The controversy over the arrest of five students of Maharaja's college in Ernakulam escalated on Tuesday, with the "face-off" between the college Principal and prominent director Aashiq Abu unfolding on social media.
The controversy began after five students who allegedly made indecent graffiti on the college walls, were arrested based on a complaint by the Principal Beena. According to the complaint, the graffiti hurt religious sentiments and were indecent in nature.
However, support for the students poured in on social media, from many who saw the arrest as an attack on the freedom of speech and expression. Director Aashiq Abu was one of them. Taking a clear stand, he had then condemned the Principal's action to get the students arrested.
Days after the controversy broke out, Principal Beena wrote a note addressed to the director. "Apologizing" for the late appearance on social media, she said that she would "exercise her freedom of speech and expression” to clarify a few things about the graffiti controversy at Maharajas.
In her post, she pointed out that many including B Unnikrishnan and Aashiq Abu "who are supposed to lead the society in the right path ended up reacting to the matter without enough knowledge of the facts of the issue."
"Like everybody else, I am also aware that it is not unnatural to see names, poems or slogans scribbled on the walls in a college. If harmless, the practice is to ignore it altogether. However, graffiti found to be problematic and reported were only two in number. One among this degraded a religion that many people belong to," she clarifies.
Addressing Aashiq Abu, Principal Beena asked whether the director would have shown such a wall in any of his films without necessary edits being done.
She explained that the students "who exercised their freedom of expression to draw graffiti on the walls are those who are not part of the nominal roll." The college was hence unable to take disciplinary action against them and was forced to seek police intervention, Beena wrote.
The Principal also said that two different cases were mixed together to distort the facts of the issue.
"A case for damaging public property was filed on 31/10/2016 following which 5 students were arrested. Complaint about indecent graffiti was filed on 19/12/2016, on which the police themselves admit no action was taken. The two cases have been deliberately mixed together to distort the facts," she said.
Soon after the Principal's Facebook post was picked up by regional media, Aashiq Abu put up another post in reply to the Principal's.
"I am of the belief that it is indeed wrong to spread derogatory content about a religion, be it on a college wall or anywhere else. There is no disagreement on that front. The point of contention is the manner in which the matter was dealt with. For instance, how they were arrested. Despite authorities including the Principal and PTA members, locking up the students in jail is not justified. I reacted to the news because I was also a student of the college for 7 years.
The students of the college who wiped it off the wall are indeed right on their part, not you, who got them arrested," he wrote.