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Dalit Hindi professor intimidated, harassed by saffron brigade: 400 activists, academics

Counterview Desk 

Over 400 academics and activists have expressed alarm at the Lucknow University ‘protests’ on May 10 against Dr Ravi Kant, associate professor of Hindi and a Dalit, stating it is nothing but “intimidation and abuse” over his remarks on the online channel Satya Hindi, which were taken out of context and made viral on social media.
“We are even more concerned that such an incident should occur within the confines a university campus, where free speech and expression without fear must ideally be the norm. Violence and intimidation over differences of opinion should never occur in a university”, the statement regrets, asking the authorities at the university and the Uttar Pradesh government to assure him and his family “protection from further harassment or intimidation.”

Text:

We are a group of academics and activists deeply concerned by the public heckling and intimidation of Dr. Ravi Kant, Associate Professor of Hindi and well known Dalit scholar, on the premises of the Lucknow University on Tuesday, May 10, 2022. The mob that harassed him reportedly comprised university students as well as outsiders.
Besides raising incendiary slogans, the mob threatened Dr Ravi Kant, and the department of Hindi was surrounded by slogan-raising crowds. Dr Ravi Kant was forced to take shelter in the Proctor’s office for several hours.
This was ostensibly a “protest” against remarks Dr Ravi Kant made in a discussion over online channel Satya Hindi, about the Gyan Vapi Mosque in Varanasi. The teacher cited a a story about its origins narrated by freedom fighter Pattabhi Sitaramayya in his book ‘Feathers and Stones’, while serving a jail term in Ahmednagar.
Dr Ravi Kant, while making this reference, was careful to emphasize that this narrative could only be called a ‘story’. Its author did not cite any source in support. Nevertheless, less than twenty-four hours after these remarks were made, a maliciously edited extract of his comments was circulated online. By next morning, a violent protest was held and grave threats were made to Dr Ravi Kant’s life, and there were fears that he was being targeted because of his activism as a Dalit scholar.
We are distraught that a reputed scholar and respected teacher should face such intimidation, and that his comments should be so vilely manipulated. Dr Ravi Kant clarified the matter and offered a proper context to the comments; even his expression of regret, in case he had hurt sentiments after the misleading video clips were circulated, did not stop the protesters.
After Dr Ravi Kant left the Proctor’s office and returned home, there is talk that disciplinary proceedings will be initiated against him. Lucknow Police has lodged an FIR against him at Hasanganj Police Station, on the basis of a complaint from an ABVP member, Aman Dubey. Dr Ravi Kant has also taken this matter to police.
Comments Dr Ravi Kant made expressing fears for his life while surrounded by the mob are now used against him. There is a risk to Dr Ravi Kant and his family.
We are appalled that anyone would have to face such intimidation and abuse over remarks made on social media. We are even more concerned that such an incident should occur within the confines a university campus, where free speech and expression without fear must ideally be the norm. Violence and intimidation over differences of opinion should never occur in a university.
We write to express our solidarity with Dr Ravi Kant and urge the authorities of Lucknow University to ensure that the perpetrators of this attack are brought to book. That would send out a clear message to those seeking to silence free speech and support those who work and live at universities, seeking knowledge. We demand that authorities at the university and the Uttar Pradesh government assure Dr Ravi Kant and his family protection from further harassment or intimidation.
Academics and activists from across the country express their alarm at the developments, including historian Ramachandra Guha, Delhi University teacher Apoorvanand, JNU teacher Ayesha Kidwai, former Amnesty India head Aakar Patel, Jesuit priest Cedric Prakash, and lawyer V Suresh of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties. Academics of Indian origin teaching in universities abroad have also noted these developments with sorrow, like Prof Dilip Menon of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa.

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