Lucknow: A dalit professor from Lucknow has faced the ire of the Rajya Karamchari Sahitya Sansthan (State Employees’ Literary Association) for a Facebook post criticising the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
A large number of people including students from all walks of the society came forward to protest against this on the streets of Lucknow streets on Sunday evening (March 10).
Professor Ravi Kant was conferred the Raman Lal Agarwal Award, but on March 6, he received a letter from the association stating that the award conferred to him stands cancelled owing to his Facebook post which criticised the BJP. The letter sent to him by the award committee reads, “You were being given the Raman Lal Agarwal Award, however, we have received a latter with allegations against you along with copies of your Facebook account. In such opposite situations, the committee has decided to roll back its decision to confer the award upon you.”
Speaking with NewsClick over phone, the dalit professor said, “I am free to express my personal views, if someone has a problem with it then I can’t help it. I had received the ‘Sahitya Gaurav’ award from the same organisation last year too.”
Also Read: Manipur: Wangkhem Kishorchandra’s Arrest Points Towards a Larger Issue
He further said that the issue is not of the award. “Government agencies and other related organisations are monitoring the people who are writing against policies of the government, which is not at par with the democratic ethos. In a way, it seems that certain forces are trying to curb the voices of marginalised sections, women, dalits, etc,” he said.
Professor Ravi Kant teaches in the Department of Hindi in Lucknow University. He has been regularly raising his voice about the issues of dalits and other marginalised communities. The Rajya Karamchari Sahitya Sansthan, UP, had decided to confer Raman Lal Agarwal Award on Prof. Ravi Kant on February 26, 2019. The Award carries a cash prize of Rs. 11,000 and a certificate of recognition.
The association cancelled the award after getting a complaint from a Delhi based NGO Human and Animal Crime Control Association that Professor Ravi Kant had written many posts on social media criticising the BJP governments at the centre and in UP. The organisation then informed Professor Ravi Kant about the cancellation of the Award through a letter.
Siddhartha Kalhans, the national secretary of Indian Federation of Indian Journalist, has condemned the decision to withdraw the literary award. He said that Professor Ravi Kant has been vocal for the rights of dalits, backward classes, tribals and minorities in his writing and his actions. Such an act shows the narrow mind and apathy of the state towards these communities. He also said that the journalist community stands by the professor.
Former Chief Minister of the state Akhilesh Yadav tweeted, “The BJP’s assault on Dalits continues unabated. Today Prof. Ravi Kant of Lucknow University was stripped of a state sponsored award for having anti-BJP views. The is the true face of their so called ‘nationalism’.”
Abdul Hafiz Gandhi, spokesperson of the Samajwadi Party said that constitutional rights are involved here. He said, “An academician is not considered a public servant and hence he is free to express his political views. Many academicians work in political parties. They constantly write their views in various media platforms. This action of award cancellation is deplorable and must be condemned in no uncertain terms.”
Also Read: Pulwama Attack: LIC Employee Suspended, Faces Death Threats for Facebook Posts
When contacted, one of the office bearers of the State Employees Literary Association said that the award was cancelled to avoid any controversy. He did not take any more questions. The association said that Allahabad-based Hindi poet Shailesh Gautam is the new recipient of the prize.