He was branded an ‘anti-national’ for a Facebook post criticising the BJP and its followers. He was surrounded by scores of people, and forced to kneel down and apologise. Twenty-nine-year-old Sandeep Wathar lived through one of the scariest days of his life on Saturday as ABVP activists tried to humiliate and intimidate him in his own college. But days after the incident, the assistant professor at a private engineering college in North Karnataka’s Vijayapura says he’s neither angry with the students who protested, nor afraid of voicing his opinions in future.
Sandeep Wathar. Courtesy: Facebook
“I think this is a very ridiculous and stupid thing that ABVP did,” Sandeep tells TNM, and with remarkable clarity, he says he’s not angry with the students who protested at all. “They were diploma students, they might have just finished their 10th standard I guess. I don't even blame those who came as protestors, but I want to know who ignited this,” Sandeep says.
“Surprisingly there was an ABVP guy who came on Saturday asking me to read out my entire post, and explain it to him as he could not read English. So I do not know on what basis they came to me claiming that I had written an anti-national statement. They could have at least read it or they could have at least taken a translation of the post,” he adds.
The ruckus started after Sandeep put out a Facebook post criticising the BJP-led centre for creating a war-like situation amidst the high tension that ensued between India and Pakistan since the Indian Air Force’s pre-emptive strike in Balakot on February 27. He also said that BJP is a party with absolutely no shame. The post read: “Who sounds more intelligent in all this? You **** all bhakts. You will [be] the reason for [the] destruction of millions of lives if this tension escalates. BJP is **** all party absolutely zero shame.”
When the mob forced him to kneel and plead on Saturday, they also forced him to delete the posts against his wishes. “There were 100 or more people who had surrounded me, I did not have any other option other but to submit to them. I told everybody that I won't delete the posts, Sandeep says, “But people surrounding me forced me to delete it.”
However, while he was forced to delete the Facebook posts, Sandeep says he stands by them even today – except for the use of expletives.
“I used an abusive word, which I am admitting myself. I thought with the amount of hatred they are spreading, they deserve it. The main reason I did that was because they were even abusing the widow of a slain soldier, who died recently in Pulwama,” he says.
“However, people pointed out that being a teacher, I should not have used the F-word. I realised the same then,” he says.
Recalling the incident, Sandeep says he was worried for his family. “It was especially difficult to spend the night after the incident. My mother and my father are shaken, they are worried about my future,” he says.
“For me, though, nothing has changed,” Sandeep asserts, “I am not afraid of voicing my opinion. I have already been explaining on Facebook as to exactly what happened on Saturday, and how the issue is being covered. It was reported that I had switched off my phone like I have absconded – which is totally untrue.”
Sandeep has filed an official complaint with the police, seeking action in the matter. However, he is yet to get an official acknowledgement. He says he wants legal action only against the organisers, and that those above the age of 18 should be dealt with according to the law, while any minors should be let off with a warning.
With the protesters demanding his suspension, Sandeep says he has done nothing to deserve it. Instead, he says, “I want the college to acknowledge that I have not done anything wrong. I want to address all the students of the college as students of other departments are making noise claiming I am an anti-national. So I want to explain to them. My students know how I am as a person.”