A day after Mumbai’s St. Xavier’s College retracted its invitation to Dalit activist Sheetal Sathe following threats from Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, Ms. Sathe sent a statement on Thursday clarifying that she stayed away only because she did not want to jeopardise the college festival ‘Malhar’.
“The only reason she is not on stage is not out of fear but out of deep appreciation for the courage and integrity of St. Xavier’s College,” said documentary film-maker Anand Patwardhan, on her behalf. Ms. Sathe’s statement said the college principal, Father Frazer Mascarenhas, had merely warned them of the threat and not told them not to attend.
Radhika Talekar, a student of arts faculty said, “This is cultural censorship. She is innocent until proven guilty by the law and it is her right to speak as she is out on bail.”
Ms. Sathe was arrested in April 2013 on charges of supporting naxal activities. She was released on bail two months later.
The moderator of the panel discussion, S. Anand, founder of the Navayana publishing house, said preventing Ms. Sathe from attending the event was a collective shame. Kancha Ilaiah, former head of political science at Osmania University, said the increase in communal atrocities by the organisations affiliated to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh shows that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had no control over them.