In an instance of gross intimidation, members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), have threatened human rights activist and journalist Teesta Setalvad against conducting a workshop at Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth in Varanasi. The workshop titled, “Mainstream journalism in the age of Social Media” was scheduled to take place at 2 pm on February 27, 2018. The move, is yet another example of bullying and strong arm tactics for which the ABVP, the purported ‘students’ wing of the BJP and RSS, has gained notoriety. But for the obvious and overt efforts of the UP police to physically intimidate Setalvad and students, the ABVP goons who were just a handful could not have succeeded.
CJP condemns this overt intimidation of free inquiry and questioning when permission was granted for the workshop many days in advance. A copy of the permission letter can be viewed below. It was on Monday, February 26, 2018 when ABVP first threatened to disrupt the workshop. But it was the student organizers and the Students Union who decided to go ahead nevertheless. This morning the administration orally took back the permissions.
A huge posse of policemen including the PAC was stationed, converting the Kashi Vidyapeeth into a war like zone. All gates were locked. Students gathered from all around to attend. Barely four-to five ABVP activists stood with college administration and planned the attack. There were no women police officers present at the time of the attack.
Suddenly, a large number of police personnel arrived when Teesta Setalvad, Secretary, CJP, arrived. Setalvad was stopped by the police. She decided to walk nevertheless, as students wanted her to garland a statue of Chandrashekhar Azad as it was his death anniversary. Setalvad was surrounded by the police and stopped even as an inspector suddenly started beating and abusing students. Among the hapless sttudents who were roughed up by the police for no reason, were Harish Mishra, Sooraj Yadav, Roshan Kumar, Gyanu Yadav, Ajit Yadav, Ravindra Verma, Ranjith Seth and many others. The police used force to push everybody out. It is only after the police action that the ABVP students started sloganeering.
Thereafter, Teesta spoke to the to media even as the police and administration stopped students from garlanding statue.
CJP condemns that amidst this sloganeering, the police present openly stood laughing with ABVP people who were barely 4 or 5, all the while being very aggressive with students who wanted to hear Setalvad. The workshop with students of Mass Communication and other social activists of Kashi Vidyapeeth continued at another venue.
The ABVP seems to be baffled by the book release function of Ms. Setalavad that took place yesterday, in which her autobiography “Samvidhan ki Sipahi” (Footsoldier of the Constitution) was released. In an attempt to cast aspertions about the motive behind the media workshop, Abhishek Mishra, District Co-ordinator of ABVP in Kashi and a youth worker of RSS, predictably labelled it as ‘Anti-national activity’ and said, “Aman ke Dushman Wapas Jao” (Enemies of peace, go back). In a post on Facebook, he alleged that after spreading ‘hate’ in various universities in the country namely JNU, BHU and others, “anarchic” elements are trying to instigate the University, right under the nose of the administration. Spreading more ‘FAKE NEWS’, the same post goes on to call CJP and Sabrang “banned” NGOs.
It is very clear that ABVP feels emboldened to issue such threats because of the political backing and support that it enjoys, not just from the state government, but also from the Centre. Condemning the impunity of the attack, Teesta Setalvad said, “It is extremely condemnable that the administration of an august institution like Kashi Vidyapeeth, inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi (founded Shiv Prasad Gupt and Bhagwan Das) is today succumbing to an ideology that killed the Mahatma. Only days ago, another large university, the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) allowed the glorification of the killer of Gandhiji. A clear agenda is visible in both central and state universities where students, human rights defenders, those who speak for communal harmony the Constitution are intimidated by violence and threat, whereas a violent fascist ideology is given sanction. Kashi, Banaras and Indian belongs to us all. They cannot appropriate our heritage.”