LAHORE: Hundreds of activists and students from various educational institutes of the city participated in a ‘Student Solidarity March’ on Friday to demand free education and restoration of student unions in the country.
The march organised by the Student Action Committee (SAC) turned into a rally at Charing Cross on The Mall in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
After the rally, Lahore Deputy Commissioner (DC) Muddassir Riaz Malik issued arrest orders against Prof Ammar Ali Jan, one of the organisers of the rally and president of Haqooq-i-Khalq Movement, under Section 16 of the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance (MPO).
The order available with Dawn states: “Upon the basis/ material received from Deputy Inspector General (Operations) Lahore, I am convinced that the presence of Ammar Ali Jan at any public place will pose grave threat to public safety and is likely to cause breach of public peace and public order”.
Ammar Jan goes into hiding; hundreds take part in the rally for students’ rights
It further states: “In exercise of powers under section-3 of the MPO, Ammar Ali Jan should be arrested and detained for a period of 30 days from the date of arrest. His custody shall be placed under the Superintendent Central Jail Kot Lakhpat”.
As the rally was about to conclude, a heavy police contingent arrived on the spot.
After the protest, Mr Jan and his comrades left the venue in a car, which was followed by a police vehicle. Police stopped him on the Main Boulevard, Gulberg, and took him to the police check post.
The policemen held negotiations with Mr Jan and others and allowed him to leave on the assurance that he would appear in the Civil Lines Police Station within two hours.
Talking to Dawn, Mr Jan said his lawyer would appear on his behalf and he would approach the court for pre-arrest bail on Monday.
Mr Jan’s wife Tabitha Spence told Dawn a team of her husband’s lawyers would represent him in the police station. She said they were protesting for students’ rights, did not create any problem for the public and protest was their basic right. She said they were in hiding and would not give custody of Jan.
Earlier, addressing the students at Charing Cross, Prof Ammar Ali Jan lambasted the administrations of the universities for, what he called, promoting fascism on the campuses where students were not allowed to raise their voice.
Giving an example, he said the teachers were being removed from jobs for speaking in favour of the students and promoting research culture. He said no one could bring about any change and betterment in the campuses without representation of the students in the decision-making bodies.
He said the state had launched a crackdown on the students last year for carrying out a solidarity march and they were put behind the bars.
Mr Jan stressed that the students, farmers, labourers and civil society activists would have to join hands for their rights as capitalism had snatched basic needs from them. He said the students union could provide the country true leadership for the betterment of society and country but the feudal and capitalists were not giving them a right of association.
“We have to work for a socialist revolution and will have to snatch power to make a state for the people and of the people,” he declared.
The students as well as activists from various political parties and labour organisations also attended the march to support the students’ demands. The protesters were carrying placards and banners inscribed with slogans to demand free education, restoration of student unions, formation of committees against harassment on campuses and provision of internet facilities.
Addressing the rally, Progressive Students Collective spokesperson Kalsoom Fatima said the students were facing several problems, especially increase in fee and harassment on campuses for the last 70 years and no one was taking measures to address these issues. She added that the poor students were deprived of higher education due to lack of funds and the current government, which claimed to be the representative of the youth, had cut education budgets.
Ms Fatima bemoaned that girl students were being harassed on campuses but the administrations of educational institutions had turned a deaf ear to the problem.
Student Action Committee convenor Muzzamil Khan informed that the student solidarity march was being held in 40 cities of the country to raise a voice for the students.
He said increase in fee structure and unavailability of facilities had created problems for the students, especially in the remote areas. He said they were protesting for restoration of student unions because their problems were increasing without their representation in decision-making bodies.
Kissan Rabta Committee general secretary Farooq Tariq said the government had launched a crackdown on the farmers protesting in the city and a farmer was killed.
He said the current and former rulers had developed policies to favour feudalism and capitalism and there was nothing for the poor in the system.
Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2020