Published: 07th February 2020
PES's Modern College in Pune cancels Tushar Gandhi's talk after receiving threats from right wing organisations
Tushar Gandhi was invited to deliver an inaugural address at a two-day national seminar 'Revisiting Gandhi', organised to mark Gandhiji's 150th celebrations in collaboration with SPPU
Alleged threats by some right-wing organisations compelled the organisers of an event to cancel an address by Tushar Gandhi, great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, scheduled today at the Progressive Education Society (PES)'s Modern College, Ganeshkhind, Pune. This sparked a furore among liberals. Tushar was invited to deliver an inaugural address at a two-day national seminar 'Revisiting Gandhi', organised in collaboration with Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) to mark Gandhiji's sesquicentenary (150th) celebrations. He said, "Yesterday (Thursday), I received a phone call from the college that my speech at the programme had been cancelled. I was surprised at this last-minute move since a couple of days before, a college professor had called me and told me not to include any 'political comments' in my speech."
Later, it transpired that a right-wing organisation Patit Pavan Sanghatana (PPS) and some rightist student groups had reportedly issued threats to "disrupt" the event if Gandhi was invited to speak. Ironically, the organisation derives its name from a favourite hymn (bhajan) that was dear to Gandhiji - "Raghupati Raghav Rajaram, Patit Pavan Sitaram". "This is the sad state of our democracy. Goons seem to rule us and succeed in subjugating us through terror. But for how long?" Gandhi asked.
Taking a serious view of the matter, state Housing Minister Jitendra Awhad said, "Not allowing Tushar Gandhi to speak in Modern College on Gandhiji's 150th anniversary celebrations because some Gandhi-haters objected and threatened is ridiculous and should be condemned. "Pune Police should not have allowed this to happen. I have discussed the issue with Home Minister Anil Deshmukh and he has promised to take action."
AICC Secretary Sanjay Dutt said that "Those sitting at the Centre are remote-controlling and instigating such fascist forces to crush the voice of Gandhian thoughts and values. Their cowardly acts must be strongly condemned. Their reality is 'mooh pe (Hey) Ram, dil me Nathuram (Godse)'. But Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is fighting to protect Gandhian principles which are under threat from communal forces."
However, PPS Pune Guardian Manoj Nair denied that the organisation or any of its activists had any role in the matter. "We are surprised that our name is mentioned in some local media. We are taking it up with them as we are unnecessarily getting dragged into this affair," he said.
When queried on the fracas, Savitribai Phule Pune University Pro-Vice-Chancellor Dr N S Umrani said he has not received any communication from anybody on the event. "Yes, the SPPU was involved with the event and we have also duly sanctioned funds to support it to the Modern College. Beyond that, we are not concerned with it," Umrani informed.
The issue flared up on social media with people expressing outrage and condemning it, and some asking why the Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress government in Maharashtra is keeping silent. Some comments on social media sought to know why Tushar Gandhi should accept an invite from such institutions who do not respect but 'insult' the speaker in this manner.
An official of the Ganeshkhind PES's Modern College said the scheduled event is underway, though there were some changes in the guest list, but didn't specify any reasons.