The President of India: Ensure that the EFL University administration withdraws the false police case filed against 6 students under Sec. 153(A) for peacefully conducting a secular cultural festival
The English and Foreign Languages University has filed an unbailable criminal case (dated: 11/09/13) against six students (four students from the SC/ST/OBC communities and two women students) with the Osmania Police Station (Case Details: Crime No. 350/2013 U/S 153 (A) IPC) for conducting and/or participating in the EFLU Asura Week (9th September, 2013-15th September, 2013). They are charged with the grave offence of, "Promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc. and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony..."
Although the programme was conducted within the university campus, the University administration has not even once communicated any sense of discontent to the organizers/participants for conducting the programme. This is not the first time that the administration has over-rided all procedures of enquiry and disciplinary action provided in the University Ordinance (warning, written apology, bond of good behavior etc.) and approached police for intervention.
We organized an academic seminar (Title: Reinterpreting Indian History: Redefining Secularism in University Spaces), an open forum (Resisting Dominance: Articulating Cultural Resistance) and a face-painting competition (Theme: Raavana). Students and artists were extended an open invitation to participate in art installations and a public canvas painting (Theme: Memories of Oppression).
In Asura week, a large number of students from different regions of the country participated actively cutting across caste, class, gender and other differences. The programme inculcated values of civility and secularism among different sections of students and attracted media attention. It was organized as part of the broader socio-political endeavor to recognize and uphold cultures of Dalit, Adivasi and Bahujan communities. Prominent scholars such as Prof. Kancha Ilaiah have retrieved the figure of the Asura as Dalit-Bahujan people, who have been demonized through Hindu mythology. Across the country, many communities worship Asuras such as Raavana (Ravangram, MP; Kanpur, UP; Tamil Nadu etc.) and Mahishasura (Maldah, Bankura & Purulia, WB; Jharkhand; North Bengal etc.). We draw from the ideologies and thoughts of Ambedkar, Phule and Periyar, and take inspiration from the Osmania University students who have initiated celebrations of Narakasura and Raavanasura festivals on campus.
We would especially like to point out the increasing liberties that the administration has started giving to Hindutva forces in our University since last year when the new vice-chancellor joined her office. This year, ABVP was allowed to set up a Ganesha pandal on campus (Vinayaka Chaturthi was being celebrated during the same week), in spite of complaints registered from both students and teachers last year. Members of the administration,on the other hand, have attempted to remove banners and portraits of Ambedkar, alleging “communalization” of academic spaces. The administration’s complaint against the EFLU Asura Week falsely implicates a purely inclusive, secular and non-confrontational endeavor as “communal” and “offensive”. We strongly resent the partisan manner in which the administration conducts itself.
Even if the administration was compelled to find “indiscipline” in activities such as face-painting, academic debates, etc., why has there been no attempt to communicate this to the concerned participants? We feel that such an action on the part of the administration is not only excessive but amounts to intimidation and threats against students who participate in any form of democratic critique (protest, protest-art, academic discussions, general body meetings etc.).
The present administration is systematically demolishing all possibilities of resistance and debate in the name of “discipline”, and “security”. It seems practically impossible to express one’s differences with dominant notions and ideas without being accused of indiscipline, criminality, violence etc. Students and employees from marginalized communities are being continuously harassed and criminalized for the last one year (police cases, failures in the German department, memos on false pretexts, termination of security guards without notice, targeting Dalit, Bahujan, Adivasi and minority student activists etc.). We consider this a complete break-down of campus democracy, a criminalization of the real secular forces of India, the Dalits, and a Hinduttva assault on the space fo higher education.
We, as students of this University will not accept such criminalization of cultural expressions from marginalized communities. We shall not be silent to attempts to curb and decimate our democratic rights of critique and discourse. And we strongly condemn the inefficacy of an administration that has to solely depend on police force to initiate any dialogue with its students.
- The police case against all six students must be unconditionally withdrawn
- The University must provide a written explanation describing the exact nature of the “provocation” that led the administration to approach the police directly over-riding all procedures of inquiry and disciplinary action provided in the University Ordinance (warning, written apology, bond of good behavior etc.)
- An independent enquiry be set up to investigate the attack on secular mode of expression and the rise of Hindutwa on campus.
EFLU Asura Community and Struggle Committee EFLU.