In a repeat of a 2011 incident, different student groups came to blows at Jawaharlal Nehru University on Thursday night over the topic of demon Mahishasura, whose slaying by Goddess Durga is celebrated as Dussehra in some parts of the country.
The All India Backward Students’ Forum (AIBSF) distributed pamphlets that allegedly had “objectionable pictures” and text about the Goddess.
They are also planning to celebrate ‘Mahishasura Shahadat Diwas’, a day to celebrate Mahishasura, who some communities believe was an icon of the backward classes and cheated out of a victory.
A meeting to this effect was gate-crashed by members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and was followed by a ruckus.
At the end of the day, four staffers of magazine FORWARD Press were detained by the police on charges of hurting religious sentiments.
While the JNU Students’ Union condemned the ABVP for disrupting the event, stating that it was against their tradition and culture where differences of opinion, both ideological, political and cultural, are respected, there were some who disassociated themselves openly from the AIBSF.Opposition
“Although we belong to the community that is part of the Mahishasura culture, we oppose the manner in which the Goddess has been depicted and we also feel that it is wrong to depict anyone else’s God in a manner that is derogatory,” said Arnab, who was speaking on behalf of two groups — the JNU Forum for SC/ST/ OBC and Minorities, and the JNU Forum for Tribal Students.‘Intent to spread hate’
“These people are the same students who were rusticated in 2011 for carrying out the same hate campaign. Even this year, they printed obscene pictures of Goddess Durga along with extremely objectionable text. They are doing this with a specific intent to spread hate and conflict on the university campus. We also feel that they are being funded by foreign sources,” alleged Sandip Singh of the Parishad.
Mr. Singh added that several students from outside the ABVP also appealed to the university Vice-Chancellor to take the same action the university administration had taken in 2011, when the same group of students had been issued a show-cause notice after an enquiry.Statement
The magazine, whose editor-in-chief and consulting editor went underground, released a statement accusing the police of confiscating their magazines from different stalls in Delhi. They also denied that they had printed anything objectionable.
“A special section has been devoted to ‘Bahujan-Shraman tradition’ and carries well-researched articles of leading writers and professors from prestigious universities. The Bahujan rendition of the story of Mahishasura and Durga has been presented in words and through sketches and paintings,” said Pramod Ranjan, consulting editor of FORWARD Press .
Due to a function being organised on the campus on Friday, nobody from the JNU administration could be reached for their comments.