Just as the world was gearing up for the 127th birth anniversary of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, a seminar at Cluster Innovation Centre (CIC), University of Delhi, was allegedly cancelled at the last moment.
The seminar ‘Dalit Empowerment and its Challenges’ was scheduled for 13th April at 1.30 p.m. in the CIC seminar room. The posters for the same were posted across the North Campus and circulated diligently on social media.
The illustrated speakers list included Manoj Jha, a member of Rajya Sabha and the national spokesperson of the Rashtriya Janta Dal, Bal Gangadhar Baghi, a Bahujan poet and Jawaharlal Nehru University research scholar, Harish Gautam, a Dalit activist, and Bhasha Singh a journalist and an author.
According to the Nishant, a final year student of B.A. Honours (Humanities & Social Sciences), the seminar room was booked on 9th of April and the intent of booking was made clear to the director’s office. However, just a day before the event Prof. Harinder P. Singh, Director, CIC, declined the permission after the organisers personally informed him about the event. The Director cited security issues and instead asked the organisers to attend another event which the University is conducting on April 14th and in which Union Social Justice Minister is taking part.
Another student, on the condition of anonymity, told DU Beat that the Director asked the organisers to shift their venue from CIC to Shankar Lal Hall because he “doesn’t want any controversy in the Centre”. “The Director gave us a long speech explaining a complicated procedure that we were suppose to follow. Honestly, these are all excuses. Everyone knew that the seminar is going to happen. As we are working with the Communal Harmony Project, the project mentor, Prof. Ashu Misra, knew about the seminar. While filling the form for booking we explicitly wrote the purpose of booking. The administration is seeking refuge under ignorance. We spent weeks trying to contact the panelist. It broke my heart when I had to cancel all invites. All money that was put into posters is wasted,” he rued.
Speaking to DU Beat, Dr. Saleem Mir, Coordinator of B.A. Hons. (Humanities and Social Science), said that permission wasn’t sought before the event. “As a Programme Coordinator, I was also not informed about the upcoming seminar. I got the call from the Director about the event and I couldn’t tell him anything about it. The students just sought permission to organise an event without giving the details of who is coming and why it is being organised. Any talk, event, workshop, lecture, activity, be it academic or co-curricular or extra-curricular, can be organised, but prior permission has to be taken from the Coordinator and the Director.”
He further stressed, “When even teachers take permission from the authorities prior to inviting the people or planning the event then shouldn’t students also do the same? Sometimes you can take permission a little later, but not just one day before the event. How is the University going to make security arrangements especially when a politician is coming to speak?”
When DU Beat contacted the Director’s office, Mr. Prem Bhagat, Assistant, told us that due to upcoming National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) visit and other engagements the Director missed the details of the event. He also told us the event was merely asked to be postponed.
The press release issued by the organisers claims that the permit was revoked “under pressure of some groups and individuals who are against the idea of Babasaheb”. “The abruptness with which the permission for the programme was cancelled shows the deep-seated Brahaminical attitude of some groups and individuals in Cluster Innovation Center,” the statement further asserts. The press release also accused Prof. Pankaj Tyagi, Coordinator, M.Sc. (Mathematics Education), of vandalising the posters. DU Beat’s attempts to reach Prof. Tyagi were unsuccessful.
Refuting these allegations Dr. Saleem Mir, Coordinator, B.A. Hons. (Humanities and Social Science) said, “Is our Director a Brahmin? He is a Sikh. Is the Coordinator a Brahmin? I am a Muslim. I don’t understand where from did this Brahaminical pressure thing is coming from. As responsible citizens, we must not level such allegations so casually. As students of CIC, the organisers must feel ashamed before leveling these allegations in an environment like CIC where the faculty is always talking about the nation building with minorities, Dalits, tribals and the marginalised as the main engines of the progress of a nation. Our curriculum is designed in such a way that we undertake our semester-long projects majorly focusing on problems of the poor and downtrodden.”
Feature Image Credits: Nishant Kabir