A college in Mangaluru has said that it will go ahead and name a park after tribal rights activist Stan Swamy though Hindutva organisations have threatened to not allow it, reported The New Indian Express on Thursday.

The park is located in the Kotekar Beeri campus of St Aloysius College. The college had earlier decided to hold the naming ceremony on Thursday but the event was postponed in view of President Ram Nath Kovind’s visit to the state.

College principal Father Melwin Pinto told The New Indian Express that the police said they were busy with the president’s visit and did not want any trouble due to the naming ceremony at the park.

“We will not budge for such threats because in their own words, they [the Hindutva organisations] have said that Father Stan Swamy is an accused and nothing has been proven against him,” Pinto said. “Then what stops us from doing it.”

Swamy was among those accused in the Bhima Koregaon case. The 84-year-old, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease and contracted the coronavirus infection in prison, was arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act on October 8 last year. He was an undertrial at the Taloja Jail in Mumbai, where he died on July 5.

The National Investigation Agency had claimed that Swamy had helped the cause of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) through various civil rights organisations with which he worked. However, Swamy had said that he was being targeted by the NIA because of his writings and work related to caste and land struggles of the people.

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On Wednesday, leaders belonging to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal held a press conference and opposed the college management’s decision to name the park after Swamy.

VHP leader Sharan Pumpwell said that if the college management went ahead with the ceremony, members of their organisations would protest in front of the college campus.

“The college will be responsible if any untoward incident takes place,” he threatened.

The Hindutva leader said that Swamy was accused of being involved in terrorism and naxalism. “It is highly condemnable and an insult to the social system to name a park after such a person,” he said.

The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, also submitted a memorandum to Mangaluru Deputy Commissioner KV Rajendra on the matter, reported The Week.

“It is an indirect attack on the national unity,” the memorandum claimed. “And to think an institution that has availed all the benefits from the government has chosen to name the park after a man who died in a jail is questionable.”

It added: “The institution that follows the principles of Jesus Christ, who preached peace to the world, choosing to glorify Stan Swamy, who represented violence, has shocked the peace-loving people of the district.”

The ABVP condemned the college’s decision to “glorify an anti-national” when it said the institution should be instilling patriotism.

ABVP state secretary Manikanta suggested naming the park after former Union ministers Oscar Fernandes or George Fernandes. He also said that there would be no problem with the college naming the park after Swamy if he was cleared of all charges.

Activists seek action against Hindutva bodies

Meanwhile, several organisations and activists have written to the Dakshina Kannada district administration to take action against the Hindutva leaders for threatening the college administration, reported The Hindu.

The letter was signed by organisations, including Campaign to Defend Democracy, All India People’s Forum, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, and journalist P Sainath, activists Anil Sadagopal, Harsh Mander and Kavita Srivatsava, professors Nandini Sundar and Ram Puniyani and author Pieter Friedrich.

“They [the Hindutva groups] have absolutely no right to interfere in the goings-on of a private institution,” the letter said. “These organisation have a stated purpose and history for violence, communal divisiveness and subscribe to an idea of our country with scant regard to the Constitution and the rule of law.”

It alleged that these organisations were imposing social apartheid (segregation on the basis of class or economic status) and engaging in acts of violence and intimidation.

“Members of these organisations have engaged in lynching of minorities across the country, conducting riots and engaging in violence to push minorities into second-class citizenship,” the signatories alleged.

They said that Swamy was falsely implicated in the case against him and put through inhuman treatment in the jail that led to his death. The letter said that Swamy’s death has “become symbolic of the systemic oppression of a human rights activist standing with the most marginalised communities”.