Updated: May 22, 2022 8:26:35 am
Amid heavy police presence, scores of students and teachers of Delhi University protested Saturday at the arts faculty in the North Campus demanding the immediate release of Hindu College associate professor Ratan Lal.
He was arrested Friday night for an allegedly objectionable Facebook post referring to the claims of a shivling being discovered in the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi.
Student organisations such as the All India Students’ Association, Campus Front of India, Democratic Students’ Union, Fraternity, Krantikari Yuva Sangathan, and the Students’ Federation of India were present at the protest with banners and placards. Several students and teachers who are not affiliated with any organisations also turned up in solidarity with Lal.
Slogans such as ‘Jai Bhim’, ‘Ratan Lal ko Riha Karo (Release Ratan Lal)’ and ‘Hindu Rashtra Par Halla Bol’ were raised. Several protesters also had the preamble of the Constitution in their hands.
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Among those present at the protest was Uma Raag, a teacher of Hindi at IP College for Women. “Ratan Lal is a very popular teacher and a Dalit intellectual. I’m here today in solidarity with him. He has been a vocal critic of the present regime and he is being punished for it. Like the way this government is running bulldozers across the country, the arrest of Ratan Lal and the FIR against Dr Ravi Kant in Lucknow [amount to] a bulldozer [driven over] the education system,” she said.
Rajeev Kunwar, who teaches Hindi at Dyal Singh College, said Lal’s arrest was “unfortunate”. “The way he was picked up in the middle of the night is even more unfortunate, especially since he was willing to cooperate. He’s a historian. He did not agree with a photo and he made a satirical post. Some people could have problems with it, but instead of debating and discussing, how can he just be arrested for it?” he said.
Also present at the protest were students who had never been taught by Lal and who had only known and heard him as a Dalit intellectual through his YouTube channel, Ambedkarnama.
Hardik Singh, a BA German student, said he had come in solidarity as Lal had done the work of “emancipating and educating the masses”. “This is not the first time someone is critiquing religion. This culture is in our history – right from Buddha to Ambedkar to Periyar. Such actions are only taken when majority sentiments are hurt. We are seeing every day that minorities are being subjected to violence and lynching, but nobody is arrested. I’m here to express my unconditional support to him (Lal),” he said.
Mamta Meena, a second-year student of LLB, said, “This is like a dictatorship. If you say anything against the majority, you are arrested. Arresting a professor, that too from a prestigious university like DU, is a big deal. We demand that he be immediately released.”
A case was registered on Tuesday against Lal under IPC Sections 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion) and 295 A (malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings) based on a complaint by a “social worker”, the police said.
On Wednesday, Lal had told The Indian Express: “I was not expecting threats and abuses for this statement. There is a long tradition of critique in Hinduism from Phule, Ravidas and Ambedkar. Here, I haven’t even critiqued it. It is just an observation. In our country, religious feelings get hurt over anything. What will people do, just put patti (bandage) on their mouths?”
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