A stone structure inside the University of Hyderabad was converted into a Ram temple on the occasion of Rama Navami on Sunday, April 10, which has raised concern among students. The structure was set up allegedly by a group of students belonging to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and other right-wing groups. A formation of rocks on the campus across Men's Hostel F was seen painted in orange and red marks. Portraits of the deities Ram and Hanuman were installed under the rocks, saffron flags were erected and rituals were conducted at the site. The establishment of the temple has caused concern among the student community, as it is being seen as an attempt to saffronise the campus and occupy the space as a Hindu site of worship with dubious claims.
Speaking to TNM, Gopi Swamy, Students Union General Secretary and Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) Convenor alleged that in recent times, the ABVP and right-wing forces have escalated attempts to saffronise the campus. â€śIn this specific incident, following Rama Navami celebrations, they have turned a stone structure into a Ram Mandir. They are influencing the newly admitted students with their communal bigotry,â€ť he said.
On the morning of April 10, Rama Navami celebrations organised by the ABVP unit of the university were held on campus at Gurubaksh Singh Maidan. According to some students, the Vice-Chancellor of the university, BJ Rao, had also participated. Gopi Swamy alleged that the Vice-Chancellorâ€™s participation in the celebrations could have given the students the impunity to establish the temple. He added that the ABVP has been using certain occasions to â€śprovoke the progressive and scientific forcesâ€ť at the university.
TNM reached out to Namratha Singh, President, ABVP UoH, regarding the allegations of trying to saffronise the campus space. While she initially said she would give a statement on the matter, she has since remained unavailable for comment, and this story will be updated if her response is received. Namratha has told News Meter that the structure had already been a temple that was lying ignored, and that a few students had merely cleared and renovated the place.
But contrary to Namrathaâ€™s claims, a non-teaching staff member, as well as students who have been residing on campus for a while now, told TNM that there was no such religious space for the worship of Ram or any deity at the now contested location. Gopi Swamy also said that there was no religious structure on the premises earlier. It was merely a stone structure that some students have now tried to convert into a Ram temple, TNMâ€™s sources from the UoH campus said.
When asked if the makeshift temple was established with permission from university authorities, Professor Kanchan Malik, spokesperson for the University of Hyderabad told TNM, â€śIt is learnt that the installation of photographs and other arrangements were done for a temporary purpose on the occasion of Rama Navami. University authorities have asked the concerned students to remove them."