Eflu Students Petition President Against ‘False’ Police Case

Photograph By Gary Ashley

Alleging that the administration was playing a partisan role, the students of The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad or Eflu have petitioned the President Pranab Mukherjee to ensure that the “false police case” filed against six students is withdrawn.

467 people have signed the online petition so far started on Change.org by Struggle Committee Eflu.

Six students – two female and four male members – were charged with “promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc. and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony…” under Section 153 (A) – a non-bailable offence.

The students were part of the celebrations that began on Sept. 9 during which posters of ‘Ravana’ and ‘Tataki’ – demonised in majoritarian Hindu mythology – were put up across the campus.

An academic seminar entitled ‘Reinterpreting Indian History: Redefining Secularism in University Spaces’ was held besides a debate on the theme ‘Resisting Dominance: Articulating Cultural Resistance’ and a face-painting competition themed ‘Raavana’.

“Students and artists were extended an open invitation to participate in art installations and a public canvas painting (Theme: Memories of Oppression),” said the organisers.

“It was organized as part of the broader socio-political endeavor to recognize and uphold cultures of Dalit, Adivasi and Bahujan communities.”

Photograph By Gary Ashley
Photograph By Gary Ashley/Flickr

The festival ran into rough weather on the third day reportedly after some students complained with the administration that their religious sentiments were ‘hurt’ by the festival.

Instead of engaging the organisers, the university administration, much to the chagrin of the students who participated in the fest, went to the Osmania police.

Deputy Proctor Kona Prakash said he feared the situation could go out of control. “Hence I approached the police,” he told The Hindu. “Police had conducted their own probe and charged the six students.”

However, the student representatives of the festival won’t agree, and instead charged the administration of ‘favouring a particular ideology’. “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,” the students said in the petition.

This year, they said, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad or the ABVP – student wing of Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – was allowed to set up a Ganesha pandal during Ganesh Chaturthi on the campus despite complaints from both students and teachers last year.

“Members of the administration, on the other hand, have attempted to remove banners and portraits of [BR] Ambedkar [a Dalit icon], alleging ‘communalization’ of academic spaces,” said the students.

“The administration’s complaint against the EFLU Asura Week falsely implicates a purely inclusive, secular and non-confrontational endeavour as ‘communal’ and ‘offensive’.”

Informing that the university administration didn’t “even once communicate any sense of discontent” to the organisers for conducting the programme, the students alleged that police was being used to clamp down on them.

“This is not the first time that the administration has over-rided (sic) 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,” the students said.

“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?”

They alleged that the incumbent university administration was misusing ‘discipline’ and ‘security’ to ‘systematically demolish’ all possibilities of resistance and debate.

“It seems practically impossible to express one’s differences with dominant notions and ideas without being accused of indiscipline, criminality, violence etc.,” they said.

“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.).

The students termed it as “a complete break-down of campus democracy, a criminalization of the real secular forces of India, the Dalits, and a Hindutva assault on the space for higher education.”

Calling for an “unconditional” withdrawal of cases against the students, the representatives through the petition demanded an independent inquiry to investigate the “attack on secular mode of expression and the rise of Hindutva [forces] on [the] campus.”

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