NewDelhi/Nagpur: Men and women were caned, struck on the head, dragged by their hair and slammed to the ground during a rally in Delhi in support of Hyderabad student Rohith Vemula on Saturday. Those who beat them were policemen and unknown attackers who suddenly emerged when the protesters were outside the office of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of the BJP.
A video clip shared widely on social media shows a policeman using all his strength to slap a woman and then fling her violently to the ground. Among the attackers is a man who launches himself at a protester while he is being beaten by two policemen. Instead of stopping him, the policemen turn away.
The RSS has denied that any of its workers were involved.
“If the police has shown high-handedness, it should be investigated,” said Rajiv Tuli, the RSS media-in charge. He added: “In democracy, everyone has the right to protest but within limits.”
The protesters had gathered outside the RSS office at Jhandewalan in central Delhi with placards demanding justice for Rohith, the 26-year-old Hyderabad university research scholar whose suicide last month triggered a wave of student protests.
One moment they were shouting slogans and the next, they were being beaten. Screams were heard as policemen chased down activists.
“There was no warning. I was standing near the police and all I heard was ‘one, two, three charge’,” said independent journalist Rahul, whose camera was allegedly smashed.
Rahul said when he tried to retrieve his camera, “they pushed lathis into my stomach.”
Police officers say they don’t know who the other attackers were. They also claim that the police acted only when the “unruly, rowdy and aggressive crowd” broke two cordons.
“We will speak to eyewitnesses apart from analyzing the video,” Mr Bassi told reporters.
The BJP has been targeted by students who allege that two union ministers forced the Hyderabad Central University to punish and ostracize Rohith Vemula for allegedly beating an activist of the BJP’s student wing.