The Madhya Pradesh police on Thursday wrote to the vice-chancellor of a central university in Sagar, objecting to the speakers at an international webinar, scheduled on Friday and Saturday, reported News18. The police have warned that a case could be filed if the virtual event caused a law and order problem.
The webinar has been organised by Department of Anthropology of Dr Harisingh Gour Vishwavidyalaya, Sagar, in Madhya Pradesh, and the Montclair State University, United States.
Among the speakers are poet and scientist Gauhar Raza, Delhi University professor Apoorvanand, Lucknow University professor Nadeem Hasnain, IIIT-Hyderabad Professor Harjinder Singh, GLA University, Mathura, Professor Panchanan Mohanty.
The other participants are Dr Grazyna Liczbinska from Poland, Dr Aseem Hasnain from Bridgewater State University, US, and Georgetown University Professor Dr Gaurav J Pathania.
The topic to be discussed is Cultural and Linguistic Hurdles in the Achievement of Scientific Temper, reported News18.
The letter from the police to the university said that it had been brought to their notice that the “speakers are considered to have an anti-national mindset and make provocative speeches”. The police also alleged that some of the speakers were suspected of “creating communal discord”.
“Keeping law and order in mind it is advisable that before holding this webinar, there is clarity and consensus over the topic of discussion and the content,” the letter from the police said, according to News18. “So that no caste or religious sentiments are hurt, and no such comments are made. And if even then there are concerning issues, then the organiser would be collectively answerable and booked under 505 IPC [Indian Penal Code].”
Section 505 of the Indian Penal Code penalises anyone who makes statements “conducing to public mischief”. In some cases, it may lead to imprisonment.
Superintendent of Police Atul Singh wrote to the university after the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad protested against the organisers’ decision to call Apoorvanand and Raza to the virtual event, according to News18.
On July 22, the ABVP wrote to the Madhya Pradesh university’s vice chancellor, JD Ahi, registering their protest and warning that a first information report could be filed in the matter.
“We will demand closure of the university indefinitely,” the letter signed by ABVP district convener Shreeram Richaria read. The student unit of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which is the ideological parent of the Bharatiya Janata Party, also asked the organisers to present “the list of speakers along with an explanation of calling ‘A’”, according to News18.
There are two speakers at the event whose names begin with “A” – Delhi University professor Apoorvanand and Dr Aseem Hasnain from Bridgewater State University, US.
The vice chancellor wrote to the organisers, highlighting the January 2021 notification of the government’s regulations related to international webinars. The letter said that approval of the university’s administrative secretary was required for the event to be conducted.
The vice chancellor also noted that apart from the required approvals, a list of participants of the event would have to be submitted.
“If you proceed further without the said approval, the university administration will not be responsible for consequences, if any, and you being the convener of the international webinar will be held liable for the same,” the letter said, reported News18.
‘This has become a pattern’: Apoorvanand
“I learnt about the ABVP’s objection to the event when the letter was written to the vice-chancellor,” Apoorvanand told Scroll.in. “This is absurd...also something that would concern others.... If this is how the city police and security officers can get involved in a virtual seminar...cautioning against what is said at an event before it even happens.”
The Delhi University professor said he had been contacted by the organisers after the ABVP launched the protests and informed him that they were negotiating with the students’ group.
“No one would want any harm to come to anyone and it is possible that the protests may get violent,” Apoorvanand said. “The event may be online but it has real world consequences. This has become a pattern and what it shows is that the ABVP are eternally awake and it seems like they keep scanning events and see who is being invited and why.”
He also recalled an incident when the ABVP had protested when he spoke at an event organised by the Punjab university. The professor said that the event went on despite the protests but the university eventually stopped organising such seminars.
Event not cancelled, says university
The university vice-chancellor refused to comment on the matter, according to News18. The registrar, Santosh Shagora, told the news channel that the webinar had not been cancelled, but refused to make any further comments without checking the developments in the matter.
Convener of the virtual event, Rajesh Gautam, said that the administration had asked that the Union government should be informed about the international webinar under the revised guidelines. However, he also told News18 that he had not been authorised to speak about the matter.