NEW DELHI: The indefinite protest over the alleged leak of Staff Selection Commission (SSC) exam papers conducted in February is about to enter the second week, and the aspirants seem determined to have their demands met.
In the past week, some aspirants shaved their heads while performing a “funeral ceremony” of the Commission. Female protesters celebrated Women’s Day with their mouths covered with black bands and hands tied. Since February 27, they have been accusing the SSC of blatant corruption in the way it conducts the exams.
What do they want? A time-bound CBI probe under the supervision of the Supreme Court into all SSC exams and commission’s functioning. Secondly, they demand a stay order on all SSC exams until completion of CBI inquiry into the matter.
However, for these thousands of protesters, the struggle is much bigger.
With no access to female toilets and before-time closure of gates of the nearby metro station, women are left with no choice but to leave the protest site at night.
“We leave by 10-11 pm,” said Priya, a 20-year-old B.Com graduate, who is among the protesters.
“Police shut down nearby female toilets. When mobile toilets were brought in by students, police didn’t allow us to set them up,” she added.
The on-and-off closing of Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium Metro station— the closest station to the CGO complex — during the protest has added to their woes.
“On the day the police shut down JLN metro station, we walked from Jangpura metro station (the next metro station after JLN on the violet line) to the CGO complex,” said Rajiv, a protester who had appeared for Combined Graduate Level (CGL) exam held on February 20.
The agitators eat fruits and biscuits, whatever they can afford. “No one is helping us in making food arrangements,” said Akshay.
NGO Khalsa Aid is organising langars for the students whenever they can. “Khalsa Aid saw our hardships and the rightness in our demands being raised,” Akshay added.
Throughout the day, the aspirants keep the protest alive by writing poems or sharing their stories with others. On spotting an open window in the SSC office, chants of “SSC chor hai” and “We want justice” rent the air. In between, they look for evidence demanded by SSC Chairman Ashim Khurana to support their claims for “mass cheating” and the alleged leak of question papers.
Laughter of some aspirants ring out in the darkness. While many spend the night talking or walking around, some sleep on the road barricaded by Delhi Police and behind the Metro station.
Among the protesters, only a few come with bags stuffed with blankets to spend the night on road.
“This is the first time I have ever slept on the road. The nights are cold here,” said Netram, a B.Tech graduate from Haryana, who has been preparing for the SSC exams in Delhi’s Mukherjee Nagar for three years and attempted it for the second time this year.
“They stay here all night. Some wrapped in blankets, and some not. In the morning the crowd again erupts with slogans,” Sumitra, 18, who sells dry fruits at the CGO complex said while referring to the male aspirants in the crowd.
For now, the cycle of protest seems to have no end. “We will not move until our demands are heard. A week has passed, but we are ready to sit for another seven months for our rights,” said a protester who called himself ‘berozgar’ (jobless).
SSC ‘scam’ Timeline:
Sat, Feb 24: SSC releases notice saying the exam held on Feb 21 was delayed due to ‘technical reasons’, and will be re-conducted on March 9, 2018
Tue, Feb 27: SSC aspirants launches protest against alleged leak of question paper of an SSC exam held on Feb 21
Wed, Feb 28: SSC cites protest “...being actively instigated and sponsored by two coaching institutes/ agencies with vested interests” and ask for ‘concrete evidence’ against candidates allegations
Thur, March 1: A delegation of candidates meet Minister of State for Personnel, Pension and Public Grievances Jitendra Singh; govt suggests CBI inquiry if evidence provided by protesters found to be substantial
Fri, March 2: Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal asks for a CBI inquiry into the matter
Sat, March 3: JLN metro station shuts down as agitation gains momentum, demanding cancellation of recruitment exam and a CBI probe into the alleged paper leak
Sun, March 4: Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari meets Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in support of CBI inquiry into SSC scam
Mon, March 5: Govt. orders CBI inquiry into the alleged paper leak of SSC exam held in February
Tue, March 6: SSC releases another notice saying the protest is an attempt by vested interest ‘to disrupt the examination system’ and ‘defame the commission’
Wed, March 7: Aspirants protesting outside CGO complex perform SSC’s funeral ceremony and shave off their heads
Thu, March 8: Women aspirants sit outside CGO complex with their mouth covered with black bands and hands tied
Fri, March 9: Swaraj India party holds press conference, demands govt to conduct inquiry into all Staff Selection Commission (SSC) exams and suspend all exams under process till a probe is completed
Sat, March 10: SSC says CBI have ‘registered a preliminary inquiry case, in the said matter, thereby initiating the process of CBI inquiry’