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Flag removal by BHU official: varsity to request RSS to withdraw FIR

File photo: Banaras Hindu University

File photo: Banaras Hindu University   | Photo Credit: Rajeev Bhatt

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She was allegedly made to resign and faces serious criminal charges for her action

The deputy chief proctor of the South Campus of the Banaras Hindu University was allegedly made to resign and faces serious criminal charges after she removed an RSS flag from the varsity playground.

The varsity on Thursday said it would request the RSS, whose local office-bearer filed a police complaint, to withdraw the FIR, and would also approach the district administration to settle the matter.

“We will deal with it because our employee is at stake. We will protect her 100%,” Ramadevi Nimmanapalli, professor in-charge of the BHU South Campus, told The Hindu. She, however, noted that it was an internal matter of the varsity.

The controversy took place on Tuesday morning when Kiran Damle, the deputy chief proctor of the Rajiv Gandhi South Campus, located in Mirzapur, uprooted the RSS flag from the grounds while a 'shakha' was on.

Following protests by some students and local RSS leaders, who claimed she insulted the flag, Ms. Damle resigned from her post, which was accepted.

However, the matter did not end there. On a complaint from the Mirzapur district in-charge of the RSS, Chandra Mohan, the FIR was registered against Ms. Damle at the Kotwali Dehat police station.

She was charged under four clauses of the Indian Penal Code, including promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc and deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.

Denial

Ms. Damle said she resigned as the “students wanted” her to do so. She claimed she was not aware that the saffron flag she uprooted was linked to the RSS. “If I knew, why would I do that [remove the flag],” she said.

Early on Tuesday, she came across the flag in one corner of the playground, following which she inquired about it from the students, who were engaged in their drill and exercise. However, despite asking them and waving at them, no claimant came forward. She then removed it from the site and put it in her office “just to be on the safe side” as a precautionary measure given the sensitive climate over the Ayodhya verdict, she said.

Ms. Damle claimed that she had directed her attendant to hand over the flag if anyone came and asked for it.

Superintendent of Police Mirzapur Dharm Veer Singh said that during investigation, Ms. Damle admitted that she committed the act due to a “misconception.”

Mr. Singh said the “sanghathan” (RSS) has been holding “shakhas” programme on the grounds every morning since the last seven years. The matter was being probed.

Ms. Nimmanapalli said Ms. Damle was willing to issue a written apology to the RSS as she “did not do it intentionally.” “She did not know what importance the flag held for these persons. But she accepts that she made a mistake”.

Ms. Nimmanapalli clarified that the varsity did not lodge a complaint against Ms. Damle but it was done externally. “It is not in my hand,” she said.

Congress leader’s memorandum

The matter has taken a political turn with Congress’s UP vice-president and former MLA Lalitesh Pati Tripathi on Wednesday submitting a memorandum to the varsity condemning the criminal action taken against Ms. Damle.

Taking to Twitter, Mr. Tripathi said Ms. Damle had expressed objection to the RSS’s attempts at “saffronising” the campus by holding “shakhas” on it.

Ms. Nimmanapalli, however, said she had no objection to students participating in “shakhas” as long as peace on campus was not disturbed. The “shakhas” were making the students “disciplined,” no matter what their beliefs may be, she claimed.

Chandra Mohan, zila karyavah, Mirzapur RSS, refused to believe Ms. Damle's claim that she did not know the flag belonged to the RSS. “Even so, if a person comes across a saffron flag, he or she will bow before it, if they belong to the Hindu society, won't they?”, he said.

“Shakhas” were being held at the grounds for the past seven years and “not just the students, even professors participate in them and promote our work,” he said.

Asked if the RSS would withdraw the police complaint, Mr. Mohan said he would follow instructions from his higher-ups. “When the matter comes up, we shall see it. It is not my personal matter. It is about our organisation. She has insulted the 'bhagwa dwaj' [saffron flag] of our organisation,” he added.

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 11:29:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/flag-removal-by-bhu-official-varsity-to-request-rss-to-withdraw-fir/article29972140.ece

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