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New Delhi: Dozens of alumni of the prestigious Faculty of Arts at the Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU) of Baroda have written to the vice chancellor demanding “immediate action” against the mob that attacked students and teaching staff on campus on May 5 while exams were on. They have also sought an investigation conducted by an independent body including elected representatives from the student body, faculty members and from within the alumni.
Soon after the May 5 attack, the university had formed a nine-member fact-finding team to look into the matter. The mob was allegedly led by local Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former member of the RSS students’ wing Hashmukh Vaghela, accompanied by a Hindu Jagran Manch leader.
Asking how the local BJP leader could manage to lead a violent procession into the campus “with impunity” at a time when examinations were on, the alumni letter to the VC also demanded better security arrangements.
Terming the incident as “very disconcerting” and a “grave cause of concern” for “the violent disruption of the examination process”; “vandalism of public property and an artwork by a student”; “physical and verbal threats to the gazette officers of the faculty, students and other teaching staff” besides the assault on a student, they have also sought to know in what context and “with what real agenda” were the images of the artworks by the student circulated. Since the student was not from the outgoing batch, the images in question were part of a confidential examination process conducted on May 1, five days before they were to be publicly displayed on May 6. Even though the teachers and students have repeatedly stated that they were not meant for public display as they were not accepted as part of the submission and therefore immediately removed from display, the mob descended on the campus inspite of it.
As per news reports, Vaghela had reached the faculty to submit a memorandum against the “objectionable” artworks which “he had learnt of”. Opposing the artworks, he had stated, “Students have become used to putting their anti-Hindu mindset on display.”
The alumni letter to the VC stated, “This kind of attack should be alarming for all of us who are concerned about the cultural fabric and the democratic ethos of our country; for art students, residents, and citizens of this country at large.”
The alumni statement pointed out, “This educational institution where we all studied has been a space for learning valuable lessons about our social responsibility as artists and citizens. It is a place where students are not only allowed to make mistakes as well as learn from them, but also a place where students learn to think deeply, critically and from multiple perspectives about the role of images in our society. It is here that we learn about how we s image-makers can exercise our role with sensitivity and responsibility.”
Citing these as reasons, the alumni stated their solidarity with the student who was rusticated by the syndicate – of which Vaghela is a member – and demanded that the decision be revoked. The syndicate is the highest decision-making body in the university.
The statement said, “The right to education is enshrined in our constitution as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We believe that the student Kundan Yadav’s right to education has been violated by the decision taken by a syndicate of which people like Hasmukh Vaghela and their supporters are still sitting members, despite having breached the University Code of Conduct and the law in broad daylight.”
As per media reports, Vaghela, in 2007, had protested against the art installations of a post graduate student depicting Jesus Christ and Goddess Durga at an annual evaluation examination.