Forced to kneel and apologise, allegedly by ABVP and BJP activists, on Saturday over a Facebook post in which he criticised the Centre for creating a war-like situation with Pakistan, a lecturer at an engineering college in Karnataka’s Vijayapura district now says his friends are labelling him mentally disturbed to protect him from being humiliated again.
Sandeep Wathar, 29, who teaches Civil Engineering at Vachana Pitamaha Dr P G Halakatti College of Engineering and Technology, on Monday said many protesters who confronted him failed to comprehend and “asked me to explain what I had posted”.
The ABVP has accused Wathar of making “anti-India” statements and treachery, and is demanding suo motu police action against him. BJP spokesperson Vivek Reddy has called it “an attempt to break India’s unity and praise enemy country”.
On Monday, Wathar said, “Many friends are left with no option but to label me as mentally disturbed to protect me. Few have been able to understand the meaning of what I was trying to say. Those who came to confront me were all students of diploma courses; many did not even know English (well enough) to understand what I had written… They were provoked.”
In one post, Wathar asked, “Who sounds more intelligent in all this. You…bhakts. You will (be) the reason for destruction of millions of lives if this tension escalates. BJP…(has) zero shame…” In another post, he remarked, “Pakistani Prime Minister issued a statement warning of the dangers of an escalating war…”
ABVP leader Sachin Kulageri said, “We want the (Karnataka) Home Minister to take action against the lecturer since he has announced that police will act against people making anti-India statements. If he fails to act, we will file a complaint.”
The college is conducting an inquiry to decide the course of action, principal V P Huggi said.
State Home Minister M B Patil stated there is “nothing wrong’’ per se with the posts, but the “words used are wrong’’.
Wathar has stayed away from the college since Saturday and said the authorities need “time to verify accusations”. “I also want a chance to explain what I meant to ABVP activists and students.” On the posts, Wathar said, “It was an outburst over social media attacks (trolling) on wife of a slain soldier by bhakts (BJP/Sangh supporters). What is this patriotism that does not even spare a widow?”
Wathar’s social media profile shows he has taken on other parties in the past. “Question everything — educate, inspire, change,’’ states one poster on his account. In a post in December, he had suggested that Congress president Rahul Gandhi may not be able to combat the tide of Hindutva. “For better India plz leave…’’ he said after posting an article titled “Rahul Gandhi should take a lesson from AAP on battling Hindutva and India would benefit”.
Stating that he has been labelled a communist on account of his latest posts, he said, “I am an engineering teacher…. I am only reacting to the situation around me. But I do not want to say much — my parents are worried.”