Angry Alumni Slam ‘Anti-Minority’ Vandalism in St Stephen’s Chapel

Current students termed the incident “outrageous”, and indicated that the vandalism mat be “politically motivated”.

Updated
India
5 min read
St Stephen’s College’s alumni Ramachandra Guha, Karuna Nundy and Rahul Ram.
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Alumni, students and teachers of the prestigious St Stephen’s College in New Delhi were vocal in condemning the incident where the door of the institution’s chapel was scribbled with ‘Mandir yahin banega’ (‘The temple will be constructed here’). Not just that, a cross outside just outside the chapel was also defaced with the words ‘I’m Going to Hell’ written along with an Om symbol in what seemed to be black paint.

Renowned historian Ramachandra Guha, speaking to The Quint, called the incident “beyond contempt”, while lawyer Karuna Nundy called for legislation against hate crimes.

Guha, who graduated from St Stephen’s College with a Bachelor’s in Economics in 1977, pointed out that this was not happening in “Yogi Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh”, but in New Delhi, which is India’s capital and the seat of the central government.

The PM goes to Davos and speaks about Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, but what happens in India’s most famous public university? This has not been done by some fringe element, but most probably by students. The incident tells you what kind of politics and governance Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have brought us.
Ramachandra Guha, Historian
Angry Alumni Slam ‘Anti-Minority’ Vandalism in St Stephen’s Chapel

According to the students and authorities of the college, the incident might have occurred on the night of Thursday, 3 May, although they remain clueless about who might have been behind the incident.

The images showing the vandalism started circulating on Friday afternoon on social media. Since then, the door and the cross have been cleaned up, but some of the words can still be seen inscribed on the door.

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    (Photo: Kabir Upmanyu)
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    (Photo Courtesy: St Stephen’s College)
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    (Photo Courtesy: St Stephen’s College)
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    (Photo: Kabir Upmanyu)

‘We are Getting Closer to Nazi’s Germany’

Lawyer and feminist intellectual Karuna Nundy who graduated with Bachelors in Economics from the college was “appalled” to hear of the incident and called for legislation against hate crimes.

Nundy drew parallels with Nazi’s Germany when houses of Jews were painted with hate messages.

Angry Alumni Slam ‘Anti-Minority’ Vandalism in St Stephen’s Chapel
We are getting closer to Nazi Germany where the houses of Jews were painted with hate messages. We hear that a tomb in south Delhi was forcibly converted into a temple. It is a frightening time for citizens of this country. State governments that are more constitutionally oriented should pass strong legislation against hate crimes.
Karuna Nundy, Lawyer

‘If This Was a Prank, Then It’s a Dangerous One’

Indian bass guitarist and Indian Ocean band member Rahul Ram, who graduated from the college in the 1970s with Bachelors in Chemistry, pointed that even if it was a “prank played by students”, it should be questioned.

“I want to give the students the benefit of doubt because maybe, they were playing a prank. But they should understand that this is not a harmless prank and can go a long way. It reflects the growing majoritarianism, even if the idea of it may be a prank”, Ram told The Quint.
Angry Alumni Slam ‘Anti-Minority’ Vandalism in St Stephen’s Chapel

Congress leader and history graduate from the college Sandeep Dikshit called for the college administration to condemn the incident immediately.

“These extreme criminal elements and their actions should be condemned immediately by the college administration. No one has the right to deface any space that belongs to an educational institution or a public place. This is done by coward people.”

‘The College Hasn’t Seen Anything Like This’

Calling the incident worrying, Nandita Narain, a professor at the college told The Quint:

We haven’t seen anything like this till now in the college. If it is the work of groups targeting the minority status of the college, it is very worrying. The timing of the incident is also particularly surprising.

Narain added that considering the prevailing atmosphere in the country, it would not be wise for the college to embark on a path where it is seeking autonomy. “If the college is granted an autonomous status, it will only become isolated and this will make resisting such incidents harder”, she said.

‘The Incident Shows Prevailing Attitude Towards Minority Institutions’

Meanwhile, current students termed the incident “outrageous” and “shocking”, indicated that the vandalism might have been “politically motivated” or the handiwork of “extremists”.

“This sort of attitude can be seen towards all minority institutions, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) being another example. Muslim tombs are being converted to temples, which indicates the targeted nature of this forceful reclamation… I hope this toxic fad of militant Hindu nationalism understands that such behaviour has no place in my college’s and our ideal nation state’s scheme of things”, a third-year student of the college told The Quint on the condition of anonymity.

Another student pointed out that since the incident, the college authorities have installed a few more closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in the campus, in addition to the ones they already have.

“Personally the incident is just disappointing. It is necessary to find out who did and give the requisite punishment so that such a thing never happens again”, the student added.

There have also been rumours in the college that the whole incident might have been “stage-managed” by someone in authority just to gain sympathy, which in turn, would ensure an autonomous status for the college.

Notably, the issue of autonomy has been a controversial one in the college, with many of the students and teachers voicing their opposition to it.

Neither the principal of the college, John Varghese, nor the Bursar, Renish Abraham, responded to calls made by The Quint.

Samuel Shekhar, who is the caretaker of the chapel which was vandalised, refused to comment, saying that the principal would be the right person to answer the questions regarding the incident. This copy will be updated as and when we get a response from any of them.

The incident was also condemned by several alumni members on social media.

On the "Mandir Yahin Banega" fiasco that has hit St Stephen's College. Let us all admit that till you identify who is...

Posted by Soutik Banerjee on Saturday, May 5, 2018
Angry Alumni Slam ‘Anti-Minority’ Vandalism in St Stephen’s Chapel
Angry Alumni Slam ‘Anti-Minority’ Vandalism in St Stephen’s Chapel
Angry Alumni Slam ‘Anti-Minority’ Vandalism in St Stephen’s Chapel
Angry Alumni Slam ‘Anti-Minority’ Vandalism in St Stephen’s Chapel

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