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No discussion on Ram Mandir: How top private university 'acted tough' on students

By Ramnit Kaur* 
For organizing a discussion on Brahmanical Hindutva fascism, the administration of the OP Jindal Global University (OPJGU)  suspended two students for a whole semester and banned all democratic organizations in the campus. On 12th of Feb 2024, the administration released a notice, where it declared all democratic student organisations on campus,  specifically Revolutionary Students League (RSL) and Safdar Hashmi Reading Circle (SFRC), as banned. 
Students have been prohibiting from associating with any non-university approved student group. The University has made a distinction between “having politics” and “doing politics” in the latest email by the chief proctor, declaring that while the University encourages the former, students are prohibited from doing the latter for maintaining the “apolitical” learning space of the campus.
Members of RSL had announced a reading circle on the topic Ram Mandir: A Farcical Project of Brahmanical Hindutva Fascism on 7th February 2024 inside the university premise. For this event, the students did the poster campaign and conducted the study circle at 8 pm. 
The discussion was disrupted by the right wing student group Abhinav Bharat, which though given a space to participate in the public discussion soon turned aggressive and started chanting Jai Shri Ram slogans. When the RSL students resisted the hooliganism, Abhinav Bharat members stepped back and the discussion continued unabated. 
The students primarily discussed the events of December 10, 1992, where the Babri Masjid was demolished amidst genocidal cries and the hatred and communal vitriol that the recent event of the Pran Pratistha has generated against minorities -- particularly, Muslims and Dalits. 
They concluded that the widespread celebration of the building of a Mandir upon the blood of minorities marks the intensification of Brahmanical Hindutva fascism in India. The students asserted the importance of organising against this fascist threat.
The following day, the Abhinav Bharat Group started circulating a doctored video of the discussion, where they replaced the actual content of the discussion with the statement that "all temples must be demolished, and mosques must be built there" -- a statement that no member of the discussion either made or supports. This led to death and rape threats being circulated on Twitter and Instagram against two students from RSL -- Mukundan and I. 
There were queerphobic and misogynistic comments, and open threats of physical and sexual violence against the students participating in the discussion. An alumni of the University leaked Mukundan’s phone number over social media, leading to him getting calls threatening death and violence. Moreover, the University issued a show-cause notice to Mukundan, me and two other students involved in the discussion.
The disciplinary notice accused the students of assigning a negative image to the university and disrupting its “peace and tranquillity”. The time to submit the written reply to the notice was 10:30 am on the 10th of February, by when the reply was submitted by all students. At 10:34 am the same morning, the students received an email notifying them of a hearing at 11:45 am that very morning. 
Mukundan and I failed to attend the hearing, as due to being outside of the campus on Saturday, we failed to check the University email id within the 1 hour notice provided for the hearing. Hence, without a fair trial, or due notice before a hearing, both of us were declared suspended by the chief proctor’s office for an entire semester. We were blamed for “trying to hurt the religious sentiment of the other stakeholders of the university".
At night, once we two re-entered the campus, we were detained by the campus security at the gate and told to leave. We refused to leave until our demand for a fair hearing was met. A few other students also gathered in solidarity. These students gathered at the parents lounge at the main gate. The chief proctor and the counsellors present on his behalf from the Centre for Wellness and Counselling Services (CWCS) on the campus refused to talk directly to the students involved. 
All students who were present to show solidarity had their rooms raided at around 12:30 in the night in their absence -- which goes against the rules of the University, that specify that student rooms cannot be raided beyond 10:30 pm, and in their absence. This was discarded as under “special permission of the chief proctor”. 
Moreover, 4 students who had shown up in solidarity received show-cause notices for “non-cooperation with the University staff/ security staff”, even though they had complied in providing all their details and remaining restricted to the area the university asked them to --  only asserting that they will stay in the area to support their peers.
Around 2 am in the night, the University guards brutally assaulted me and Mukundan, under direct orders of the chief proctor. Mukundan was taken away without his consent by a stranger, who the proctor later revealed to be a friend of Mukundan’s father. When students intervened to stop Mukundan from being forced away, they too faced physical restraint.
Afterwards, there was an attempt to force me into my father’s car, although I asserted that I would leave the University premises but not with my parents. As an adult, the University administration hard no right to restrain me or force me into my parents’ car. Yet, I was brutally forced around for two hours, until the proctor agreed to wait till my acquaintances arrived to accompany me home. 
In the meantime, the counsellors present, particularly Araghya Nath and Anna Bansal, as well as chief proctor Karan Latyan, ordered the security to manhandle me. Upon being told that this was illegal, the proctor told me to go file a case, implying that the law would in any case favour his side.
Students are concerned about women’s safety on the campus as instances of assault on women are on the rise
The other students who had shown up in our support were forcefully taken to their rooms, and one of them was physically restrained and locked up in the parents' lounge after they tried to run after me when I was being manhandled by the security in a moment of heated emotion. These students were further restrained in their rooms with a guard stationed outside to prevent them from leaving. 
This incident was an attack on the student body and its rights, where not only was free speech and democratic dissent was curtailed, but students who showed up in our support were targeted for expressing solidarity us. 
This was an attack on student unity, and the waiving of all procedures in the University’s own code of conduct to target all students in support. It shows, the institution will stoop to any extra-legal means, even violence, to protect its ideological image and integrity, and that it will uphold an inherently anti-student position in this curbing of free will.
Following this, the chief proctor’s office further released an office order, prohibiting students from engaging with or associating with any non-University approved organisation, particularly targeting all progressive, democratic organisations like RSL and SHRC. This is a targeted attack on students unionising and expressing political dissent. The Abhinav Bharat Group has not been named in the email, showing the university’s partisan stance.
The concerned students of OPJGU demand that the arbitrary suspension on Mukundan and me be lifted.
We also demand that the prohibition on political student organisations on campus be lifted, as it is an attempt to hamper students’ democratic voice and to prevent students from unionising.
Further, we demand accountability from and action against chief proctor Karan Latyan and the counselling services  CWCS, particularly counsellor Arghya Nath, who were instrumental in ordering the assault by security on the students, videos of which have now been released online.
Further, students are concerned about women’s safety on the campus as instances of assault on women are on the rise. The security ordered by the administration is proving to be a non-starter.

Freelance journalist Harsh Thakor adds:

Anuradha, a student supporting the two suspended students, reportedly said, “Another student and I tried to stop the guards from dragging Ramnit and Mukundan. Seeing this, counsellors and the chief proctor instructed the guards to restrain us physically. A female student was dragged by male guards and was locked in a room. Within 20 minutes, four of us, including three non-RSL students who protested, received show-cause notices for non-compliance.”
According to Mukundan, “I received more than 50 phone calls from various parts of the country threatening to murder me and my family. While heading to my hostel room, two members of Abhinav Bharat shouted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ directly at me. Moreover, I was stalked within the boys’ hostel by an ABVP member named Krishna. I was also singled out for being a non-Hindi speaking individual from Kerala.”
“Organiser”, the mouthpiece of RSS, published a report in the aftermath of this with the headline “Destroy Ram Mandir, erect mosque over it, discussed at Brahmanical Hindutva Fascism talk”, echoing the false claims of Abhinav Bharat. “OpIndia”, a right-wing media, accused RSL as the frontal organisation of the proscribed Communist Party of India (Maoist).
Responding to the allegations made by Abhinav Bharat, "Organiser" and "OpIndia", Mukundan reportedly said, “We are an independent Marxist students organization. They are trying to suppress the unionisation of students on the campus by falsely associating us with the CPI(Maoist). We never called for the destruction of Ram Mandir during the discussion. We discussed how Buddhist Viharas were destroyed to make way for famous Hindu temples in the past. Our organisation had only analysed the consecration ceremony of the Ram Mandir held on the ruins of the demolished Babri Masjid as the exposal of the fascist nature of the Indian state. The videos circulated as evidence on X against us were covertly recorded by Abhinav Bharat. Our words were taken out of context through partial and doctored videos.”
Author of ‘Ram Janmabhoomi: The Inspiration for Hindu Resurgence’, Rashmi Samant, who denoted nature of racism, anti-Semitism and homophobic while holding the post of president of the Oxford Student Union, tweeted with the photo of suspension order saying, “The student calling for destruction of temples at Jindal Global University has been suspended for the semester for making anti-national and Hinduphobic remarks.”
Anuradha wondered, “How come the right-wing people including Rashmi Samant got the copy of the suspension order which was only mailed to Mukundan and Ramnit? Abhinav Bharat gets support from faculty and can hold university-approved events. They are institutionally supported by our university.”
---
*With Revolutionary Students League

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