It seems that Banaras Hindu University (BHU) cannot part ways with controversies. On Saturday evening, students of BHU and local people conducted a protest rally against a seminar titled 'Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir, Conditions and Possibility' organised by Arundhati Vashishtha Anusandhan Peeth at the University's Swatantrata Bhavan in the memory of former Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Ashok Singhal. The protesters stated that such seminars will vitiate the communal atmosphere in the country.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy and VHP vice-president Champat Rai were speakers. During his speech, Swamy said that no one could stop the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya if all Hindus unite and Rai appealed to the students to unite for building the temple. BHU's Proctor Royana Singh was also present in the auditorium.
‘Such Seminars Common in BHU’
Speaking with Newsclick, Vivek Kumar, a student of political science at BHU and organiser of the protest said, "This is not the first time, such a seminar was organised in the university in 2014 also. Subramanian Swamy had come here and delivered a lecture on Ram Mandir, spewing venom against Muslims. Even though politics is banned in the campus, but Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and BJP frequently organise various programmes as they easily get approval of hall, room, auditorium. While in our case we hardly get the chance to protest for our problems. Is this not dual standard?"
Vivek further said, "Recently, ABVP had organised 'Mission Sahasi', a self defence training program where girls across Varanasi came to the university in many buses. Why such training needs to be organised in the campus where university girls hardly participate? Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader Indresh Kumar was also invited by the ABVP in another instance.”
Talking about the latest seminar, he said, “We had gone to meet the Vice-chancellor to cancel the seminar because such an event will lead to communal tensions. However, he does not live in the university so we had to meet the registrar who replied that tum logon ko jo karna hai karo, mujhe jo karna hai wo main karunga (Do whatever you have to do, I will do whatever I want to do in my capacity). Meanwhile during our protest, ABVP people got involved in heated arguments with us and also started a scuffle in front of the police.”
Another student of BHU, who chose to be anonymous told Newsclick, "Whereas our country is facing problems like poverty, farmer suicides, starvation, poor state of education, violence against women, unemployment, the present government is discussing issues like Ram mandir and trying to disrupt the country's communal harmony.”
The student went on to add, "The youth of our country are desperately waiting for 2 crore jobs promised by the Modi government but they want to engage us on issues like the construction of temple. Students should have 24 hours library facility in BHU campus, there should be discussions on the falling economic condition of the country, but unfortunately, a seminar is being organised here on a very irrelevant issue."
Students’ Voice Repressed by Administration
Former Student of BHU, Roshan Pandey said, "Last year on December 6, we had organised a programme on the death anniversary of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar but the university administration canceled our programme. However, the ABVP members were given permission to take out a bike rally inside the campus to mark 'Shaurya Diwas' on the anniversary of Babri demolition in the presence of proctorial team and police. In a similar incident, when we had organised an event on Bhagat Singh and Ram Manohar Lohia, posters were torn by the proctorial team saying that they will not let become BHU a political hub. But it is not applicable on ABVP, VHP and BJP.”
Pandey also said, "At the time of their admission in BHU, girls were asked to give an affidavit to the university administration declaring they will not participate in any protest otherwise their hostel and admission will stand cancelled. Students are mobilised by professors to celebrate Prime Minister Narendra Modi's birthday and people from political parties were also allowed in the campus but we are not allowed to raise our voice in a democratic manner.”
Jagriti Rahi, member of Sajha Sanskriti Manch, who attended the protest told Newsclick, "To hide its failure in four and half years, Modi government is dragging out the Ram Mandir issue and Subramanian Swamy is being used. This, despite knowing that this issue is still in the Supreme Court. Another thing is that why did the University campus to organise such a program. Meanwhile, when students of the university are protesting in a democratic way, they have been beaten and their voices have been repressed brutally.We are against the idea of a Hindu Rashtra.”
BHU was recently in controversy for debarring eleven students from the university for joining a protest over the alleged sexual molestation of a female student of the university.