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‘Prof Ratan Lal Targeted for Voicing Issues of Marginalised’: Students, Profs

He was arrested over an 'offensive' Facebook post in the backdrop of the claims over the Gyanvapi mosque.

Updated
Education
3 min read
‘Prof Ratan Lal Targeted for Voicing Issues of Marginalised’: Students, Profs
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Ratan Lal, 50-year-old Delhi University (DU) professor, who was arrested by the Delhi Police on Friday, 20 May, in connection with an 'objectionable' social media post related to the Gyanvapi mosque dispute, is well-known for addressing casteism in academia.

Soon after his arrest, several students of the university started protesting, saying that he was being targeted for being vocal on issues pertaining to the marginalised communities.

Professor Lal has been teaching History in the DU for over 20 years.

After a First Information Report (FIR) had been lodged against him regarding the objectionable post, Lal had told The Quint, “I am being attacked because of my role in the intellectual discourse,” adding that he runs a YouTube channel called AmbedkarNama.

"If everything hurts religious sentiments, then we should not say anything at all. People are trolling me online just for one statement. As historians, we are supposed to ask important questions," he had said.

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‘Known To Uplift Bahujan Community’

Jitendra Meena, assistant professor in DU’s Department of History, said that besides teaching history for many years, Ratan Lal has been instrumental in the intellectual discourse.

He said, “Lal is someone who has been very vocal about issues pertaining to the Bahujan community. In the last few years, we have noticed a trend where marginalised voices are being curtailed.”

"Besides spreading awareness about BR Ambedkar’s work, Professor Lal has also helped students from marginalised backgrounds receive funds to go and study abroad. It is initiatives like these that challenge the existing structure."
Jitendra Meena, Assistant Professor of History, DU

Professor N Sukumar, a DU professor in the Department of Political Science, said, “Lal is one of the most vocal Dalit scholars. He has been teaching History at Hindu College for around 25 years. Besides teaching History, he is also very vocal, and is constantly questioning Brahmanical hegemony.”

A former DU student, who did not wish to be named, said that he had worked closely under Lal from 2013-16. The student added, “Lal was very welcoming. He made students from marginalised communities feel at home. We could always go to his house when we were facing issues on campus.”

The professor had helped the student receive funding and pursue his studies abroad. He had worked on the YouTube channel along with the professor.

The student further said, “Professor Ratan Lal had travelled across India to understand issues of the marginalised. Since he is a follower of Ambedkar, he would spread awareness about his work. He later started the YouTube channel AmbedkarNama.”

The channel has over 1.4 lakh subscribers and more than 2,100 published videos, and describes itself as "a platform which is committed to social awareness particularly to the Bahujan community."

Late on Friday night, members of the Students Federation of India (SFI) and the All India Students Association (AISA) had staged a protest outside Cyber Police Station in Delhi's North district.

On Saturday, a similar protest was held outside DU's Arts Faculty.

Protesting students demand the release of Prof Ratan Lal, outside DU's Arts Faculty on Saturday, 21 May.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

According to the police, Lal was arrested under sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion) and 295A (insult or attempt to insult the religion or religious beliefs) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

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