Narendra Modi’s visit to the Shri Ram College of Commerce turned one end of Delhi University into a protest zone on Wednesday and police used water cannons and lathis to disperse students protesting against the Gujarat Chief Minister.
Waving black flags and shouting anti-Modi slogans, students led by Left-wing organisations assembled near SRCC and tried to get past police barricades on the stretch to the college from Patel Chest Institute. The students clashed with police after they got past the first barricade. Police resorted to a lathicharge and turned on the water cannons to break up the protest.
“We were told that some student organisations were planning to hold demonstrations. Barricades were put up to restrain the crowd,” DCP (North) Sindhu Pillai said. “Water cannons were used only for a minute or so. The crowd broke through first barricade and was trying to break the second one too. We had to take steps to restrain them.”
Piyush Raj of the All India Students’ Association said: “We were protesting peacefully when some students tried to climb over the police barricades. I moved to the front to pacify by the crowd. I also told the police that we were trying to keep the protest peaceful. But I was pulled down from the barricade and detained by police.”
Sunny Kumar, among the protesters on the street, said: “It is a shame that a person under whose leadership the Gujarat riots took place is being allowed to use the legitimacy of academic spaces like Delhi University for his prime ministerial ambitions. Progressive democratic voices in Delhi cannot let this happen, so we are protesting.”
But if there were anti-Modi protests outside SRCC, the crowd inside was rooting for the man. Students applauded, cheered Modi each time he paused after making a point. He shook hands and posed for photographs with students. SRCC student Preeti Mohan said Modi’s speech was “inspiring” and an “eye-opener”.
“We didn’t know details of the kind of work being done in Gujarat. The texts we study are so restrictive. The highlight of his speech was when he demonstrated how the state’s focus on agriculture can help put the country on the growth track,” she said.
Responding to queries on why SRCC invited Modi to a college event, principal P C Jain said: “In all honesty, I want to say that we sent out invitations to 11 persons. Narendra Modi’s office was the first one to reply