Published: 04th September 2019
Allahabad University prof flees town after his 'rationalist' video draw mob-lynching threats
Vikram Harijan said he had already written to the University about the threats and even approached the police but to no avail. He has fled town as he is in mortal fear of what will happen
As Vikram Harijan walked around the classroom supervising students as they wrote their exam, one of the them walked up to him and asked him if he was 'Vikram Harijan'. When he confirmed that he was, the student to him, "You will be mob-lynched". He then mumbled something about something that Vikram had said about a Hindu deity and that he deserved to be lynched. Little did the Assistant Professor of the Department of Medieval and Modern History at the University of Allahabad know that life as we knew it, was over.
A few days later, Vikram was in the library when people approached him again and threatened to hurt him. Then he was told about a YouTube video going viral. In the video, Vikram is speaking at an event and recalls an incident that happened when to him when he was in the sixth standard, "On the occasion, I had been narrating an incident which took place when I was a school student. I did not have any explicit intention to show disrespect to or insult any religion or any God or Goddesses. I wanted only to promote rationality and scientific temperament by questioning superstition and blind faith. Those I believe are a major obstacle to the development of reason and rationality in our nation."
Vikram said that the video was shot by one of his research students, the same person who leaked the video, allegedly a selectively edited version. The professor claimed that the student was blackmailing him because Vikram had refused to write the student's thesis,"The student has been blackmailing me for nearly two years. He offered to contribute money for a seminar I was organising and even though I wasn't sure about accepting, he convinced me to take it." The professor returned the money partly and was yet to receive some part of the money from the delegates in order to return it to the scholar. Soon after, the student began to ask Vikram to write his thesis, "When I refused, he began to tell people that I had taken money to write his PhD, he didn't stop at that, he went on to personally attack me on personal forums and now he's uploaded this video as well."
Since the video went viral, Vikram has been receiving incessant calls from random people threatening to kill him. So much so, that he had to flee town. "I'm living in mortal fear, people also call me and say casteist things about me and my parents. Things I cannot even repeat, they've been that hurtful and horrible and I felt I really had to find a safe place to protect myself," he said.
And since he had not been on campus, Vikram also missed the show-cause notice that was issued to him by the University. The University has accused Vikram of uploading the video himself and demands an explanation for his words and have warned him of disciplinary action, "I have called them up and asked for some time to respond. I'm too terrified about going back because I fear for my life." In the meantime, he will also be consulting with his lawyer to figure out his next steps. He also added that he had already apologised about his remarks through the media.
Vikram also feels that he has become an unpopular figure on campus because when he started working at the University and began to ask questions. Questions to the students, just regular questions that are asked during a viva or presentation, "Before I came in, the system here was different. The research work was mediocre and no students were ever asked questions, people just passed without much effort. So when I began to raise questions, they would say things like 'This is not a leftist campus like JNU' and that I should let things remain the way they are."
Vikram also said he often gets asked by students if he is a Muslim because he's always supporting Muslims in his arguments, "Some of these students don't want to listen to new arguments and rational discussions. Some of the books themselves are communal and casteist and this poison is consumed, leaving no space for rationality," he added.
The professor said he had already written to the University about the threats and even approached the police but to no avail. The JNU alumnus also said that all this hatred could be coming from the fact that he organised two national seminars on caste in 2017 and 2018 and a third was scheduled for November 2020. "The proposed conference theme is 'Annihilation of caste: creating an egalitarian society’. I had initially made the ‘mistake’ of proposing the name of actor Aamir Khan as a guest speaker for the event. It was only a proposal at an initial stage of brainstorming, and later dropped," he said.
Vikram, who is the son of a bonded labourer, has worked hard to reach the stage he is at from his hometown in Gorakhpur to an MPhil and PhD at JNU to teaching at places like DU. Today, he is afraid that his thoughts and words will come back to hurt him. "I'm reaching out to everyone and asking for help, from media to authorities. I hope I can go back to teaching soon," he said.