Is the thuggery at Ramjas College and the ensuing violence in Delhi University making colleges in the capital go into self-censorship mode?
Are potentially contentious college events being scrapped in fear of violence?
DSE Bans Student Gatherings on Campus, Disallows Anti-Violence Poetry Meet
Take, for instance, the Delhi School of Economics (DSE). On finding out that several students of the DSE were planning a slam poetry session on 27 February to protest the DU violence, the college promptly issued a notice.
Students were banned from hosting any gathering or event on the premises of the college with immediate effect, until further notice.
The reason cited for the move was simple – it was in the interest of the security of the DSE campus.
Not only was the poetry session denied permission, the message from the college administration was clear. The authorities saw no point in risking a Ramjas repeat.
Says a well-placed DSE source close to the poetry slam event:
We will now be organising the poetry meet privately, outside the auspices of the DSE, at the Piano Man Jazz Club on 3 March. The college does not want to be associated with the event in any way.
Khalsa College's 'No' to ‘Nukkad Natak’
The mood was hardly any different at Delhi's Khalsa College. A street play event scheduled to be part of an inter-college festival on campus was suddenly called off on the morning of 23 February, the morning after the initial violence at Ramjas College.
All nine college contingents that had turned up ready to perform their act had to return disappointed.
The Principal of Khalsa College announced the decision ‘keeping the students’ safety in mind.’ The cause for concern? That the nukkad nataks could possibly contain content deemed ‘anti-national’ by the ABVP and friends.
According to Kuljeet Singh, Assistant Professor at Khalsa's English Department, ABVP students within the college had warned that if anti-national statements were made in plays, the event would be disrupted by nationalist sloganeering by the ABVP.
Kuljeet Singh, Assistant Professor at Khalsa’s English DepartmentIt was a classic case of psychosis. The Ramjas events had created an environment of fear. We were told that the police too had cautioned the college authorities, “Mahaul thoda garam hai, aap dhyan rakhiye.” The indication from ABVP students of the college too was that if things got out of hand, they could resort to violence.
Not the Right Time to Talk Kashmir?
On 23 February, Ambedkar University, Delhi, was to host an event commemorating the 26th anniversary of the alleged mass rapes by soldiers of the Indian Army in Jammu and Kashmir's villages of Kunan and Poshpora. But curiously enough, that event too was postponed.
Media reports asserted that it was an immediate fallout of the Ramjas ruckus, quoting a corroboration from a speaker at the event.
However, one of the event organisers, while speaking to The Quint, vehemently denied the accusations, stating that the events at Ramjas had nothing to do with the postponement.
The past one week has undoubtedly been a tumultuous time for university spaces in the capital. But will the violence in Delhi University on the 22-23 February leave a lasting impact on its colleges, maiming their tradition of free speech?
Is the self-censorship at DSE and Khalsa a transient phenomena? Or will these college administrations continue to silence themselves in the fear of violence?