’t lie, I said ‘But hua apka, get the fuck out of here now!’
All this was happening in front of the social science department. They moving towards the gate, and stopped near the department of Mass communication, and started reporting back with the camera pointed towards the students. Since this was happening on road, the people passing by stopped to see what was happening. This was Union Cabinet member Gowtham K bhai went to ask them to stop the recording and leave. Gowtham bhai was abused and manhandled, and the crowd rushed towards them.
One boy pushed the reporter and kicked him. Few more students followed but they were stopped by Anas bhai and Gowtham bhai. The students at the background were shouting, ‘Go Back’, ‘Maaro’ and ‘Tod do’. However nothing of that sort happened. From what I can recall, the cameraman and his camera were completely fine when they moved out of the varsity gate.
What happened outside the varsity gate was a completely different issue. I had no clue of what was going to happen next, so I went to Kennedy auditorium to prepare for the screening we had planned. After an hour or so, we got to know that Ajay Singh Thakur (Aligarh MLA’s grandson) alongwith members of BJP were marching towards varsity gate to stop a meeting in which they believe Asaduddin Owaisi was present. The whole Asaduddin Owaisi thing was going on in local media for a couple of days, although Owaisi was never invited to the meeting. It started with Ajay Singh’s remark published in a local Hindi newspaper which said, ‘Owaisi jaiso ko Aligarh me nahi ghusne denge’ which was followed by similar remarks from Hindu Mahasabha, Bhartiya Janta Kisan Mahasabhia, local BJP leaders.
When the BJP members reached the campus gate, Union members and students were already present there to stop them. One of the BJP goon fired bullet at union secretary Huzaifa Amir. The students went violent and burnt his bike. The BJP guys left for nearby market (Dodhpur) which a Muslim majority area and forced people to close down their shops. Later they went to the nearest police station and started demanding arrest of the students. The students on the other sat at the varsity gate to protest against the BJP guys demanding their arrest. The Republic team was their all the time reporting the series of events that unfolded. The police was there and did nothing. I still have no idea what was Republic doing there, unless they knew that BJP guys will come to create violence. That is all I know.
BJP activist carrying gun, next to Ajay Singh Thakur.
There are several similar reports on social media by students of AMU, where the students describe deliberate incitement by being referred to as terrorists or the college being called a terrorist college. Clearly the Republic crew was out to create trouble and then report it.
14 students of AMU were booked for sedition on complaint of an ABVP leader. What does sedition even have to do with a fracas between a TV channel shooting without permission inside a college campus and the staff and students from the campus?
Nalini Sharma, the reporter from Republic TV who was there, denied these reports by students in a series of tweets claiming that she was reporting on a story that had nothing to do with AMU when a security guard asked her to stop and when she wouldn’t, interfered in the shoot. She says there were no police present. She makes no mention of whether they had permission to shoot on the AMU campus, if her story had nothing to do with AMU.
It is unclear why Republic TV would shoot a story that had nothing to do with AMU at AMU. It is also clear why Nalini Sharma says there were no cops present, while the Republic channel’s official handle says cops did nothing.
What is astonishing is that Nalini describes campus security asking them to stop, and her not stopping, and sees nothing wrong with it. The sheer sense of entitlement it takes to use a college campus for a story that has “nothing to do with the college”, disregard campus security asking her to stop AND to blame security for interfering is mind boggling.
What isn’t surprising is that once more, we had TV crews in place before BJP activists violently opposed something and to cover it in a light that suited them.
Editor’s note: This wouldn’t be the first time BJP sponsored or right wing violence was accompanied by media vans. As early as the vandalism of Arundhati Roy’s home by BJP activists in 2010 when NDTV, Times Now and News 24 were already in place before the activists, to the attack on a Mangalore homestay by Hindu Jagran Vedike – disowned by BJP, but defended robustly by BJP’s Mahila Morcha. Tajinder Bagga, who attacked Prashant Bhushan in his chamber in front of camera crews is now a BJP spokesperson.
When media vans arrive on locations anticipating or inciting violence, a line has been crossed. And the Indian Media currently does not appear to be capable of calling outright conspiracy with criminals to account.