The academic circle in Ahmedabad was jolted by a double whammy over the last couple of days, centered around Dalit leader and Independent MLA from Vadgam, Jignesh Mevani. Mevani who is an alumnus of HK Arts College in Ahmedabad was invited as chief guest for the annual day function scheduled for Monday, 11 February.
However, after the trustees of the college received threats of protests from student leaders from the BJP, the college cancelled its annual day function. The trustees denied access to the auditorium, located on the campus, due to which the event had to be cancelled.
Slamming the decision of the Brahmachari Vadi Trust, which runs the HK Arts College, Principal Hemant Kumar Shah resigned from his post, claiming the trust ‘compromised on the freedom of expression’ and gave in to threats by student leaders of a political party.
In his resignation letter, Principal Shah said the trustees had given in to threats issued by student leaders from BJP.
Incensed by Violation of Freedom of Speech
In his resignation letter Shah stated why he had invited Mevani, shedding light on the fact that many leaders have been invited to college events in the past.
He condemned the trustees’ decision to cancel the event and ‘uninvite’ Mevani as “absolutely non-democratic and a blatant dismissal and demolition of the right to freedom of thought, speech and expression.”
Shah termed the decision by trustees Padmashri Balkrishna Doshi, Padma Shri Kumarpan Desai and Gyanpeeth awardee author Raghuvir Chaudhary, “against the honour and reputation” of the college.
Shah also attributed his decision to resign to his inability to see himself continuing his tenure as the principal freely, following the incident. Shah spoke to The Quint and said he was called for a meeting by the trustees of the college.
“They persuaded me to take my resignation back. They kept persuading and asked me to rethink my decision. So I told them fine I will rethink. But as of now I’m sticking to my guns and I’m not taking back my resignation. We will meet again in three days time to discuss this issue further.”Hemant Kumar Shah, Principal HK Arts College
Mevani Tears into Trustees on Twitter
“This is a blatant violation of freedom of speech and expression, not just Mevani’s mine as well. None of the students from our college raised an issue over this matter or approached me. This whole matter has been raised by student leaders from BJP who do not belong to our college.”Hemant Kumar Shah, Principal HK Arts College
Meanwhile, Jignesh Mevani tweeted his frustration on Twitter while praising Shah for his courage to resign on moral grounds.
"Because of threat calls made by BJP goons, trustees of HK Arts college, Ahmedabad, I graduated from, cancelled the annual function where I was invited as chief guest. Was going to talk about life and mission of Babasaheb (Ambedkar). Salute to Principal Hemant Shah who resigned on moral ground," Mevani tweeted.
Mevani accused the trustees, some of them Padma awardees, of "not standing up against the hooliganism" of BJP and its student wing, the ABVP. "This is a shameful day for freedom of speech and democracy," he added.
"Since Narendra Modi became the prime minister, many people have become spineless," he said. This college trustees fall in that category, unfortunately, he added.
Trust secretary Amrish Shah could not be reached for comments despite repeated attempts.
Student Leader Defends His Stand
The Quint spoke to Vanrajsinh Chavda who is an alumnus and ex-syndicate member of HK Arts College. Chavda claims that he requested the college trust to not call Mevani as it could lead to anti-national dialogue in the college campus.
“Mevani supports people like Kanhaiya Kumar who raised anti-national slogans in JNU. We are against such speech in our college. I too am an alumnus of HK Arts College. When we came to know about the event we approached the trust with our complaint and requested them to not call Mevani. In all these years at least three chief guests are called at the annual day function, so why is Mevani the only chief guest in this year.”Vanrajsinh Chavda, alumnus and ex-syndicate member of HK Arts College
Chavda further added, “We kept our point of view democratically. We met with the trustees and on Sunday a meeting was called where at least 15 professors and other students from the college stated that they do not want Mevani as the chief guest. If they think we are putting pressure on the college trust then why haven’t they filed a complaint against us with the police?”
(With inputs from PTI)
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