Published: 23rd May 2022
DU, JNU show solidarity; students protest against Prof Ratan Lal's arrest over 'Shivling' post
An FIR against him was filed by Advocate Vineet Jindal who had alleged that his post on the Shivling in the mosque was “derogatory, instigating and provocating"
Students and faculty of both Delhi University (DU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) have shown solidarity with Dr Ratan Lal, a professor of History at DU’s Hindu College, who was arrested on Friday, May 20. While sections of students were seen protesting against his arrest, faculty members of the universities in the national capital have also expressed their displeasure over the involvement of police in the matter. Though the professor was released on bail the next day, the case against him is still pending.
The professor had been arrested for a post he put up on Facebook, expressing his views over the Gyanvapi mosque complex. An FIR against him was filed by Advocate Vineet Jindal who had alleged that his post on the Shivling in the mosque was “derogatory, instigating and provocating".
The FIR had been registered on May 17, Tuesday, the very night that the associate professor had put up the post. A case was registered against him on Wednesday, May 18, by the Delhi Police. The professor was arrested two days later, at night.
The issue has sparked protests from students at DU, as well as JNU. The DU All India Students’ Association (AISA) had organised a protest the night Dr Lal was arrested. “The protest started at about 11 pm near Maurice Nagar Police Station and continued till 4:30 am,” said DU AISA President Abhigyan. It may be noted that Maurice Nagar Police Station is where the professor had been taken after his arrest.
“Another protest was organised the very next day at the Arts Faculty on campus,” Abhigyan informed further. “It went on from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm, and a few hours later, the professor got bail,” he added. Speaking about the participants of the protests, Abhigyan said, “We had called for the protest and many had joined in later, including other student bodies and faculty members.”
Prasenjeet Kumar, National Secretary of AISA, along with Professors Abha Dev Habib, Laxman Yadav and Uma Rag, were active participants among others, he said.
Subsequently, JNU's AISA members staged another protest the next day, on Saturday, May 21, at the Sabarmati Dhaba on campus. “It is not about whether the professor belonged to DU or JNU. It is about a citizen expressing himself. A lot of JNU students have been arrested in the past for exercising their freedom of speech,” said Madhurima Kundu, Secretary of JNU AISA.
Prof Ratan Lal was released on bail that day, after which the JNU protest began. “He was released at about 4 pm. Our protest started at 6 pm and continued for an hour. We wanted the withdrawal of the case against the professor,” Madhurima added. “Lately, there have been many cases of Dharam Sansad – demands for killing the people for speaking against religious concerns. The police has also used its power to suppress expressions, which is not right,” she stated further.
She also clarified it had been only the students of AISA JNU who had organised and participated in the protest. Meanwhile, Abhigyan stated, “People cannot be arrested for hurting other people’s sentiments. We were showing our support for the professor, and we had also gone to receive him when he was released from the police station.”
EdexLive has made an attempt to reach out to Dr Ratan Lal, but he was unavailable for comment. However, in an earlier statement mentioned in a PTI report, when the FIR against him had been filed, he had said, “In India, if you speak about anything, someone or the other's sentiment will be hurt. So this is nothing new. I am a historian and have made several observations. As I wrote them down, I have used very guarded language in my post and still this. I will defend myself."