New Delhi- In a dramatic escalation, Delhi Police apprehended Dr. Ritu Singh, a former Delhi University (DU) dalit professor, on Tuesday evening, marking a turning point in the ongoing campus activism saga. This detention unfolded in the aftermath of the forceful removal of protest tents and personal belongings of demonstrators, including Ritu Singh and her supporters, from the Dharna site outside the Arts faculty within the DU campus on Monday.
The Delhi Police reportedly removed the protest tent and belongings of the demonstrators and this action prompted a resurgence of protests on Tuesday, during which Dr. Ritu Singh, accompanied by her supporters, resumed their sit-in.
The Mooknayak has extensively reported on Dr. Ritu Singh's ongoing protest against caste-based injustice for several months. On each visit to the protest site, we observed not just a struggle for change but also an homage to Babasaheb and his teachings. Gate no. 4 of Delhi University's Arts Faculty, previously claimed by the dismissed teacher, used to be adorned with fluttering blue flags alongside hoisted tricolours. Small businesses, selling books on Dalit literature, used to be an integral part of every protest.
Recently, Dr. Singh inaugurated a life-sized banner of Babasaheb, adding a symbolic touch to the demonstration. However, on Tuesday, the entire area appeared desolate. The Mooknayak visited the protest site in the afternoon. The usual celebration was replaced by a profound silence. Instead of slogans, the air resonated with Dr. Singh's tearful inquiry, questioning the decision of the police to remove and confiscate all belongings.
The team found Dr. Ritu Singh questioning inspector Bijender Singh of Delhi Police. Singh claimed the tears did not show her weakness but her vulnerability. While she was away for few hours, all of her belongings were cleared and taken to an unknown location. Taking to the media present at the scene, Dr Singh claimed, “This dharna present here has been constitutional and peaceful. Yet we are facing resistance. The police claim I am being pushed out legally. I am standing here in front of them and asking for a notice regarding it, but they are not able to furnish any. Just because this is a protest for and of a Dalit person, we are facing such obstacles. So, are we supposed to think women, especially the ones from marginalized communities, have no right to protest?”
A fair question was put up in front of the police present in the location, but none responded. Walking a few metres forward, she decided to sit down on the cold, damp brick laid floor, holding a frame with Babasaheb Ambedkar’s picture in it. Taking this very instance as an example, Ritu kept talking about how institutions drive people from marginalised groups take their own life, as observed in the case of Rohith Vemula. The dismissed teacher further highlighted a fact, that principal Savita Roy of Daulat Ram College can roam around the world freely, even after having a chargesheet against her name but cops have come knocking the door of the person who has filed the complaint.
Babasaheb’s life-size banner was ruthlessly taken and till now there is no information about its whereabouts. The agitated Ad-Hoc teacher remarked, “this is an insult of Babasaheb. When he was alive, he was forced to go through the same ordeals. The unconstitutional forces were afraid of them then and are afraid of them now. No matter what you do, you cannot destroy ideas. Babasaheb was not just a person but an idea as well.”
At the scene, the police repeatedly emphasized the enforcement of Section 144 in the area, prohibiting gatherings of more than 4-5 people at a time. Interestingly, a banner declaring the imposition of this section in the area from December 26, to February 23, 2024, suddenly appeared, despite its absence just a few days prior. This development heightened suspicions among the protestors regarding the true intentions of the authorities because no one had been informed or provided with any prior notice about these measures.
Later evening in a swift turn of events Delhi Police detained Dr. Ritu Singh and a cadre of her associates, escalating tensions and prompting strong reactions from the academic community and beyond. The police action has ignited controversy, with supporters decrying what they perceive as an unjust curtailment of the right to peaceful protest.
Her detention has sparked a storm on social media platforms. Hashtags such as 'Justice for Ritu Singh' and 'Delhi Police' are trending, as an outpouring of support and calls for her release flood the digital landscape.
Adding a layer of controversy to the unfolding drama is the revelation that Delhi Police's Tuesday intervention occurred without obtaining prior permission for the protest, raising concerns and discussions about the preservation of the fundamental right to assemble and express dissent.
The Mooknayak journalist, who had gone to cover a call for help, faced an unfortunate incident as he was detained for two hours. The day's unfortunate events did not conclude there. Despite no evidence of his involvement in any unparliamentary act, Delhi police forcefully took him to the Special Operations Cell of Cyber Police in North District, specifically at Maurice Nagar. During the two-hour detention, the journalist's phone was thoroughly checked, and his Aadhar card was kept in police custody.
Ritu Singh had alleged that she was expelled from the college due to caste-based discrimination by the Principal. After teaching as an Assistant Professor for about a year, she was removed. The principal accused Ritu Singh of misconduct in the class and dissatisfaction among students. On the other hand, the teacher argued that the students whose names the principal mentioned were never taught by her. Dr. Ritu Singh's case has also been taken up by the SC Commission In 2020, she had staged a protest regarding the dismissal of the principal. She has been staging a sit-in dharna for more than four months. Her matter is in court presently.
Furthermore, Ritu Singh has been an advocate against institutional murder and has campaigned on issues such as the suicide of Rohith Vemula, a Ph.D. student at Hyderabad Central University.