In two instances on Tuesday — one at Church Street and the other at Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology — the Bharatiya Janata Party workers allegedly covered graffiti with saffron paint on the grounds that they were offensive.
Outside Srishti, the BJP workers were led by Yelahanka BJP MLA S.R. Vishwanath.
Following the incident, the college management declared that it will remain closed on Thursday and Friday. The executive administrator in a mail to students, a copy of which is with The Hindu , stated that the holiday has been declared keeping in mind the “potential risk” to students and stated that the institute will be closed till Friday.
“We understand that these are difficult times and we will all walk and talk about the issues before us together,” read the email.
Narrating the sequence of events, a student of the institute said a group of people in civilian clothes arrived at the gate and started towing vehicles parked outside. “We asked them to stop but they did not listen and took the vehicles to the traffic police station Simultaneously, the group also put saffron paint on a graffiti which they interpreted as anti-Modi,” said a student who witnessed the incident. Neither the students nor the staff of the institute were able to confirm who drew the graffiti.
When contacted, Yelahanka BJP MLA, S.R. Vishwanath confirmed the events but defended the group’s action. He said they rushed to the campus after they received a complaint on the BBMP Sahaya app on Tuesday from a resident about vehicles blocking the campus. “At that time we saw a cartoon on Modi and I asked a few of my workers to paint it to avoid any controversy,” he said, adding that residents had been complaining about the students smoking in public places and using the parks in the neighbourhood even when they were closed.
Several Srishti students alleged that the MLA was using traffic police personnel to threaten them. However, the traffic police denied the allegations and said they only towed the vehicles away.
After this incident, there was a meeting with the students, administration and faculty. A student, who attended the meeting, stated that the college had urged them not to dissent publicly even artistically. “They told us to lie low and that they were worried about our safety. We were also told that the residents were involved in moral policing,” a student said.
Another student of the institute said they condemned the incident and that the students wanted to continue to express dissent over the CAA and the violence in educational institutions. “We want to be involved in the larger movement and hope that this does not prevent us from expressing our dissent,” the student said.
The college plans to have in-house discussions on CAA and NRC as planned earlier, which includes a series of talks by legal professionals on the issue. They have asked the students to follow the dress code, avoid being out late at night, avoid gathering in public and also not flout laws regarding smoking in public places.