New Delhi: The Principal and Vice-Principal of HK Arts College in Ahmedabad have resigned in protest against the trustees caving in to Right Wing threats and disallowing a function that was to be attended by Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, an alumnus of the college, as part of the college’s annual day function on Monday.
According to media reports, the programme was cancelled after Brahmchari Wadi Trust, which governs HK College, refused to provide a hall for the function where Mevani, an Independent MLA, was the chief guest. The Trust has some Padma awardees as members.
Criticising the Brahamchari Vadi Trust, Principal Hemant Shah resigned from his post on Monday, alleging that the trust "compromised on the freedom of expression" and gave in to threats by student leaders of a political party, according to the New Indian Express.
The college is said to have cancelled the programme after some of its trustees got protest calls, allegedly from some student leaders owing allegiance to the Bharatiya Janata Party affiliated Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), against hosting the Dalit leader as chief guest.
Reacting to the news, Mevani tweeted: “"Because of threat calls made by BJP goons, trustees of HK Arts college, Ahmedabad I graduated from cancelled the annual function where I was invited as chief guest. Was going to talk about life and mission of Babasaheb (Ambedkar). Salute to Principal Hemant Shah who resigned on moral ground.”
Principal Shah, in his resignation letter, said: “It is clear that today’s political environment is strangulating the constitutional freedom and right to expression and speech and this is also getting support from the authorities,” according to The Indian Express.
“It is easily understood that the decision to not allow the use of the college auditorium for today’s function was under pressure and open threatening from student leaders from a particular political party”, he added.
Scroll.in, quoted a BJYM leader denying any role in the cancellation of permission to Mevani.
“We do not believe in such superficial politics,” Rutvij Patel, president of the youth wing, was quoted as saying.
In a column in The Wire, on his and Vice Principal Mohanbhai Parmar’s resignation, Shah said:
“Both the vice-principal and I tendered our resignations on Monday. The trust surrendered to the demands of the BJP-affiliated student leaders of the Gujarat University, who threatened that if Jignesh Mevani attends, the event would not be allowed. They said they would create a ruckus, even if there is police protection. Our trust chose not to allow the event in our hall premises, which has a capacity of 750 people. We were left with no option but to cancel. This cannot be taken lying down.”
Condemning “suppression of thought” in an academic institution, Shah went on to cite many past instances when the college had invited politicians of various hues.
“Just a few months ago, Karnavati University in Ahmedabad invited Amit Shah, Sam Pitroda, Subramanian Swamy and several political figures for a youth parliament event. I don’t mind if Amit Shah is invited to our college. But if Amit Shah is not prevented from speaking in the university, why did people not want a platform for someone who is an elected MLA from Vadgam?”, he wrote, adding that apart from inviting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “We have invited several ministers from the state – even Maya Kodnani (The only minister to have been convicted for her role in the communal riots in Gujarat in 2002. She was last year acquitted by the Gujarat High Court) – to attend events in the past. So why was this a problem?”