Police sabotages teachers’ rally, beats up, arrests around 200 protesters
Women teachers abused and manhandled by Cantonment SP
Senior and elderly teachers put in dirty cells
By Waqar Gillani
LAHORE: The Lahore police on Monday sabotaged the protest rally and convention of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of teachers’ organisations against the denationalisation of educational institutions.
The rally was to be held at the Government Islamia College, Cooper Road; however, police contingents blocked the main gate of the college and arrested close to 200 teachers, including 35 to 40 women.
The teachers older than 55 years of age were released after six to eight hours; the remaining teachers were released around 10 pm on Monday night. Punjab Professors and Lecturers Association (PPLA) Central President Nazim Hussnain was amongst those arrested.
As the JAC, PPLA and other teachers’ organisations had already announced they would be holding the convention and protest rally, several contingents of policemen, including high-ranking officers, were deployed in front of the Cooper Road college, the Assembly Hall and surrounding areas to ostensibly sabotage the rally before it even began.
According to eyewitnesses, the police blocked the entrance to the college and started beating up and arresting all the teachers who tried to enter. They even attempted to arrest one of the on-looking journalists, but released him upon discovering he was not a teacher.
A women lecturer, Naheed Mussadaq, told Daily Times that she had been manhandled and beaten by Cantt Superintendent Police (SP) Dr Osman and showed the bruises on her arms and body where she had been struck. She added that the SP had also beaten up and manhandled several other women teachers. She asked whether the governor or the minister or secretary for education would tolerate it if such treatment were meted out to their daughters, mothers, or sisters.
As of Monday evening, the police had surrounded the college and was warning the women teachers who were still protesting to disperse or to be arrested themselves. However, the teachers continued to protest and demanded the release of their detained colleagues.
Meanwhile, many of the elderly and senior were reportedly placed in dirty cells, where one senior teacher, MD Javed, even suffered a heart attack; he was released after an hour.
Punjab Inspector General Police Malik Asif Hayat later told reporters that the arrests were made to ensure peace in the city. He said the police had not filed any cases or registered any First Information Report (FIR) against any teachers.
In response to the actions taken by the Punjab police, the PPLA and other teachers’ organisations held a press conference at the Diyal Singh College, in which they condemned the ‘state terrorism’ and the way the teachers and women were beaten and arrested.
They said ‘this terrorism’ would not affect their movement against the denationalisation of educational institutions, but only would ‘add fuel to fire’. They said that in all of history, never before had any government trampled on the dignity and rights of teachers in such a manner. They demanded that the government immediately stop the denationalisation process, abolish the ordinance to establish boards of governors in colleges, suspend the officers involved in the police action on Monday and set up independent judicial inquiry to look into the matter.
They also announced that group protests would take place today (Tuesday) at 40 places in the city, and in all districts of Punjab, to boycott refresher courses for teachers and the central marking of intermediate examination papers. They added that a protest convention and rally would be arranged at the Islamia College, Civil Lines and in front of the Punjab Secretariat on August 1.
Meanwhile, the All Parties Conference (APC), comprising of various political parties and non-governmental organisations, also announced a protest rally on August 1 at the same venue to demonstrate their solidarity with the teachers.
The APC also condemned the arrests of the teachers.