The principal and the vice principal of a college in Ahmedabad resigned “on moral grounds” on Monday after the management cancelled an event where Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani was invited, PTI reported.
The event was cancelled after the Brahmchari Wadi trust, which governs the college, refused to provide a hall for it, allegedly after pressure from some Bharatiya Janata Party student leaders. The trustees of the institution include architect Balkrishna Doshi, author Kumarpal Desai – both Padma Shri recipients – and Jnanpith recipient novelist Raghuveer Chaudhary.
The annual festival was to be held on Monday. Mevani is an alumnus of the college.
“It is clear that today’s political environment is strangulating the constitutional freedom and right to expression and speech and this is also getting support from the authorities,” principal Hemantkumar Shah said in his the resignation letter, according to The Indian Express. “It is easily understood that the decision to not allow the use of the college auditorium for today’s function was under pressure and open threatening from student leaders from a particular political party.”
Vice Principal Mohanbhai Parmar also resigned from his post.
Shah had on Monday claimed that some student leaders associated with the BJP gave threats to the trust saying they will disrupt the function even if there is police presence if they went ahead with the event.
“When I accepted the post of principal I believed I could do a lot for society and college. I can’t stay in that institute which is a slave of a political party and I can’t work as a slave. So, I am resigning from this post,” Shah said on Tuesday, according to ANI.
In a tweet, Mevani condemned the trustees of the college for not standing up against “hooliganism of the BJP and its student wing”. “This is a shameful day for freedom of speech and democracy,” the Vadgam MLA said. “Since Narendra Modi became prime minister, many people have become spineless. Trustees of HK Arts College where I studied fall in that category, unfortunately.”
However, the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, the youth wing of the BJP, on Monday said it had nothing to do with the incident. “We do not believe in such superficial politics,” Rutvij Patel, president of the youth wing, said. “We have nothing to do with this.”
‘It is a murder of democracy’: Hemantkumar Shah
In a column in The Wire, Shah said his resignation was not an attempt to be “heroic or to make a statement”. “It is simply the only thing I felt anyone in this position must do,” he wrote. “The trust’s decision is an attack on freedom of speech and expression in a state where the capabilities of academic persons have long been suppressed by the government, by universities and even by students.”
He questioned why an elected MLA from Vadgam was prevented from speaking when the Karnavati University in Ahmedabad invited Amit Shah, Subramanian Swamy and other political figures for a youth parliament event. “I feel that this kind of suppression of thought, especially in an arts college, is a very serious matter,” he wrote. “In this atmosphere, there is no space for humanities and for healthy dialogue. It is a murder of democracy, and to resign was not just the right thing, but the only thing one could do as the principal.”