Academics have objected to portrayal of goddess Saraswati and Swami Vivekananda on RCUB site

When a student visits a university website, they access it to see the admission process, courses, fee structure and other such details. But when one visits the official website of the State-run Rani Channamma University, Belgaum (RCUB), there are two striking images on either side of the homepage: one of the Hindu goddess Saraswati, and the other of Swami Vivekananda.

This is being perceived as the portrayal of icons generally associated with a particular religion. A section of academics have taken exception to this and wrote to Governor and Chancellor of Universities H.R. Bhardwaj and the Higher Education Minister R.V. Deshpande early last week seeking action.

In the letter, Muralidhara. B.L. and Chitra Panikkar, both associate professors in Bangalore, said: “Since Rani Chanamma University is an educational institution wholly maintained by State funds, it needs to maintain a secular attitude to religion as per our Constitution. The university cannot prioritise one religion over all others practised in the State. We request you to intervene and restore the secular character of the government-run educational institution. We request you to instruct the university authorities to adhere to Article 28 of the Constitution and remove the prominent display of Hindu religious icons on the home-page of the university.”

‘Spoiling the sanctity’

Intellectuals too have expressed their disapproval. Jnanpith recipient U.R. Ananthamurthy said most religions say that god is formless. “When such is the case, education institutions should not encourage idolatry of any gods in young minds. Religion has to be introduced as knowledge so that everyone develops respect for other religions,” he said. Writer K. Marulasiddappa pointed out that this is not the only instance of religious symbols and structures sneaking into educational institutions. “Temples have been constructed on campuses of Tumkur and Bangalore University. Tomorrow, if there is a new Vice-Chancellor belonging to another faith, he or she will ask for a church or a mosque to be constructed. It spoils the sanctity of the institution premises,” he said. He also said spirituality should not be portrayed as having a religion or rituals to the students.

‘Nothing wrong’

B.R. Ananthan, Vice-Chancellor of RCUB, said there were no religious connotations to the icons displayed on the website. “The whole country is celebrating Swami Vivekananda’s 150th birth anniversary. Shouldn’t we too? As for goddess Saraswati, she is the goddess of vidya (knowledge). There is no religion attached to it,” he said.

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