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New Delhi: The Aligarh Muslim University’s literature festival was cancelled on its third and last day, with the organisers locked out of the venue. While the organisers were baffled by this drastic step, AMU authorities claimed it was to prevent any unwarranted incident due to the unprecedented crowds.
The Day 3 of the #AMULitFest2022 stands cancelled as of now. Although we haven’t received any official word, the event venue has been made inaccessible to the @udlc_amu. We have not been able to establish any communication with the relevant authorities. Further updates awaited.
— University Debating and Literary Club, AMU (@udlc_amu) May 22, 2022
Organised by the University Debating and Literary Club, the festival was scheduled to be held from May 20 to 22. It had been held in a physical format for the first time in two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
— University Debating and Literary Club, AMU (@udlc_amu) May 19, 2022
On the first day, all the events went ahead without any trouble, attracting full houses for all the sessions. It had seemed like the festival was going to be a big hit.
However, on the morning of May 21, they were abruptly told by the university authorities that their event had been cancelled due to “law and order” concerns.
Throughout Saturday morning, the student organisers desperately negotiated with the authorities to allow them to go ahead with the event – even as their invited guests waited in the wings. They got the green light, and all the scheduled sessions did go ahead as planned.
However, the organisers got a shock on Saturday night, when they saw the notice about the cancellation had been uploaded on the university website.
In the morning, they found that the venue of the festival – Kennedy Auditorium – had been padlocked. “We had no access to the venue,” a UDLC member said. Neither was any information communicated to the organisers.
Unlike Saturday, there didn’t seem to be any sign of flexibility from the authorities.
A UDLC member remembered that there had been signs that the university had been uncomfortable with the topics of discussion, with a senior official conveying that there had been external pressure about the invitees.
However, the organisers also pointed out that the schedule had been finalised over a week ago, and there had been no objection.
On the law and order worries, the UDLC member said that there had been an incident of a bullet being fired in the air on Sunday night, but it was not at the venue. He added that firing guns in the air was not a rare incident and could not be connected to the festival.
When The Wire contacted the university, AMU spokesperson Professor Shafey Kidwai asserted that the festival had to be cancelled due to security concerns.
He noted that the musical evening on Friday evening had attracted more than four times the crowd than the capacity of the venue. Further, he expressed concern about the security of the women students in the large crowds that were witnessed in the campus.
He claimed that there had almost been a stampede due to the “unprecedented crowds”. “I guess students must be coming out in large numbers as the festival is being held after such a long time… Due to the unprecedented crowds, anything could have happened. We wanted to avoid that.”
Kidwai denied that the cancellation was linked to any objection over the choice of topics or invitees to the festival. He stated that a university body had also finalised the list of guests and topics. “There is no objection to that… It is purely a law and order issue,” he said.