Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bengaluru campus witnessed animated drama after security personnel of the premier institute blocked civil rights activist Teesta Setalvad at two gates from entering, in an alleged bid to scuttle her talk on Wednesday, August 16 evening.
Ms. Setalvad arrived at the Kendriya Vidyalaya gate to deliver a talk on “Communal Harmony and Justice” organised by Break the Silence, a collective of IISc students. As soon as she landed at the gate, a security personnel stopped her from entering. The security officer also had a photograph of her on his phone which helped him identify her, it is alleged.
Change in venue
A student organiser associated with Break the Silence, talking to The Hindu, said the IISc administration had not denied permission to hold the event, but hours before the event that was scheduled at 5 pm, one of the students was informed that they cannot host the event at CCE hall, due to which the venue was changed. The administration had not denied permission to organise the same in a new venue.
One professor who attended the event said, when asked the reason for blocking the activist, one of the security personnel claimed he had instructions. Later, the professors said, the activist was made to sit in a car and driven to the next gate, where again she was allegedly stopped. This time, one of IISc professors called the higher ups after which she was allowed. The event, delayed for about 45 minutes due to the reluctance of security to allow her in, went on till 8 pm outside a canteen on the campus. About 40 people partook in the event.
A student organiser said the CCE hall for the event was booked about seven days back and a mail was sent to the Registrar seeking permission. However, there was no response. A word was sent out (orally) to one of students saying that the event could not be held at the designated hall.
Teesta Setalvad said, “It was surreal and unfortunate to have my photograph displayed on the security officer’s phone and stopped. I would, however, rather remember the dignity and quiet courage of the student organisers and faculty members who sat through the intense discussion. Communal harmony, justice, peace building and hate cannot be a taboo subjects in a premier science institute and in any public spaces in 21st century India.”
Students sent back
Many students from other institutions who arrived at the IISc were allegedly sent back by the security despite the rule allowing guests as against ID cards shown by IISc students. For one ID card, a certain number of guests are permitted to enter.
The student organiser said the guests were sent back even after IISc students showed their ID cards, saying security at the gates had stern instructions to block people from outside. This is violation of campus norms, he said.
Second such incident in two months
The IISc administration had denied permission for Break the Silence to hold an event on June 28 for which Pinjra Tod activists Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita were invited. Although students had booked the hall, the same was cancelled citing that permission was not sought from the authorities for the event. However, this time when the permission was sought, there was no response from the authorities, the organisers said.
IISc authorities did not comment when reached out for a response.