Unlawful cases against students of EFLU for conducting and/or participating in EFLU Asura Week

October 1, 2013

Petition received for circulation; background available here (TOI article).

CONDEMN THE UNLAWFUL CASES AGAINST STUDENTS OF EFLU & EXPOSE THE HINDUTWA NATURE OF EFLU AUTHORITY

The English and Foreign Languages University has filed a criminal case (dated: 11/09/13) against six students (four students from the SC/ST/OBC communities and two women students) with the Osmania Police Station (Case Details: Crime No. 350/2013 U/S 153 (A) IPC) for conducting and/or participating in the EFLU Asura Week (9th September, 2013-15th September, 2013). They are charged with the grave offence of,

“Promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc. and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony…”

Although the programme was conducted within the university campus, the University administration is yet to communicate any sense of discontent to the organizers/participants for conducting the programme. This is not the first time that the administration has over-rided all procedures of enquiry and disciplinary action provided in the University Ordinance (warning, written apology, bond of good behavior etc.) and approached police for intervention.

The students under the banner of EFLU Asura Community organized an academic seminar (Title: Reinterpreting Indian History: Redefining Secularism in University Spaces), an open forum (Resisting Dominance: Articulating Cultural Resistance) and a face-painting competition (Theme: Raavana). Students and artists were extended an open invitation to participate in art installations and a public canvas painting (Theme: Memories of Oppression).

In Asura week, a large number of students from different regions of the country participated actively cutting across caste, class, gender and other differences. The programme inculcated values of civility among different sections of students and attracted media attention. It was organized as part of the broader socio-political endeavor to recognize and uphold cultures of Dalit, Adivasi and Bahujan communities. Prominent scholars such as Prof. Kancha Ilaiah have retrieved the figure of the Asura as Dalit-Bahujan people, who have been demonized through Hindu mythology. Across the country, many communities worship Asuras such as Raavana (Ravangram, MP; Kanpur, UP; Tamil Nadu etc.) and Mahishasura (Maldah, Bankura & Purulia, WB; Jharkhand; North Bengal etc.). Asura Communty draw from the ideologies and thoughts of Ambedkar, Phule and Periyar, and take inspiration from the Osmania University students who have initiated celebrations of Narakasura and Raavanasura festivals on campus.

We would like to point out the increasing liberties that the administration gives to Hindutva forces in our University. ABVP was allowed to retain their Ganesha pandal on campus (Vinayaka Chaturthi was being celebrated during the same week), in spite of complaints registered from both students and teachers. Members of the administration have attempted to remove banners and portraits of Ambedkar, alleging “communalization” of academic spaces. The administration’s complaint against the EFLU Asura Week falsely implicates a purely inclusive and non-confrontational endeavor as “communal” and “offensive”. We strongly resent the partisan manner in which the administration conducts itself.

Even if the administration was compelled to find “indiscipline” in activities such as face-painting, academic debates, etc., why has there been no attempt to communicate this to the concerned participants? We feel that such an action on the part of the administration is not only excessive but amounts to intimidation and threats against students who participate in any form of democratic critique (protest, protest-art, academic discussions, general body meetings etc.).

The present administration is systematically demolishing all possibilities of resistance and debate in the name of “discipline”, and “security”. It seems practically impossible to express one’s differences with dominant notions and ideas without being accused of indiscipline, criminality, violence etc. Students and employees from marginalized communities are being continuously harassed and criminalized for the last one year (police cases, failures in the German department, memos on false pretexts, termination of security guards without notice, threats of transfer, targeting Dalit, Bahujan, Adivasi and minority student activists, blocking promotions in employment etc.)

We, as a group of academicians and activists condemn such criminalization of cultural expressions from marginalized communities. We shall not be silent to attempts to curb and decimate students’ democratic rights of critique and discourse. And we strongly condemn the inefficacy of an administration that has to solely depend on police force to initiate any dialogue with its students.

Our Demands:

The University must provide a written explanation describing the exact nature of the “provocation” that led the administration to approach the police.


The police case against all six students must be unconditionally withdrawn


An independent enquiry be set up to investigate the matter