At Mumbai’s TISS and Delhi’s JNU, human rights activists are prevented from speaking
Lectures by Arun Ferreira and SAR Geelani are called off, in unrelated incidents.

Today · 07:05 am


In two unrelated incidents on Wednesday evening, human rights activists Arun Ferreira and SARGeelani were prevented from speaking at universities in Mumbai and Delhi.Ferreira was to give a talk on his recently released book Colours of the Cage at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai. Geelani, a professor at Delhi University, was to address a public meeting of students at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.

While the police allegedly pressured students to cancel Ferreira’s talk in Mumbai, at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, this pressure seems to have come from the Tapti Hostel authorities.

Police intervention?

The Students’ Union of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences had invited Ferreira to speak about his book Colours of the Cage on Wednesday at 6.30 pm as a part of its literary programme Heterotopia. The book is about his experience in prison as he went through a trial on charges of being an alleged Maoist. The case has since been dismissed.

According to unconfirmed reports, the police informally approached the security at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and requested them to cancel Ferreira’s reading just 30 minutes before it was to start.

“I was told that the police came and told the security guards that my book reading could not be done,” Ferreira said. “They gave the reason that I have cases against me, which is not true.”

It is not clear why the police would choose to prevent Ferreira from speaking at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences just this time. He had spoken there in 2012 on the aesthetics of resistance from his position as a cartoonist and has since been a part of a research project there. He has also given talks at institutions across the country, including St Xavier’s College in Mumbai and Mumbai University. In 2014, he spoke at the Tata Literature Festival in Mumbai, in a panel that was entirely about his book.

The Mumbai police control room denied any knowledge of this action. “Nothing has happened, we got no call,” said the police spokesperson.

The Deonar police station, which is the jurisdiction in which the Tata Institute of Social Sciences falls, was unavailable for comment.

S Parasuraman, director of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, also denied any knowledge of the event.

“The police cannot enter the campus without my permission,” he said. “The most that they do is come to the gate to watch for drug peddlers, but they make rounds and do not enter.”

He added, “Any student who wants to organise an event needs to get permission from the concerned dean. You had better find out from the students if the permission letter had the authentic signature of the dean.”

Members of the students’ union declined to comment on why the event was cancelled. Arvind Tiwari, dean of Student Affairs, who would have given permission for the event, did not answer repeated calls to his mobile phone.

College intervenes

Events played out differently at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. The Tapti hostel authorities informally informed students that they had cancelled permission for their meeting because Geelani, a professor at Delhi University and Kashmir activist, would be present.

“In an extremely shameful move, the Tapti hostel authorities under the directions of the JNU administration has cancelled the permission for our tonight’s public meeting,” they wrote, in a Facebook post about the event. “This is absolutely obnoxious, and a direct attack on our democratic space, as also an infringement on the fundamental right of an individual (in this case Prof. Geelani) to address public programmes. Permission or no permission, we are going to go ahead with the meeting. We appeal to all students and progressive forces to join the meeting tonight in large numbers, we need to foil this administrative farman to gag us.”

At the time of publication, it was not immediately clear how many students attended the meeting.

A similar incident had occurred at the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai, where college authorities did not immediately give permission in January for a talk by Dibyesh Anand on the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in Kashmir. Students protested and had the event organised by another department which gave them the requisite permission.’s-TISS-and-Delhi’s-JNU,-human-rights-activists-are-prevented-from-speaking