New Delhi: A video of police thrashing a group of students with sticks and fists and dragging women by their hair outside RSS headquarters here during a protest over Dalit student Rohith Vemula's suicide on Monday triggered widespread outrage with Congress and Aam Aadmi Party seeking action against the erring cops.
Delhi Police came under sharp attack from political parties and student groups as the video of Saturday's incident went viral on social media but RSS appeared to defend the security personnel, saying they must have done whatever they found was appropriate.
In the 30-second clip, apart from police, some men in civilian clothes are also seen beating up the protesters near RSS office in Jhandewalan in Central Delhi.
The students who staged the protest and AAP alleged that the men were RSS workers.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal alleged the police force was being used as RSS and BJP's "private army" under a political dispensation that is at "war" with students across the country.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi targeted the Modi government over the "shocking attack" on students and insisted the demonstrators were "brutally" beaten as they were "protesting against the RSS".
A Delhi School of Social Work (DSW) student, who was at the receiving end of a police assault, alleged police took turns in "brutally" thrashing him and did not even let him sip water.
"I spotted few men, who were not in uniform, pulling few of our women activists. When I raised my voice against that, someone from the police counted 1,2,3 and launched an assault on us and cornered me.
"After the first round of assault I was sitting on a road divider. Friends offered me water. At that very moment police once again started beating me up. Yadhul Krishna who was with me fractured his hand," Samudra Sanghka, a final year MA student at DSW, said.
Under fire, Delhi Police Commissioner B. S. Bassi appeared defensive and said he has ordered an inquiry into the incident which will include examining whether there was any "indiscretion".
Reacting to the allegations, in-charge of RSS media unit of Delhi Rajiv Tuli said, "No RSS worker was there at that time. If somebody feels that there was some highhandedness then there is option of inquiry, law. Police must have done whatever they found was appropriate."
Two journalists, who have alleged they were beaten up while covering the protest, claimed the police action was "unprovoked" and that the protesters were beaten up mercilessly.
They said their cameras were snatched and smashed. The student protesters were holding a demonstration outside the RSS office at Jhandewalan in central Delhi demanding justice for Vemula, the Hyderabad university research scholar whose suicide last month triggered nationwide outrage. In the video, a constable is seen dragging a woman protester by hair and pushing her down when she remonstrated against the assault on a fellow demonstrator.
Addressing a press conference, AAP leader Sanjay Singh alleged BJP and RSS workers were also involved in assaulting the students along with police. One of the protesters Sanghka, who hails from Assam, said that he received multiple injuries on his body following which he was administered an injection at RML Hospital and is on painkillers since then.
Pratim Ghosal, an M Phil student at JNU, said that the incident happened around 4pm when the protesters, numbering around 250, under the aegis of Joint Action Committee For Social Justice tried to hold a meet in front of the RSS office.
"We could cross the first barricade in front of Ambedkar Bhawan and were stopped ahead of the second barricade. A view emerged that we should hold a protest meet and within minutes police started thrashing us. I have been to many protests but the brutality was unprecedented," Ghosal, a DSF activist. said.
Prashant Mukherjee, another final year student at DSW and an SFI activist, said they were not planning to break the last barricade put up by the police but "all of a sudden" a number of hooligans launched the assault.
Kejriwal, who is undergoing naturopathy treatment in Bengaluru, condemned the police's alleged highhandedness, including with women. "Delhi Police being used by BJP/RSS as their private army to terrorise and teach lesson to anyone opposing BJP/RSS. I strongly condemn attack on students. "FTII, Rohith case, Hyderabad University, IITs and now brutal attack on Delhi students. Modi govt seems to be at war with students all across," Kejriwal tweeted.
"This kind of police brutality on unarmed students is unacceptable. We strongly condemn it and guilty policemen must be punished," DPCC President Ajay Maken said.