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'We Are Not Going Anywhere': Students Miffed As AMU Lit Fest Day 3 Is Cancelled

Professor Sherani of the cultural centre told The Quint that the cancellation was provoked by a "logistical" issue.

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"I fear for the future of this university if literary events start getting cancelled."

The students of Aligarh Muslim University, who were gearing up for the third day of their literary festival, woke up to the locked gates of the Kennedy Auditorium, which had been serving as the venue for the festival's panel discussions.

This was not the first obstruction that the organising committee of the fest, the University Debating and Literary Club (UDCL) of AMU, had faced in the past three days.

Saturday's events were also abruptly cancelled by the university administration. Hours later, however, AMU students told The Quint that the administration has allowed to resume the event.

After the gates of the Kennedy Auditorium were found to be locked on Sunday, The Quint spoke to one of the members of the UDCL regarding the controversy.

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'Trying to Get the Word Out'

"We have been fighting the university's administration to allow the events to take place since the very first day," the UDCL member said.

"On the first day, there was no specific reason cited. We went along and organised the events anyway. Then, on the second day, the administration cited a 'law and order' situation and their press release stated that the events have to be postponed 'due to unavoidable circumstances'. We pressured the administration into allowing the events to take place."

"We are really confused about what is going on. Important panel discussions, including one on journalism in which The Caravan's Hartosh Singh Bal and The Quint's Rohit Khanna were supposed to be a part of, were scheduled for today."
UDCL member, AMU

"The whole controversy is really disheartening for us students of the UDCL who have worked so hard for two months to organise this event, especially after it was already postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. We've been organising events like these for years and this is the first time that we're facing so much resistance from the university."

"There is no law and order issue at all. Now, on day 3, the gates are locked and we are trying to get the word out."

Professor Sherani of the cultural centre told The Quint that the cancellation was provoked by a "logistical" issue.

Press release stating that the events of the lit fest have to be banned.

(Photo: accessed by The Quint)

The Quint reached out to Professor FS Sherani, who is the coordinator of the Cultural Education Center (CEC) of AMU, to inquire about the 'law and order' issue that is forcing the administration to prevent the lit fest from going forward.

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'Problems are Logistical, Not Political', Says CEC Head

Professor Sherani told The Quint that "since 2015, the festival has been organised in the open ground, usually in the months of November or December. This time, because of the scorching heat, the events are being organised inside the Kennedy Auditorium, which has a capacity of 1,300 people."

"The people arriving for the events, however, were around 4,000. That caused a law and order situation."

When The Quint asked him what he meant by 'law and order situation', Professor Sherani said that "there were constant tussles among students to grab seats and there were inadequate security arrangements to deal with the situation. Additionally, the air conditioning plant has stopped functioning."

When asked if there were any problems that were political in nature that had led to the locking of the gates, he asserted to The Quint that "the problems are only logistical, not political at all."

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'We Are Not Going Anywhere'

When The Quint followed up with the UDCL to confirm the claims of Professor Sherani, one of its members said that there is no evidence to support the same.

"Look, each day there is a cultural evening after the panel discussions. Only during those cultural events, the crowd swells up. I can tell you with confidence that barely 200 people showed up at the panel discussions that were happening throughout the day, so how can law and order be a justification for cancelling the discusssions?"
UDCL member, AMU

"And even if this is indeed the administration's problem, let me tell you clearly that this information has not been communicated to us. The last official information we have is the press release from Saturday," the member said.

"So we are trying to apply pressure on the cultural centre and the entrie administration to resume the events. We are not going anywhere. Professor Ali Khan Mahmudabad is on his way too. We will wait, and we will see what happens."

Regarding the controversy, Professor Khan told The Quint, "Muzzling voices by cancelling the Lit Fest shows that there is a fear of difference and dissent. Force rarely engenders stability and ultimately this will be dangerous both for institutions and for the country."

"Frankly, all of this seems like an excuse to ensure that intellectual discussions are prevented from taking place. But I fear for the future of this university if literary events start getting cancelled like this," the UDCL member concluded.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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