It’s been four months since I joined the University of Hyderabad. I came here with an assumption that this campus is enormous in terms of its activism with its unique history of Rohit Vemula movement. Given the never ending atrocities and oppression by the central government, there are always some or other protests, exhibitions and gatherings at north campus shop comp area by various organizations in the campus.
Here in campus there is a security force agency named “Agile group security” who is in charge of patrolling the place to maintain peace in campus in the case of any violation of law and order. Unfortunately, they work in a saffron fashion here. I remember when few students were arrested by the police for screening Ram-ke-naam (a documentary on Babri demolition) from the very room during the month of August. There was a protest at the main gate of the University for the release of the students and the security tried to ‘negotiate’ with the students to call off the protest. When the news of abolition of article 370 came out, very few days after the bill, ABVP conducted a program to float their narrative (perhaps their wet fantasies of buying lands in Kashmir and marrying Kashmiri women). When there was another program conducted on the same issue by another student group, they were heckled and were taunted by a professor for conducting such a program. Followed by this there was a call by independent students groups to all the organizations to raise their voices against this issue. Here comes again the security in their khaki uniforms and microphones to disrupt the protest. At that point it didn’t surprise me that they were here as they came up with this imposition of section 144 in the Cyberabad area and students couldn’t do the program. Sometimes their number is more than the students participating. There is a constant mechanism of instilling fear in the minds of students by filming the gathering continuously, from various angles, focusing few students, running behind them, flashing on the speakers and taking pictures. There is a serious effort for curbing the freedom of expression of these oppressed unities by the very wardens of this democracy.
In the protest for the justice of Tabriz Ansari, the magnitude of their mishandling increases. Mind you readers there were many programs happening around the campus on one or the other issue of nationalism, budget, education policy but it did not bother security or neither did they go and interrupt those programs. This kind of fracas is only caused if the issue is concerning with Muslims, if the victim of the lynching is Muslim, if the Kashmir is the issue or if the NRC is the subject. During the Najeeb program security came and tried to disrupt the program but when the ASA (Ambedkar students association) students were beaten up during Diwali night celebration by few MCA students, the security is incompetent to provide security while they are very vehement in opposing these democratic protests.
Only when the program is organized by the Muslim groups they put forth these imaginary charters of permission and other bogus procedures. It is to be noted that only and only when the subject is concerning Muslims and Dalits, this kind of behavior is observed by the security forces. There will be continuous screaming in the mic “this is the public place you are not allowed to be here or do any program” in Telugu, English and Hindi language. When asked if the protesting students weren’t public enough to be in public (university) space, they would repeat and repeat the same lines until all the Bougainvilleas in the north shop comp begin to shed from their branches. The continuous iteration of keeping away from ‘public place’ Muslim bodies are being told to keep away from the Indian nation spaces. The whole creation of Pakistan as an alternate space for Muslims and a notion that Muslims are supposed to be retained outside the main land are historical establishments of such narratives. The recent verdict of Babri masjid is a judicial confirmation to such ideas that Muslims should be given an alternative land and not the main land. It is always seen that Muslims being a left over excess on Indian body are seen to be pushed outside the mainstream public spheres in the alternative spaces.
The reason I am writing this today is because of what happened during the Babri verdict program. On 13th November 2019 AISA, MSF, FRATERNITY, BSF and JAKSA called for a program on the discussion of Babri verdict at 5:30 at Velivada, north shop comp. Before we could reach the venue, the security forces were already there in all the possible colors. The cluster of navy blue uniformed watchmen and watch-women, dozens of khaki colored red ribboned Agile security group, CRPF jawans in their green-blue-brown outfits holding polished lathis, starry badged policemen and of course a man in black safari reeling the crowd. They had occupied the Veliveda (place where the protest happens) before the organizers. Then an announcement of ‘clearing this space, as this is public area and no protest, or meeting can happen’ here disturbed the air. Followed by few policeman repeating the same thing over and over again. When questioned about their Islamophobic attitude of heckling Muslim issue based programs they said “you are not allowed to do any protest on Babari verdict, and it is the order”. When asked to show the order they had nothing to say but the same repetitive lines “you can’t do protest here”. One policeman went on to say that, they got message on Whatsapp. Could they be more ignorant! Without reading the very verdict of Hon. Supreme court which clearly give rooms for criticism they were showing us scrolls of their whatsapp shakhas and kept disturbing the program.
The North Shop comp is called as Velivada after the Rohith vemula movement. After the suspension of 5 Dalit research scholars from their hostels, they decided to stay in the middle of university and named their tent as Velivada ‘the Dalit ghetto’. This was a new kind of resistance articulation. Usually the Dalit ghettos are located on the margins and outskirts of the cities. The situation of Velivada in the middle of north shopping complex of the university where everybody comes and commutes, this was an exhibition of margins taking the center spaces. This was a renewed kind of resistance that is why the university administration got the tent removed from the center as they cannot afford to tolerate these marginalized communities taking the center spaces.
There is no doubt that there is selective discrimination and a saffron mocking of organized oppressed voices. Every time we are on our feet with words in our mouth they want to remind us where we belong? What is our place to be? Where to protest? Where not to protest? What issues are okay to talk? What is not okay to talk? When to talk? When not to talk?
There is a constant effort to establish a memo that Muslims cannot raise their voices or have an opinion in these university spaces by these kind of timely security interruptions. University of Hyderabad is not a peculiar case of such Islamophobia or intolerance. It just represents the state of Muslims and other oppressed communities in this country. Muslims students groups, even though in small number are trying to resist this institutional state sponsored discrimination. As Nancy Frasers argues, about a counter public sphere, these Muslim groups in the university are subaltern public spheres where its members are inventing a counter discourse to formulate oppositional interpretations of their identities, interests and needs.