Police slap non-bailable charges on organisers of the Asura Week, parts of which reportedly hurt the religious sentiments of some students
It was meant to be a five-day ‘academic’ exercise to narrate alternative histories and deconstruct the mythological Asuras.
But the Asura Week celebrations at English and Foreign Language University (Eflu) left a sour taste among organisers, who were slapped with police cases for ‘disturbing communal harmony’. Cases were registered against six organisers – two female and four male students – under Section 153 (A), a non-bailable offence. However, no arrests have been made.
The celebrations were held at the campus from September 9, with posters and cut-outs of characters like ‘Shoorpanaka’, ‘Ravana’ and ‘Tataki’, who were all demonised in popular Hindu mythology, were put up. Activities like face-painting, sculpting and canvas painting were organised to deliberate on these mythological characters on the first three days while the remaining days were set apart for seminars and an open forum.
The trouble, however, began brewing on the third day, when some students lodged complaints with the police and the Vice-Chancellor, claiming that some aspects of the event had hurt their ‘religious’ sentiments. Upon receiving the complaints at the V-C office, Deputy Proctor Kona Prakash submitted a letter at the police station, stating that the ongoing events might lead to potential trouble.
“Some undergraduate students had already complained to the police that the posters displayed had hurt their sentiments. I found that the situation could go out of control. Hence I approached the police,” Mr. Prakash said, adding that he did not specify any names of organisers or the complainants, in his report. Police had conducted their own probe and charged the six students, he said.
When asked about the reason for approaching the police instead of engaging the organisers directly, Mr. Prakash said: “It would have been impossible to convince the students with our reasoning.” This, some faculty members said, is a result of increasing polarisation among students in the campus.
“Few students are demanding that only their views and concerns should be addressed. They are in effect obstructing the intellectual environment. Conducting a fair debate among different student groups following simple niceties has become an impossible task in this campus,” a faculty member said, requesting anonymity, to avoid being ‘targeted’.
Student representatives, who conducted the Asura Week, charge the university administration of being partial. “Even after the death of research scholar Mudassir Kamran early this year, the administration is still involving the police in the students matters,” Mohan Dharavath, a students representative said.
That non-bailable cases were slapped on the six students, without even proper details of complainants show that administration is trying to clamp down using police, he alleged.
Another student representative accused the administration of being partial, citing the recently-concluded Ganesh festival. “About 40 campus residents, both teaching and non-teaching staff, gave a written complaint that the Ganesh idol procession, accompanied by loud music, created inconvenience to them, but no action had been taken,”she observed.
Despite repeated efforts, the students who lodged police complaints could not be traced as university officials claimed that the safety of these students could be endangered if their identities were revealed.