NSUI alleges that their magazine launch, which was slotted to be held earlier today, was cancelled due to ABVP involvement.
A magazine launch event organised by the NSUI-led DUSU which was to be held in the University Conference Center on 31st July, 2018 was abruptly cancelled and the organizing students were barred from entering the University Campus. The National Student’s Union of India (NSUI) alleged the involvement of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in the cancellation and refused to budge, despite barricades being put in front of the Dean’s office by the police.
The event which was supposed to be attended by University of Delhi (DU) Professor of Hindi, Dr. Apoorvanand Jha, the founding Editor of The Wire, Siddharth Vardarajan and Member of Parliament (MP) Rajeev Gowda, was supposed to be on Freedom of Speech and Expression.
In a dramatic turn of events, the NSUI and the invited guests decided to launch the magazine in front of the police barricades under protest. The guests also delivered short speeches on the freedom of speech and expression while claiming that the spaces for creative freedom were increasingly lessening in the country.
Allegations of interference
The event was initially supposed to launch the first ever student magazine of DU named DYouth. The magazine which featured various articles by students of DU as well on-record interviews given by people like P. Chindambaram, Subramaniam Swamy, Yogendra Yadav, Sheila Dixit, Prashant Bhushan, Sunita Narain and Karan Thapar among others, was edited by a team of editors from the colleges of DU.
Ruchi Gupta, the NSUI’s National-in-charge, while speaking to DU Beat, claimed that the NSUI had obtained prior permission to launch the magazine in the Conference Center. “This permission has been cancelled at the last minute at the behest of a complaint by ABVP goons who are only able to understand the language of guns. They bring guns inside DUSU office and NSUI will not be allowed to launch a magazine.” she added. Ms. Gupta and several other members of the NSUI publicly condemned the cancellation after the magazine was launched under protest in front of the Dean’s office.
DU Beat spoke to several sources in the organising team of the event and they all alleged that the ABVP was putting pressure on the administration to cancel the event at the last moment. However, another source on the condition of anonymity, said that things were “too quiet for the ABVP to be involved.”
AISA’s Kawalpreet Kaur, who was also present, extended support to the NSUI in a public speech claiming that she was upset as a student of the University because of the condition of politics in the campus. “We remember last year when there was a programme held by RSS here in the presence of Subramaniam Swamy and the ABVP waved saffron flags here inside the campus, indulging in hooliganism. We didn’t throw stones at them at that time. Neither did we cancel that programme. We agreed that there should be dialogue within this University. We still remember the episode at Ramjas college where the teachers were brutally attacked by the ABVP. And today, at the eleventh hour, the launch of a magazine by NSUI, which should be a cause for celebration for every student, has been cancelled and bizarre arguments have been put forward in support,” Ms. Kaur added.
The three dignitaries invited strongly criticised the sudden cancellation of the event. Mr. Vardarajan, speaking to DU Beat said, “I think it is very unfortunate that the DU administration did not allow this programme to happen. The irony is that we were going to discuss freedom of expression. And our own freedom of expression has been compromised in this way.”
When asked what he thought about the allegations of ABVP’s involvement in the same, he added, “I don’t know the facts because I am not from here. But the ABVP across the country has been well known to object to all acts of democratic expression that they don’t agree with. I was myself a victim of ABVP intolerance at Allahabad University when they wouldn’t let me speak. So if this has happened in Delhi University, it’s quite believable.”
DU Beat also asked Mr. Jha about the allegations of ABVP meddling in the cancellation of the event. While Mr. Jha denied knowing why the event was cancelled, he also added, “I can say from my experience that University spaces are being made inaccessible to people for open discussion and that is, in a way, dismantling this University. A simple release function is now being forced to be seen as protest, which is very telling.”
Rajeev Gowda, a professor of IIM-Banglore, claimed that the clamp down on NSUI’s launch was a symptom of events across the country. He attacked the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government for all the instances under them where freedom of expression has been threatened claiming, “In a few miles away from where Prime Minister Modi rules the country, you are able to see that freedom of expression has no meaning but there are still people willing to stand up and fight for the fundamental right that we have enshrined in the Constitution.”
The other side of the story
DU Beat spoke with several policemen on the scene who were all unwilling to answer our questions. They directed us towards the people in charge, including the Deputy Proctor, Dr. Anupam Jha. On speaking to DU Beat, Dr. Jha claimed that the NSUI was misleading the people and that proper permission for the event had not been taken. “We are just abiding by the High Court’s orders which have upheld the decision to disqualify Rocky Tuseed’s candidature as DUSU President,” he added. Mr. Tuseed’s candidature had been revoked by the Delhi High Court previously due to his inability to release the details of the disciplinary action taken against him during his undergraduate study.
In an attempt to know more, DU Beat also contacted Mahamedha Nagar, the secretary of DUSU, who denied allegations of ABVP’s interference. “Why should we allow a magazine which has been just spearheaded by a Vice-President or a Joint Secretary, under the banner of DUSU? Was the money that was used for the magazine, in the name of DUSU, only the right of a President, and that too, a President who is no more a President? There is nothing about DUSU in the magazine. No suggestions were taken. I don’t think it makes sense to launch such a magazine under any venue of DU.”
While both NSUI and AISA have issued several official statements condemning the ABVP for their alleged involvement, it remains to be seen where the discussion on freedom of speech and expression takes us.
Feature Image Credits: Rishabh Gogoi for DU Beat