Days after Sooraj, a PhD student from IIT Madras was attacked for participating in a beef fest in the campus, the controversy seems to be far from dying down.
Another student has now alleged that he was threatened by Manish Kumar, the Master's degree student in the ocean engineering department who had attacked Sooraj.
Arjun Jayakumar, a PhD student and a member of the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC), alleged on Thursday while addressing a press conference that he got death threats from Manish Kumar, on the day of the beef fest.
“On Sunday night, after discussions on cattle slaughter rules, I was heading back to my hostel. Manish Kumar was standing near the entrance and he threatened me saying that he will kill me and hang me in public,” said Arjun.
“Manish had seen me in the gathering and also saw Facebook pictures of us having beef. He made the threat sometime between 10 and 11pm. Similar kinds of threats were issued to another friend, Nishant. I had sent a mail to the Dean, and Nishant had directly complained to the Dean but no action was taken against Manish,” said Arjun.
But speaking to TNM over phone, Manish Kumar has denied the allegation that he threatened Arjun.
Manish has also claimed that he did not plan an attack on Sooraj, and that he only had an argument with the PhD scholar that got heated.
“It was just an argument that got heated.”
“I just went to him, I just asked him that sir, that day you were saying you were eating ‘gau mata meat’, and here you’re eating Jain food. He said, “It is my choice what I want to eat. I can eat ‘gau mata meat’, I can eat you also.” That led to an argument, and my hand got twisted,” Manish said.
While Sooraj had alleged that Manish had attacked him, and that seven of his (Manish’s) friends stopped others from intervening, the ocean engineering student has denied the claims.
“You go to the mess and ask them - these seven other people, who they are,” Manish said. “Half of the people in the mess - most of the people in the mess were supporting him… The fight didn’t even occur for 30 seconds. It started and everyone came and separated us,” he claimed.
Accusing Sooraj of being dramatic, Manish said, “I think I was in more pain than him, but definitely, I don’t know how to cry. I don’t know how to do drama.”
Denying that any of his friends were involved, Manish said, “It was between me and Sooraj.”
“The argument got heated. He put my hand, and I put my hand on him - collar type - and a fight happened,” he said.
‘It was an accident, we both got hurt.’
Claiming that what happened was an accident, Manish said, “After that he also fell down and I - as far as I think, people keep on asking me who broke your hand, who broke your hand. What would I say who broke my hand. I didn’t know it was a fracture till the CMO told me.”
“He could have fallen down. I don’t remember anyone hitting me, that I can’t say,” he said.
“There were so many people. It didn’t even last for 30 seconds,” he repeated.
“I can’t blame this directly on Sooraj - I could have easily blamed that. Let me tell you the truth. If you were a student in the college, you must have seen that. I got a hand fracture, in my right hand. And he got injury. Perhaps he also didn’t know, I also didn’t know,” he said.
“I can’t say he hit me,” Manish said.
‘No iron rods as some media claim’
But while he condemned some students and professors for organising beef fests and making the issue political on campus, Manish also laid to rest the claims that some people are making that he was in turn attacked by Sooraj’s friends.
“But see, I didn’t even realise till evening that my hand is fractured. My hand was not moving, that’s when I realised there must be some problem. The doctor told me that someone must have hit you very strongly,” Manish said.
“It’s not how the media is portraying. If they want to make it political, that’s their job,” he said.
While some right wing websites like Postcard News have claimed that Sooraj force-fed beef to students at the canteen, Manish did not make any mention of such ‘force feeding’.
Accepting that Sooraj did get hurt after he pushed him, Manish said, “Even if I want to protect myself, there should be some honesty. We got into a heated argument, and then I realised that something went wrong. But the way they’re saying that there were a group of people who fought and this and that - no. That never happened.”
‘IIT students don’t do politics.’
Asked about his opposition to the beef fest, Manish said, “They say it is a personal belief, but why do they then have to make it public? In IIT, no one cares what they are eating; here no one cares what you are doing. But intention matters. They kept shouting they were eating gau mata meat, I just simply asked,” said Manish.
Manish also denied Arjun’s allegations that he threatened him. “I asked him if he organised beef fest, he sad no. I just got angry that time. Threatened means what?” Manish asked
‘Professors doing politics’
Arjun has also alleged that this was not the first time Manish had threatened him. According to Arjun, Manish had bullied and manhandled him during a solidarity march for JNU students last year and in October 2016, when APSC released a poster in support of the Ravanleela by Periyarist organisations.
Manish denied all these allegations. “At least ask him to be honest,” he said.
Pointing a finger at some professors, Manish said, “It is not about the students, they all are being guided by few faculty members. There was argument when Arjun put up a poster on Ravanaleela, it happened in front of everyone. They are making all these issues political.”
An FIR has been filed against Manish and as well as Sooraj at the Kotturpuram police station. After protests in the campus for two days, the director of the institute, Bhaskar Ramamurti has promised to accept demands of the student collective groups and conduct a fair probe into the incident.
Here is the sound recording: