A yagna, or puja, (religious ceremony) carried out on the premises of the well-established Karve Institute of Social Sciences has irked many former students, faculty and social organisations who held demonstrations outside the institute on Tuesday.
Protesting against the act of the new management, which seems to be favouring a particular religious activity by performing the ceremony at the campus, social media platforms were flooded by protest messages from former students who termed the act as unconstitutional and unbecoming of an institute of its calibre and history.
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Anand Pawar, director of NGO Samyak and an ex-student, took to social media to express his anger and termed the management as “right-obsessed”. “The management has been recently taken over by new members, some of whom are right-wing oriented. Our institute is over 50 years old and was founded on the principles of social justice and has remained as a secular institution. On Monday evening, we got a message that said that a yagna or puja will be carried out at the institute. This is a government-aided institute and it cannot randomly start following a certain faith. It has had a history of secularism and the institute has contributed a lot to social justice movements. Such an incident on its premises is shameful to say the least. That’s why alumni rallied around in protest,” he said.
While Pawar was not present in Pune on Tuesday, one of the protesting students was Mangesh Kadam, an M.Phil student at the institute.
“Across the country we have been hearing that attempts are being made to saffronise education and the same attempt is being made here at our institute. The management carried out the puja and even worshiped a cow during the rituals. And, when questioned by the students, they said they were trying to ward off negative energy arising out of the filth and ‘pollution’ at the campus. But how can they propagate such ideas? This institute is founded in name of Anna Karve, who had fought against outdated religious beliefs, and to carry out such an activity at an institute which has his legacy is disgusting,” he said.
Not just ex-students but members of Maharashtra Andhrashradda Nirmulan Samiti were also present for protest. “There is a government resolution which clearly states that no educational institution can undertake activities that felicitate or celebrate any particular religion.
Most importantly, the previous management of same institution had resolved that barring events to celebrate birth anniversaries of Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda and Savitribai Phule, who were great social reformers, no such programmes will be held on the campus. How can they undertake such an activity on a government-aided institute? No one is objecting to their beliefs, they could practice them in their homes but not on the campus where students and faculty of all faiths study,” said Milind Deshmukh, chief secretary, MANS, who added that they have even filed a police complaint in this regard.
Talking to The Indian Express, a faculty member said that even teachers were riled. “They did this at a time when most teachers were out of college on study tours. Never has such an incident happened at this institute, which is running since 1953. Our reputation is damaged. Students have been sending WhatsApp messages to us all day,” said the teacher.
Senior Inspector Anuja Deshmane of Warje Malwadi police station said, “We have received a complaint in this regard and we are doing a primary inquiry. We will be verifying the various allegations made in the application and necessary legal action will be taken. After the application was submitted, a team from the police station visited the institute to gather facts.”
Meanwhile, Shivkumar Maddirala, secretary of institute’s management body, refused to discuss the incident. “A police complaint has been filed by them and I will reply to the police. I do not want to discuss this with the media,” he said.