In a recent case of freedom of speech and expression, Madhya Pradesh University withdrew hosting of a webinar on ‘Culture and Linguistic Hurdles in the Achievement of Scientific Temper,’ a day after receiving a letter from the police. The letter warned of possible actions that will be taken “if religious and caste sentiments are hurt.”
The webinar, organised by Dr Harisingh Gour University’s Anthropolgy department was pulled out of the session two hours prior to the event.
On Thursday, Atul Singh, Superintendent of Police of Sagar district, adressed a letter to the university’s vice-chancellor in which he mentioned of information received that the speakers of the webinar had made statements with “references to the past history, anti-national mentality and caste-related.”
The Sagar-based university had planned to co-host this event along with Montclair State University, US. Among the speakers were Gauhar Raza, former CSIR chief scientist, professor Apoorvanand of the University of Delhi, professor Harjinder Singh of IIT Hyderabad and Dr Aseem Hasnain, Assistant Professor at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts.
The Superintendent of Police has acted on a complaint from ABVP Sagar district co-ordinator. ABVP is the student wing of BJP.
In the letter the ABVP head alleged that Prof. Apoorvanand and Prof. Gauhar Raza are of “anti-national mentality” and are involved in such activities. The letter has made unsubstantiated and blatant allegations on Prof. Apoorvanand and Prof. Gauhar Raza and used that to instigate police action.
University Vice-chancellor was asked to seek the Union Education Ministry’s approval for the webinar. But the university did not get a response from the ministry, despite that the department pulled out of the webinar.
On Friday, the event went on as scheduled but Dr Harisingh Gour University was not the convenor.
Prof. Apoorvanand has criticised the police for not turning down the letter of ABVP while Professor Gauhar Raza called this as an act of the state machinery against scientific temper.
This is not the first time that political groups associated with BJP has tried to flex muscle over so called attack on religious and caste sentiments. In the past also on many instances, ABVP members have entered and interrupted seminars and attacked professors, students and speakers in different universities.
In 2017, ABVP attacked students and professors when they were protesting cancellation of talks by JNU scholars Shehla Rashid and Umar Khalid. The ABVP was accused of orchestrating the attacks on the students in Ramjas college, Delhi University. This mob beat up Prof Chakravarty and he ended up in hospital. A guy also tried to strangle Chakravarty with his muffler.
The Delhi Police, meanwhile, allegedly, watched this entire incident play out in front of them. Some policemen and women, onlookers alleged, even joined the ABVP in attacking the other faction of students present on campus that day.
The targeted hate campaigns on social media against anyone who does not espouse RSS ideology result in creating a fake narrative or national and anti-national. Most often than not police is also party to such initiative through their inaction or sometimes being complicit in the violence.