BJP MLA SR Vishwanath and several BJP corporators on Tuesday, 14 January, heckled the faculty members of Srishti Institute of Art Design and Technology and accused its students of painting graffiti on walls opposite the college against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Meanwhile, a few residents of the area also resorted to moral policing the students and told faculty members that the students were “wearing short clothes,” which is “against Indian culture”.
It all started at around 10:50 am, when Raghavendra, one of the residents of Yelahanka New Town, filed a complaint on the BBMP Sahaya app that the roads surrounding Srishti School of Arts were filled with parked vehicles that were inconveniencing pedestrians. He had also raised the issue of graffiti on the wall.
Corporator of ward number 4 Satish, who was informed of the pictures by BBMP, raised an alarm. Soon, BJP MLA SR Vishwanath, Satish and 10 other local BJP leaders went to the Yelahanka New Town campus of Srishti Institute of Art Design and technology at around 11:30 am. The MLA’s men were joined by residents of the Shirke Apartments located near the college at the same time.
Speaking to The News Minute, Raghavendra said, "The BJP people were raising issues of graffiti. Most of the residents had a problem with the way the students dressed. They sit outside on the footpaths at night and drink. Although, my issue is with the parking and smoking, the issue of clothes should not have been raised as it’s a personal matter."
The group initially demanded that the security guard let them inside so they could speak with the management. BJP MLA Sr Vishwanath claimed that the students of the college had painted graffiti with slogans against Prime Minister Modi, which had hurt their sentiments.
Meanwhile, the residents began complaining that the students had encroached the four roads near the college that they were using to park two and four-wheelers, leaving no space for pedestrians to walk.
Speaking to TNM, a student of the college said that MLA Sr Vishwanath and his men were allegedly threatening the security guard outside the college gate.
“The MLA arrived and with him, was a group of people. They were his people, they talked about the graffiti, which was painted on a wall opposite the (college) building. It’s not Srishti property. But they don’t know who did it or how it got there. They raised that issue and then started threatening the guards for allowing the graffiti to be put up. The guard told them that he is not involved in any of this.”Student, Srishti Institute of Art Design and technology
Soon, faculty members and the management arrived to hold talks. The MLA and his men began demanding that the identities of the students who according to them had painted the graffiti.
“Firstly, it could be anyone who drew the graffiti. Just because the college teaches fine arts does not mean the students are culprits. The MLA and his men said that the graffiti hurts the sentiments of people and BJP members as it was against Prime Minister Modi,” a teacher at Srishti said.
Speaking to TNM, MLA SR Vishwanath said that they warned the college of action if the graffiti continued to appear.
“There were many complaints of graffiti over the last one year against the college and no action was being taken. When we saw anti-Modi paintings, we warned them. We told them that they can take police permission and protest instead of vandalising public property.”SR Vishwanath, MLA, Yelahanka
The residents also resorted to moral policing thereafter and demanded that the college inform its students to not wear short clothes and smoke on the roads/
“BJP people did not bring up the issue of the dresses. Some residents were there and they told a faculty member that students wearing short clothes is against Indian culture,” MLA Vishwanath claimed.
According to a student TNM spoke to, the students were called to a common area on Tuesday afternoon, where they were asked to stop smoking and stop wearing shorts for the next three to four days as it could pose a problem.
“We were told by faculty to not wear short clothes and to not smoke as it would give them (those who complained) a reason to target students of our college. They asked us not to paint any graffiti.”Student
The college has declared a holiday on January 16 and 17 in view of the threats received on Tuesday. "Everyone seems to be shaken because of the threats we received," one of the faculty members said.
Geetha Narayanan, Director of Srishti Institute of Art Design and Technology, told TNM, "My primary concern as the director of the institute is to ensure the safety of the students and faculty. I am hoping the authorities work with us to create a safe atmosphere for them."
(With inputs from Prajwal Bhat.)
(This article was originally published on The News Minute.)