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Watch | 10 students held for ‘causing violence’ at journalism university in Bhopal

Students of the the Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University of Journalism and Communication in Bhopal staging a sit-in on campus on Decemebr 13 night.

Students of the the Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University of Journalism and Communication in Bhopal staging a sit-in on campus on Decemebr 13 night.   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

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They demanded the suspension of adjunct professor Dilip Mandal for allegedly dividing students on caste lines

The police late on December 13 arrested 10 students and removed several others from the Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University of Journalism and Communication in Bhopal while they were staging an indefinite sit-in demanding suspension of two adjunct professors, including Dilip Mandal, for their alleged caste bias in classrooms, on Twitter and public fora. The students were released on December 14 morning.

As scores of students sat outside the State university’s Vice-Chancellor’s office on the fifth floor of the building into the evening, the police dragged many down the staircase, including female students. Three students were shifted to a hospital and later discharged.

Around 9 p.m., when they refused to buckle despite an assurance by the administration of a resolution through a committee, the police huddled the 10 students in a bus, even as many others, fearing arrest, fled the spot.

“A case has been registered against 10 students and unidentified persons for causing violence on the campus and preventing the staff from carrying out their duties,” said the police.

 

Stating the protest was instigated by Right-Wing groups attempting to stall efforts at “desaffronising” the campus, Deepak Tiwari, the Vice-Chancellor, told The Hindu, “The university stands for freedom of expression and academics. It functions on the principles of the Constitution and no other ideology. There will be no tolerance against violence.” He added the students had broken a gate outside his office during the protest.

From 2003 to 2018 when the BJP was in power in the State, the university was billed as a laboratory of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which reportedly admitted only those students and faculty members inclined towards its ideology. Months ago, Brij Kishore Kuthiala, the Vice-Chancellor between 2010 and 2018, was arrested for economic offences, after an inquiry initiated by the incipient Congress government found him guilty of misusing funds.

“We replaced the mural of Narad with the preamble of the Constitution, and for the first time, the university, founded in 1990, has procured selected works of Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi,” said Mr. Tiwari, a veteran English journalist. “The protest was backed by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad of the RSS and they instigated the students to cause violence and not allow us to work. So, we had to call the police.”

‘Independent protest’

Meanwhile, the students said the protest was independent and not supported by any outside group. “We didn’t cause any violence and whoever came to us from outside, we refused their support. This is not just a protest by general category students, there are those from backward communities too among us,” said a first year student of media management, requesting anonymity, fearing disciplinary action.

“Mr. Mandal questioned students for wearing religious threads on their wrists and a tilak on foreheads. Before speaking to anyone, he asked their surname first, attempting to divide students on caste lines. He is spreading viciousness against Brahmins on Twitter, instigating them, by stating their so-called hegemony over the media,” said a student of electronic media.

Stating that this “caste discrimination” was abetted by Mukesh Kumar, adjunct professor, he added, “We can’t tolerate this anymore as it’s restricting our freedom. We demand the removal of such casteist professors. We’re here only to study journalism.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Tiwari said several Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and Other Backward Class groups, and most students, had come to the professors’ support.

Abhishek Yadav, Mr. Mandal’s student, said, “He didn’t make casteist remarks in class. We stand by him and freedom of expression. What happens in the Banaras Hindu University, we  won’t let it happen here. Today the Opposition has failed, and students and academic institutions everywhere are being targeted.”

Years ago, Mr. Kuthiala had initiated a crackdown on students opposing his excesses, but never called the police to remove them forcibly, said a professor, requesting anonymity.

“The administration’s reaction shows its approach is the same as the previous one and things have not changed under the Congress regime. We demand the immediate removal of both the professors,” said a student of broadcast journalism.

When asked for a comment, Mr. Mandal, who stands for Dalit rights, referred to his tweets. “The meaning of the university system is that every thought, even if it seems trivial or hurts your sentiments, must be listened to and there should be a synthesis of different ideologies. I don’t fear any thought. No one should fear anything,” he said on Twitter.

“My request to the RSS is to tell me what comments have caused them trouble. If there is too much trouble, then file a case of defamation. I am an individual of logic. I am ready to think over things in case of objection. But nothing will change with violence,” he said.

Reacting to the arrest, Bhopal MP Pragya Thakur tweeted: “The crackdown on students by the police is condemnable. Under the bondage of the government, the once independent police is snatching away the future of the students. They are trying to scare them by trampling upon their peaceful protest. This dictatorship of the Madhya Pradesh Congress government will hone their journalistic skills.”

A month ago, after Twitter restricted Mr. Mandal’s handle, a barrage of tweets by supporters triggered a campaign accusing the social media platform of condoning caste discrimination.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2020 10:01:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/10-students-held-for-causing-violence-at-journalism-university-in-bhopal/article30304612.ece

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