A few inquisitive students of Delhi University’s Hansraj College were on Friday barred from attending a seminar on ‘Urban Naxalism’ when the organisers realised that the students could pose questions to the panelists. Reportedly removed from the college auditorium just before the event began, the students raised the issue with the college administration and the police, only to be told that the college authorities had no control over who the organisers allowed in.
Organised by the ‘Group of Intellectuals and Academicians (GIA)’ the seminar featured filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri as chief speaker, ABVP national organising secretary Sunil Ambedkar as chief guest and Supreme Court advocate Monika Arora as keynote speaker. It was primarily a right-wing event in which, some students claimed, the lower level of the auditorium was reserved largely for like-minded people and students since only those sitting there could pose questions to the panelists.
Led out of the auditorium
Abhishek Kavya, a student of the college who runs a Youtube news channel, was a witness to some of the students being led out. He told The Wire that an economics student, Shivam, was sitting in the lower level of the auditorium when he was told to move towards the rear end. “He was approached by two youth and when he insisted that he wanted to stay closer to the stage as he also wanted to ask questions during the question-answer session, they ushered him out of the auditorium. Later, he raised the matter with the police and also the college authorities, including the principal, but they all pleaded helplessness claiming that the organisers were the ones deciding who would be allowed to enter.”
For his part, Shivam, a member of Youth for Swaraj, the student wing of the Swaraj Abhiyan, said he had gone for the seminar along with his friend, Shashank. “We were sitting at the back when some people came and we vacated the seats for them. Then we stood at the back where some others were also standing. Then we were asked by these youth, who were not wearing the badges given to organisers but were operating at their instance, to move out of the auditorium and go to the upper level.”
Student wanted to questions during interaction, but was forced out
Shivam said he pleaded that he wanted to remain at the lower level but they were forced out. “We insisted that we wanted to ask questions to the panelists and that would not be possible from the upper level, they scoffed at us. They also saw a diary in my hand and then said ‘since you are going to ask questions, this seminar is not for you and so you better leave’. Then they forced us out. I then approached the police personnel posted outside as also some of the college administration staff members, but they said it was for the organisers to decide who they wanted to allow in the event.”
Shivam said the volunteers were mostly from the ABVP and he could identify one of them as Rishabh Behar, who knew him. “I have been organising events for the Youth for Swaraj outside the college too, some of which have been attended by Yogendra Yadav. So he knew that I was from Youth for Swaraj. But I had only gone to the auditorium in my personal capacity.”
Lamenting that students of the college were not allowed in the event, Shivam said the students should ideally be allowed access to such events. He said, “Students of other associations, like All India Students Association, were also present in the event, but since they were sitting together in a big group, they were not removed.”
NSUI volunteer was also denied entry
Atul Dubay, a student volunteer of the National Students Union of India (NSUI), the student wing of the Congress, was also disallowed entry into the auditorium. He told The Wire that he wanted to attend the seminar one of the organisers barred him from entering. “I tried to reason with her, but she was not willing to listen.” Atul, though, insisted he was not aware if he was prevented because of his political affiliation or because the auditorium had filled up.
Meanwhile, the Youth for Swaraj termed the removal of Shivam from the auditorium “another incident of hooliganism in Delhi University.” It said, not only were the students “thrown out of the college auditorium” but the college administration also pleaded that they had “no control over the organisers” when the students demanded that they be allowed to attend an open event in their college premises as a matter of right.
The students’ body demanded that Hansraj College “come out with a clarification on the matter whether it believes that any outside organiser has the right to throw out any college student from an open programme for no particular reason.”