Students affiliated to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) disrupted classes at the Lucknow University (LU) on Wednesday to protest against a professor who shared an article, “Umar Khalid, my son”, that appeared in The Indian Express on February 23, on his Facebook page.
The article was written by columnist and Delhi University Professor Apoorvanand.
Snapshots of Professor Rajesh Misra’s Facebook page, on which he had shared the article, were circulated on campus through social media.
The students protested outside the Sociology Department, where Misra teaches, burnt his effigy, and demanded action against him. The ABVP student leaders also submitted a memorandum to Vice-Chancellor S B Nimse.
“The professor claims these were not his views and he shared the write-up of another professor published in a newspaper. But our point is that one shares things which he or she supports, and supporting anti-national elements would not be allowed here,” said ABVP leader Anurag Tiwari, who led the protest.
“The V-C has promised to investigate the issue and take action within 24 hours. Our next step will be decided on the basis of the action taken by the university,” he said. Denying that they had disrupted classes, he said: “We did not close classes. Instead, we just explained to students what their professor had done, and they agreed to come out on their own.”
“Yesterday, I shared a write-up by Professor Apoorvanand of Delhi University published in The Indian Express on February 23 entitled ‘Umar Khalid, my son’, quoting some parts of it in inverted commas. The post was essentially to uphold the freedom of democratic expression of ideas, irespective of political ideology, under all circumstances,” said Misra in a written statement.
“Ironically, something very astonishing happened. Since morning, I have been receiving calls from friends, students and media to clarify my stand on the same… I have also come to know that a few have aggressively opposed me, even without talking to me or verifying the post. I agree that all the youths/ students belonging to every political outfit have a flame of rebel and aggression in them. More radical ones may have an inherent zeal to raise questions about the establishment and prevailing ideas. I understand and appreciate youths for their ideas,” he said.
“While I am totally against any slogans in favour of Afzal Guru’s extremist ideas, slogans which are pro-Pakistan or (about) breaking India into pieces, I am also of the view that every caution should be taken before declaring students as criminals, and their views should be sympathetically heard, else their whole life and career may be at stake,” he said.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Misra, 62, who is on extension, said: “I have taught for about 36 years, and I am like a grandfather to all of them (students)… I have always respected and stood for freedom of students. I know Apoorvanand and when I read the article, I liked it and thus decided to share it.”
He added, “When student unions were banned, I supported the students at every official meeting. While I respect everyone’s opinion, I am ready to confront these students and explain. I am ready to face their anger, but not physically. I will also respect the university’s decision, if they decide not to give me further extension, because everyone has a right to their own opinion.”
Meanwhile, another group of over 100 students of various hostels of LU staged a protest outside the main gate of the campus, raising slogans that they would not allow “anti-national activities” on the campus. Denying any political affiliation, these students said they wanted to show that they could unite against any “anti-national activity” on campus.
When contacted, Professor Nishi Pandey, Proctor, Lucknow University, said: “There were two different protests. One that happened inside was by the ABVP. The V-C has taken their memorandum and has told them that the university will investigate the issue in the next 24 hours. Another group of students wanted to sit on dharna over nationalism, but the university administration did not give them permission. So they are sitting outside the campus.
She said no action has been taken against any student.