Tension has been brewing in the Pondicherry University campus with the BJP and ABVP accusing the Student Council magazine 'Wider Stand' of carrying ‘anti-national’ content. On Monday evening, BJP member Swaminathan along with 100 others held a protest in public glare where copies of the magazine were burnt. With protests on Monday and threats of more protests in the future, the university has clamped down on the magazine, banning its distribution.
“We have banned distributing the magazine and we have sealed the student council office,” the Assistant Registrar said. On Tuesday, student council members, largely constituting of SFI members, found the council room which housed copies of the journal, sealed.
In the journal, an article pledged active support on behalf of the varsity students for student movements in JNU, IIT Madras, FTII and Hyderabad university. There was also a page dedicated in memoriam of HCU student Rohith Vemula, three girl students from the Villupuram SVS college and Ajith Kumar, a Dalit engineering student from St Joseph’s College in Kanchipuram, calling them ‘victims of institutional murders.’
The articles also protested against the government’s stand on various student movements. ABVP students of the varsity have also termed the titles of some articles objectionable. ‘Turning into saffronised concentration camps’, ‘#OccupyUGC’, ‘Era of Indian resistance’, ‘A country without free speech’ and ‘The diary of a protester’ were the titles of some of the articles. Though the magazines were meant to be distributed only inside the campus, the BJP has called them provocative. BJP member Swaminathan said, “If it is in a university student’s hands today, what will we be tomorrow?”
“It is disgraceful that a university allowed such a magazine to be published. Saffronisation of the country? They have written ill of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. The magazine is full of anti-national slogans,” says Swaminathan.
When asked about the freedom of speech and expression, he said, “Yes, we will protest even if someone writes a Facebook post or tweets against our country. Freedom of speech at the cost of our country’s modesty? No,” he says. When asked if he had read a copy of the journal, he said he had only read the cover story.
ABVP members also protested after the BJP’s cries got traction. “There’s obscene language and anti-national slogans in it,” says Subbiah, an ABVP member. Subbiah however, could not recollect the slogans.
Here’s what the Student Council had to say – “BJP is giving the journal far more attention just by protesting. In fact, more people are reading it online than we thought after they publicly burnt the copies,” says Anand, the state secretary of the college’s SFI wing.
The SFI along with the Student Council held a press meet on Tuesday morning to clarify their stance on the issue. “The magazine is going to stay how it is,” says Perumal, member of Tamil Nadu CPI(M) State Committee. “Half of the students who were behind the magazine have passed out, so they can really do nothing to us. If we have caused a stir, so be it.”
This, according to Perumal, was not the first time that Pondicherry university was in the eye of a storm. In 2015, Minister of Food Processing Sadhvi Niranjan Jyothi called for an investigation into the alleged Islamisation in the university after JAK Tareen, a former Jammu and Kashmir University dean, took charge. Instituting a committee, the members observed an increase in the number of Muslim professors. This wasn’t however, followed up. “The vigilantes have been on alert ever since,” says Perumal.
Even as the university is poised to see more protests, the BJP and ABVP said they will not allow the magazine to be distributed. “These writings are not even fit to be read out in a private meeting and they feel the need to publish it?” concludes Swaminathan.