: The spectre of the national debate over which slogans count as anti-national has cast its shadow over Pune’s Fergusson College.
The campus was tense on Wednesday after representatives of several Dalit organisations protested college principal R.G. Pardeshi’s alleged attempt to foist an anti-national charge on students who supported JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar during an informal event on Tuesday.
Mr. Pardeshi's complaint to the police read: “I request you to take stern action against individuals who raised anti-national slogans on the campus.”
On Wednesday, he withdrew the complaint citing “typographical errors”.
“The letter was intended as a request to the police to investigate the matter to find out whether such anti-national slogans were raised by a group of students on the campus,” Mr. Pardeshi said.
The principal has been summoned to Mumbai to explain his actions to the State government.
The Deccan Gymkhana Police later confirmed that Mr. Pardeshi has withdrawn his earlier letter, saying that a revised draft was being sent to the authorities.
Tuesday’s event was attended by Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad’s (ABVP) JNU unit leader Alok Singh.
Things came to head when a group of 30-40 students from an Ambedkarite group shouted down Mr. Singh during his speech, at the college’s open air theatre, raised slogans in favour of Mr. Kumar, Dalit PhD scholar Rohith Vemula, and demanded freedom from rising fascism, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A verbal clash ensued and the police had to intervene to control the situation. Interestingly, support for the Dalit students has come from Mr. Singh and the ABVP functionaries, who confirmed that no anti-national slogans were shouted.
“I couldn’t understand all slogans as they were in Marathi, but the ones I did were not anti-national,” said Mr. Singh, remarking that his speech explained the chain of events leading to the JNU controversy.
“They [the Ambedkarite students] were against us and our event and did raise slogans in favour of Kanhaiya Kumar and other Left ideologies. But they were not anti-national and the college should be asked for explanation on why they said so,” said Pradeep Gawde, a functionary of the ABVP’s Pune unit.
However, Mr. Sujat Ambedkar, the great grandson of Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar blamed the fringe right-wing group, Patit Pawan Sanghatana for pressurising Fergusson College authorities into sending the letter to the police, which insinuated that the Dalit students were raising seditious slogans.
“We have a video where the members of this right-wing organisation [PPS] went to the college on Tuesday evening and exhorted the college principal to take action against us,” Mr. Ambedkar said.
The principal has been summoned to Mumbai to explain his actions to the State government