New Delhi: A group of Delhi University students and teachers from different disciplines, departments and colleges were on Thursday (August 24) denied permission to organise a cultural programme celebrating 70 years of Indian democracy due to “security reasons”.
‘DU Conversations’ – under whose banner the event was planned – began facing roadblocks on August 3 when the Delhi School of Economics (DSE) director Pami Dua refused permission to the sociology department to host the event on its lawns.
The program was to have included songs of the freedom movement by a member of the Ambedkar Univerity, Delhi faculty, a performance of Dastan-e Amir Hamza by DU history students and music by a workers band. In between, say the organisers, there were to have been two 15 minutes slots for open conversation about DU concerns, “including discrimination”.
According to a press release issued by the organisers, they were informed a day before the event that it must be postponed. The DSE director informed the sociology department head that “in the absence of written communication from the SHO of Maurice Nagar Police Station, no activity can be held on the campus”.
When the students tried to arrange an alternative venue in the arts faculty, they were prevented from meeting the proctor by the chief security officer (CSO) of the University.
The CSO said that since a students’ party was holding its “shakti pradarshan” in the university’s south Delhi campus, no security could be spared in case of any attack on the ‘DU Conversations’ event.
An inspector then called the students to the Maurice Nagar police station and told them that he would not allow the event since permission was needed from the proctor’s office.
“The police has since been questioning students and faculty intensively,” the press release from the event organisers says. “As students and faculty of a premier university like Delhi University, we are shocked and dismayed at the absence of space to hold peaceful extra-curricular events. We are also shocked at the last minute cancellation of an event which was all about celebrating the diversity of Indian democracy.”
“Since we were going to discuss democracy, we’d talk about the opposition that students and teachers at Ramjas faced when they wanted to have a discussion in February. The idea was to discuss how students and teachers can deal with differing opinions, but the authorities cancelled it because they thought that some of the political parties might protest,” Aarushi, a DSE student, told the Times of India.
On February 22, violent clashes had broken out between the ABVP – the student wing of the RSS – and students who were protesting the cancellation of a seminar where JNU students Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid were expected to speak. Since then, several events on campus aimed at discussing the political clashes in Ramjas college have been cancelled.
Another student from the DSE sociology department told Times of India, “People misinterpreted it as an ‘anti-national’ event and hence asked to cancel it. Some even asked if Umar Khalid was invited, but we hadn’t invited anyone apart from DU students and faculty.”
The group of students and teachers behind the event say they are “committed to promoting pluralism, dialogue and critical thought within the university.”