Delhi University students organized a protest in the Delhi School of Economics against the recent violence and attack on tribal students in North Campus. The attack on the students was an extension of the crisis in Manipur. With the protest, the students tried to initiate important discourses around mental health, student safety, women’s safety, xenophobia and various other sensitive issues that affect tribal students on campus.
On 12th May, students of the University organized a protest at the Delhi School of Economics to spread awareness about the attack on tribal students in North Campus that took place the previous week. As inter-community violence grips Manipur, even those living away from home are constantly tormented by the possibility of being attacked. Last week, a group of Kuki students were reportedly attacked by a group of around 30 students who identified themselves as belonging to the Meitei community. The victims were followed as they left a prayer meeting near Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute in North Campus. The women were pushed and the men were beaten up. The incident has left tribal students across the university concerned about their safety.
During the attack, women were molested and threatened to be raped. The men were badly beaten up. They have sustained injuries and have scars all over. They are traumatized. Delhi University is a campus for all students. But being tribals, we do not feel safe anymore even on campus
– a participant who wishes to remain anonymous
The protest was an attempt to create a space in which tribal students could express themselves freely and be part of a larger community of students with shared experiences. Students gathered near the Ratan Tata Library at the Delhi School of Economics and expressed their concerns, fears and experiences with one another. Students from different colleges, across the university joined in. The participants spoke about the trauma that tribal students have been experiencing and pointed out that there is a general atmosphere of fear that has affected not only the victims of the attack but all tribal students from Manipur. One of the speakers pointed out that earlier, students would stay out and study in libraries till 2 a.m. in the morning. However, after the crisis unfolded in Manipur, many fear even going outdoors. Such an atmosphere of hostility is hardly conducive to academic growth. It was repeatedly stated that although the situation in Manipur is deeply disturbing, it is important to ensure that what happens in Manipur, stays in Manipur and does not culminate into further violence outside the state.
We are really concerned about the safety of tribal students here. On the night of 4th May, there was a mob attack on Kuki students by the other community which we vehemently condemn. We should not be against each other. This is an academic space and we need a peaceful space to progress in our academic career.
– Mr. Haokip, a research scholar at the university
Many of the students were concerned about the impact of the traumatic incidents on their academic life as they are in the middle of their semester exams. Reportedly, many tribal students have been experiencing cyberbullying on social media platforms for being vocal about the crisis in Manipur. They have been receiving death threats and rape threats for their social media posts on Manipur. The victims of the attack and those who have received online threats have become so paranoid that they could not bring themselves to join the protest. One of the participants spoke to DU Beat about the online harassment, transphobic and homophobic slurs that they have been enduring ever since the violence unfolded in Manipur. They further elaborated upon the systematic oppression and xenophobia that tribals experience in Manipur.
Growing up in Imphal, we were used to people calling us (the Kuki people) illegal Burmese immigrants. At school, we were bullied and shamed for our tribal identity. We are mocked a lot for reservations as well.
DU Beat approached multiple stakeholders to include their experiences and insights. However, owing to the matter’s sensitivity, many were uncomfortable speaking openly about it and declined our request for interviews. Nonetheless, the participants at the protest made their demands. Overall, the gathering was a peaceful one.
We would like to put out the message that we all are here for progress. During my 5-year study in DU, I have never felt unsafe. But now, even though I am not a victim myself, I have to constantly look over my shoulder after that incident. We are here to protest against the attack. We are not here to target any community, but simply demand that the culprits are arrested.
– Another participant who wishes to remain anonymous.
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Image Credits: Tulip Banerjee for DU Beat
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