Since the night of the attack on the Savarkar statue, the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) Delhi President, Akshay Lakra, alleges that he has been receiving disturbing phone calls, threatening to attack him if he doesn’t end the protest.
In the aftermath of the Vinayak Damodar Savarkar statue controversy, the drama continues to unfold at the University of Delhi (DU) as the Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) elections inch closer. The illegal installation of the bust saw an immediate reaction from the NSUI, who threatened a mass protest if the bust was not removed within 24 hours. Lakra has now filed an official police complaint addressed to the Deputy Commissioner of Police to look into the threats that he has allegedly been receiving via phone calls.
This comes after NSUI members led by Lakra attempted to blacken the bust and ornament it with a garland of slippers. In his complaint, he claims that for the past few days he has repeatedly been receiving calls wherein he was subjected to life-threatening statements. The callers have been pressuring him to end his protest against the statue and photos from his Facebook account have been shared widely describing him as a hater of Savarkar. Due to fear for his family and friends, who can be easily identified through his social media accounts, Lakra has deactivated them. He says that he has been getting innumerable calls every second of the day from different states of the country, primarily from Maharashtra. While verifying, he realised that most of the numbers were registered on true caller by the names “Akhand Bharat”, “Hindu Ekta”,” Swaraj Manch”, “BJP supporter” and “Hindu Mahasabha” and even “Narendra Modi” himself.
He also mentioned that the callers have expressed their affiliation and solidarity to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The letter requests the police to take immediate actions against the perpetrators and Lakra has also given all the numbers via which he has been receiving troubling phone calls.
Lakra in the complaint states, “It has been a traumatising experience for me. The ABVP members mentioned should be held responsible for any harm and mishap caused to me.” To support his case, he has provided photographic evidence of several continuous missed calls on his cellphone. While all the other numbers are of Indian users, a number from South Korea and Bahrain has also been giving him calls which he suspects is originating from the accused group.
“People might say that what I did was a political stunt but it is clearly not because I am not running. I just want to start a conversation and have a debate. There is an attempt to impose one particular ideology in the country and to rewrite history. The ABVP has encroached on the property to forcefully install the statue but they have no proof to prove that Savarkar is Veer and no basis to equate him with Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose or Shri Bhagat Singh. I am not afraid of the wrath of the RSS”, he added.
Speaking to DU Beat, Saimon Farooqui, National Secretary, NSUI, said, “RSS & ABVP have always made dishonesty and bigotry as their instruments to cheat the nation and the universities. Earlier they tried to deceive the students by spending INR 22 lakh of the DUSU budget on “tea”. Last year, they deceived the students of the university by approving the candidature for the post of President of DUSU of a person who had fake documents and carried a fake degree. Today they are trying to brainwash the students of the university by trying to prove a bootlicker of the English Government as a freedom fighter and putting him on the same pedestal as Shaheed Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose. I’m proud of our Delhi State President Akshay Lakra for this step and the entire NSUI family backs him for this move. If needed, each one of us would come to streets to blacken and remove the statues of thousands of Savarkars like this.”
Additionally, the negative attention that Akshay is receiving has gone well and beyond DU. Popular accounts on Facebook run by elderly men are openly abusing him and threatening him. Shiv Sena leader, Uddhav Thackeray, has also joined the wagon commenting that anyone who insults Savarkar should be beaten openly!
The National Media Convener for the ABVP, Monika Chaudhary, surprisingly, denies any involvement of the ABVP in this matter, and dissociates herself and her party from the scenario. She retorted that the complaint was “completely false” and that the ABVP does not engage with this level of politics. She also stated that none of the numbers mentioned on the complaint could be connected to any ABVP office-bearers. “It is not the actions of an official member of the ABVP. It could have been an ABVP sympathiser or a person who is a big fan of Veer Savarkar,” she said. She also went on to say that this complaint is merely a means to achieve “fame and popularity” for Lakra in light of the upcoming elections.
We are yet to see what steps the Delhi Police will take against the complaint filed. It is also important to note that if true, the scale of backlash being directed at Akshay Lakra is unprecedented and constitutes harassment. It speaks volumes about how students exercising their freedom of speech and action within university spaces are not immune to attacks from the vicious web of internet trollers who rely only on keywords to immediate make insensitive comments.
Image Credits: Akshay Larka for NSUI