01, Mar 2018 | Two Circles
February 28, 2018
By Siddhant Mohan
Varanasi police on Tuesday lined with the alleged “intimidation practices” and threatened Teesta Setalvad, a human rights activist, against conducting a workshop by Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) 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, and Setalvad was in the premises to take part in the same. The press statement released by Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) over the same has alleged that ‘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”.
CJP has further condemned the “overt intimidation of free inquiry and questioning” when permission was granted for the workshop many days before the scheduled workshop.
The mentioned workshop was being organised with the help of Student Union at Vidyapeeth which is dominated by socialist and Congress panellists. The university administration cancelled the permission granted to Union’s vice president at the last moment, which resulted in chaos in the university premises. Organisers have also released a copy of the permission letter, which can be seen below.
Organisers have claimed that it was Monday, February 26, 2018, when ABVP first threatened to disrupt the workshop, but alleged threats were ignored and organisers decided to go ahead nevertheless. But University administration orally took back the permission on the day of the workshop.
Spectators and witnesses have reported that even before the organisers could reach the spot, a huge chunk of policemen, including the PAC, was stationed in University premises “converting it into a war zone,” said CJP as well.
Police tried to stop Teesta Setalvad, also the secretary at CJP, the moment she arrived at the university campus. Setalvad was surrounded by the police and stopped even as an inspector suddenly started beating and abusing students.
CJP has provided the names of the individuals who have been roughed by police for “no reason” which include 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 of the University premises. It is only after the police action that the ABVP students started sloganeering.
Thereafter, Teesta spoke to the to media the university gate and accused university administration of being partial in building up an education environment. The Vidyapeeth administration is in question since the month of January when it provided its university ground to Bharatiya Janata Party for conducting “Yuva Udghosh rally”, allegedly for the exchange of 42,000 Rupees. Congress and National Students Union of India (NSUI) have been questioning the role of the university since then “for not providing an equal opportunity to every section of society”.
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 belong to us all. They cannot appropriate our heritage.”
“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,” said CJP in the press statement.
However, this is not the first time when UP police have manhandled Teesta and her associates. She has been detained previously on several occasions without assigning any reason to her, or to her counsel.
The original piece may be read here.