Devansh Mehta: “I Was a Regular Target for Rev Thampu”

“I was denied Residency in St.Stephen’s because Rev.Thampu felt I was a troublemaker” - Devansh Mehta tells The Quint

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India
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St. Stephen’s College student Devansh Mehta has been battling college principal Reverend Valson Thampu

Devansh Mehta has given his college Principal, Rev Valson Thampu, a bloody nose. He has also shown how St. Stephen’s College, the hub of ‘liberal’ thinking in Delhi University treats those who dissent and challenge authority.

Speaking to The Quint after having had a most high-profile suspension overturned, Mehta revealed that is not the first time he has sparred with the Principal – nor is he the first to have stared down the barrel.

Devansh was denied the Rai Saheb Banarsi Das Memorial Prize, which he was to receive from Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal.
Devansh was denied the Rai Saheb Banarsi Das Memorial Prize, which he was to receive from Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal.

When it all Began

A IIIrd year philosophy student, Devansh Mehta told us that he had in fact been the target of Thampu’s ire long before the whole e-zine fiasco.

The Principal doesn’t like people he finds hard to control. A second year student was suspended after Thampu thought she had “spoken rudely to him”. Is that a ground for suspension? We decided to protest peacefully outside his office. But he did not speak to us and sent another official to look into the matter. Since Thampu conducts interviews of students who apply for residency in the college hostel, after that episode, I was denied residency in my second and third year. He kept questioning me each year on why I had participated in the protest.
– Devansh Mehta 

A Sudden Clamp-Down

Mehta and his batchmates had launched the e-magazine to provide those interested in journalism with an opportunity to write, and to bridge the gap between the college students and the administration.

The Thampu interview was one such attempt. Devansh had even come up with a delightfully irreverential meme that shows Thampu urging students to save electricity (one of the topics he spoke about at length in the interview).

Rev Thampu’s meme that was to go along with the interview.
Rev Thampu’s meme that was to go along with the interview.

Excerpts from the interview are now available in the public domain – a direct embarrassment to an angsty principal who went out on a limb to ensure it never saw the light of day.

Excerpts from Valson Thampu’s interview.
Excerpts from Valson Thampu’s interview.

The transcript shows that Thampu made quite a few unfortunate remarks during he interview. Gems such as “You think I will have a dialogue with people who are idiotic?” were also dropped during the course of the interview.

Devansh Mehta: “I Was a Regular Target for Rev Thampu”

Devansh staunchly maintains that the magazine violated no institutional norms and had, in fact, always wanted to stay independent of the administration.

St.Stephen’s Weekly is an independent magazine that we started with our own funds. Neither did we take a penny from the college, nor was it the college’s official publication. The college constitution says we were not permitted to use the college emblem, colours and badge. But the college has no monopoly over the name “St. Stephen’s.”, a martyr. Rev Thampu had full knowledge he was being recorded and the piece was reproduced verbatim. I have no clue why he suddenly banned it and what he took exception to. He has referred to me on his Facebook page as a “bull in a China shop.”
– Devansh Mehta

A Future Hangs in Balance

Valson Thampu made one attempt at backtracking when he said he’d let Devansh off the hook – if the young rebel “apologised and expressed regret”. That, of course, was never happening. In a whiplash movement, therefore, Devansh was suspended and his name removed from the list of awardees of the prestigious Rai Saheb Banarsi Das Memorial Prize.

As of now, the Delhi High Court has stayed his suspension, but Devansh Mehta now waits for the next hearing on May 1, that could put an end to the fracas. With his admission at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism at stake, as of now, an intrepid Devansh continues to attend classes.

However, till the matter is put to rest Devansh will probably continue to be the proverbial “bull” in Valson Thampu’s “China shop”. Your move, Reverend.

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