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Lucknow: Lucknow University’s Professor Ravi Kant Chandan, a Dalit thinker, was physically assaulted by a student leader associated with Samajwadi Party’s student wing on Wednesday, May 18.
This is the second such attack on Chandan in about a week since he made comments deemed “derogatory” by Hindutva outfits in connection with the ongoing row into Gyanvapi mosque and Kashi Vishwanath Mandir. On May 10, he faced a physical attack from the members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The latest attack, on May 18, was carried out by one Karthik Pandey of the Samajwadi Chatra Sabha, the student wing of the Samajwadi Party. Chandan was attacked near the proctor’s office on the campus moments after leaving the Hindi department after delivering a lecture there.
The attack stunned everyone on the campus as Samajwadi Chatra Sabha, along with several other student bodies and faculty members, protested on Tuesday, May 17, at the Lucknow University gate against the ABVP attack on Professor Chandan and lent its support.
Soon after the Wednesday attack, the Samajwadi Chatra Sabha went into a firefighting mode by sacking the assailant Pandey from being the president of the Lucknow University unit. Sabha’s state president Digvijay Singh ‘Dev’ clarified that Pandey was not holding any post, as the annual election of the SP student union for the current year had not been held yet.
The first attack against Professor Chandan was carried out by ABVP members on May 10 inside the proctor’s office.
According to the student outfit, Professor Chandan, during a discussion on a Hindi news platform, quoted a story from the book Feathers and Stones authored by Pattabhi Sitaramayya, describing the alleged circumstances under which a temple at the disputed spot was destroyed and the Gyanvapi mosque erected in its place. This, the pro-Hindutva students deemed, was humiliating to Hindu priests who took part in the discussion. An FIR (first information report) has also been filed against Professor Chandan at the instance of ABVP.
The professor alleged that police did not register an FIR so far against ABVP students though he lodged a complaint on May 10.
In the aftermath of the attack by ABVP members, Professor Chandan received massive support from several student unions, including the All India Student Union, Student Federation of India and National Student Union of India, who protested in support of the professor on May 17 despite the local district administration allegedly resorted to pressure tactics. Former vice-chancellor of the university Roop Rekha Verma and the former head of the department of political science Ramesh Dixit also participated in the protest held at the university’s Gate 2.
The protestors unanimously demanded that the FIR against Professor Chandan be dropped. They also lashed out at the district as well as the university administration for not taking legal and disciplinary action against the accused ABVP students.
Kanchi Singh Yadav, the state secretary of Samajwadi Chatra Sabha, was also present at the protest to lend support to Professor Chandan.
Within 24 hours after the protest, the president of Samajwadi Chatra Sabha, Pandey, attacked the professor much to everyone’s surprise.
Based on the professor’s complaint, police registered an FIR against Pandey at Hasanganj police station under sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 352 (assault or use of criminal force otherwise than on grave provocation), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Additionally, the police also charged Pandey under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015 Section 3 (1) R (intentionally insults or intimidates a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe in any place within public view) and The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015 Section 3 (1) S (abuses any member of a Scheduled Caste).
‘Attacks due to laxity of authorities’
Speaking to The Wire, Professor Chandan blamed the “laxity” of district and university administrations for the attacks against him. “The latest attack against me could have been averted had the police and university administration had paid attention to my previous complaint.”
The professor also approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), alleging that the police lodged an FIR against him on the instance of a student but did not register a case against his attackers from the ABVP.
In his letter to the NHRC, sent via email, Professor Chandan alleged that ABVP activists and other outsiders attempted a “deadly attack” on him on the university campus on May 10 for his comments in a debate.
Lucknow University Teachers’ Association (LUTA) has thrown its weight behind Professor Chandan. LUTA has strongly condemned the attacks against him and other colleagues on the campus.
LUTA president Vineet Kumar Verma said, “This is an attack on the teacher community. If concrete action is not taken against the accused by registering an FIR, then teachers of the LU will be compelled to go for a protest.”
Verma also expressed concern over the repeated atrocities against Professor Chandan.
Speaking to The Wire about the recent attack, Verma said, “The Wednesday attack is a result of not taking the incident of May 10 seriously by district and LU authorities, and not taking any legal and disciplinary action against the accused. This unwillingness to take action encourages more such lethal attacks.”
Meanwhile, university spokesperson Durgesh Srivastava told The Wire that Pandey had already been suspended from the university and a notice was served on him to vacate the hostel.
The ABVP on Thursday held a protest on the campus to exert pressure on the university administration to sack Professor Chandan.