Lucknow: A group of over 50 activists of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP, created a ruckus at Lucknow University campus on Tuesday afternoon over an alleged "offensive comment" on Kashi Vishwanath temple-Gyanvapi Masjid made by a dalit professor in a debate on news website.
The activists kept chanting “Jai Sri Ram '', “Har Har Mahadevi '' and “Desh Ke Gaddaron Ko, Goli Maaro s**** Ko (shoot the traitors) throughout in the presence of proctorial team. They also called the professor a “traitor” and demanded an FIR against him.
The Lucknow Police and the university administration intervened and kept the protesters and the professor separate. Later, the authorities initiated talks between the professor and the ABVP students.
However, associate professor Rajeev Kunwar, who teaches Hindi at Lucknow University, said his colleague had never made any offensive comments against Hindu saints, rather he was giving reference to a book written by Pattabhi Sitaramayya, an independence activist and political leader from Andhra Pradesh, on how the mosque came to be constructed in Varanasi. He alleged that the professor was being targeted for being vocal on dalit rights.
"I never made any comments against Hindu saints or priests of the Kashi Vishwanath temple in the debate, rather I quoted a story from a book, Feathers And Stones, written by Pattabhi Sitaramayya. He has written in his book that Mughal emperor Aurangzeb demolished the Kashi Vishwanath Temple to avenge the dishonour of a Hindu woman who was allegedly raped by a priest in the premises of the temple. I simply quoted the story in the debate for which I have been getting threats on social media and over phone. ABVP activists, along with some outsiders, have threatened me of dire consequences for the remark, which is not my own," the professor, Ravikant, told NewsClick.
The professor said he could not independently corroborate the story, adding that the book describes a rape that took place inside ground floor of the temple complex when Aurangzeb was passing through Varanasi along with his caravan.
According to Ravikant, it all started after he participated in a debate at Satya Hindi news website on May 8 on 'Gyanvapi Survey: Will it help BJP in 2024 elections? The debate was conducted by senior journalist Ashutosh. However the professor expressed regret, saying that his intention was not to hurt religious sentiments.
The dalit professor further said "we are living in an era where even a dalit professor cannot freely express views.”
Social activists, writers, theatre workers and civil societies have condemned the “hooliganism” by ABVP activists inside the university against Ravikant.
Commenting over the incident, Roop Rekha Verma, former vice-chancellor of Lucknow University, told NewsClick: "Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. You also have the right to agree or disagree. Ravikant has quoted history from Sitaramayya's book which is very common. He has every right to express his opinion or quote from book. You can counter him. Different views and interpretations are natural as well as welcome when there is a debate on any topic. Difference of opinion is an important part of any debate. Trying to suppress it and intolerance toward it is unfortunate," she said, adding that, for the past seven-eight years, it has become a common affair to label anyone “anti-national” for holding a different view.
"It is not only a matter of freedom of thought, it is also a matter of right of scholars to express their views in debates," she said.