December 8th, 2021
By Hamid Riaz
In a rare expression of dissent on campuses in. Lahore, members of the Punjab University’s (PU) admin staff wore black armbands and chanted slogans against ‘miscreant’ elements within the varsity body on Tuesday.
This was a ‘symbolic’ protest against a ‘mob attack’ by members of the Islami-Jamiat-Talba (IJT) on the University’s administration block last Friday which came after over a week of continuous violence at the Punjab University.
Two students’ groups had intermittently clashed on the campus.
The IJT and the Punjab Council (one of the five allied ethnic student bodies active in the Punjab University) had organized parallel events on campus to welcome the newly-admitted students.
Jamiat had arranged a week-long Sports Gala while the Punjab Council was organizing a Punjab Cultural Night on Friday last.
On the early afternoon of December 3 a scuffle broke out on the campus when one group alleged that the other had been tearing apart its posters. The conflict soon blew into a pitched battle when dozens of students from both sides charged each other with sticks and stones in front of the main auditorium of the campus. Lahore’s biggest educational campus, much like in the past, made headlines for turning into a warzone. Several units of police patrols led by at least one DSP with the aid of the university guards were able to restore calm, albeit a temporary one.
Soon after the juma prayers the highly volatile situation again began spiraling out of control when members of the IJT decided to carry out a protest for peace’ against ‘incidents of violence on campus.
“About 40 to 50 members of the Jamiat besieged the administration block. The university guards present at the scene tried to push them back but they could not succeed. So, we decided to close down the administration block for our own safety. We managed to shut down some doors but before we could lock the door closest to my office a member of the IJT pushed the guard back and forcibly entered the premises. Several students took advantage of the opening and followed him inside. They rampaged the office breaking anything they could lay their hands on,” says Khurram Shehzad, Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Punjab University, who is also a witness of the attack.
Despite wanting the protests to not continue, Khurram seemed very supportive of the staff’s decision to speak out. “If someone forces themselves into your house and then ransacks, won’t you react,” he asked, justifying the protest. “There were 2500 of us inside the administration block if we wanted we could have retaliated by force but we choose to respond through lawful and civil means,” he continues.
The IJT presents a different version of events. “Some ethno-nationalist organisations are active on our campus and are involved in instigating violent clashes. These organisations are made up of criminal elements,” explains Ibrahim Shahid, spokesperson of the PU IJT. “On that day after the initial clash, our students had scattered. They gathered again at the main mosque of PU to offer the Jumma prayer. After the prayer, some of our members started gathering inside the main ground opposite to Vice-Chancellor (VC) office for a collective reading of the Quranic Surah, Al-Kahaf. Goons of these ethnic-councils attacked our study session and a scuffle broke out,” explained Shahid.
According to Shahid their members who were instigated by the unprovoked assault started gathering outside the admin block to record their protest. But some miscreant elements from within the protestors attacked and broke some ‘un-important infrastructure’, though the IJT has yet to ascertain if these were outsiders or their members. “If it is found out that these violent elements were in fact members of the IJT I assure you that we will kick them out,” concludes Shahid.
Regardless of the defense presented by the IJT the university’s staff seems focused and adamant on punishing the students who dared attack their main office. “We have identified some of these people and have initiated disciplinary proceedings against them. Apart from that, we have also registered a formal complaint with the police department which seems to be doing their job according to procedure,” explained Khurram.