Academicians support Lucknow Univ Professor after ABVP creates ruckus over his remark on Kashi Vishwanath

Former VC, academicians, social activists, journalists have come in support of Dr Ravi Kant, Associate Prof in Hindi Dept, who was heckled by ABVP workers for his comments on Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi

Dr Ravi Kant
Dr Ravi Kant

NH Correspondent/Lucknow

Former Vice-chancellor, professors, academicians, social activists and journalists have come in support of Dr Ravi Kant, an Associate Professor in the Department of Hindi of Lucknow University who was heckled by workers of ABVP for his comments on Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi during a debate on a social media platform.

The ABVP workers said that the statement of Dr Ravi Kant had hurt their religious sentiments and he should be arrested. An FIR was lodged under Sections 153-A, 504, and 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code, and Section 166 of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, alleging that Dr Ravi Kant’s remarks were blasphemous and were meant to disturb communal harmony.

However, when the supporters of Lucknow University Professor wanted to lodge a counter FIR, the police refused to do so,

Following the incident, the intellectuals of the city threw their weight behind Dr Ravi Kant and issued a statement in support of the LU Professor. It read:

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms, the death threats being issued publicly and abuses being heaped on Dr Ravi Kant, an Academician, well-known Dalit Intellectual, and Associate Professor of Hindi at the Lucknow University.

Dr Ravi Kant is being targeted for his statement, in a discussion in the well-known online channel Satya TV, about the Gyanvapi Mosque. All Dr Ravi Kant did was to narrate a story from the book ‘Feathers and Stones’ written by Pattabhi Sitaramaiya. Dr Ravi Kant said that he is calling it a story because Pattabhi Sitaramaiya has not quoted a source.

Those baying for Dr Ravi Kant’s blood are the workers belonging to the ABVP, who have surrounded the Department of Hindi, while Dr Ravi Kant has had to take shelter in the office of the proctor of the University.

We demand that the culprits be brought to book immediately, the atmosphere of debate and dissent, so crucial for an institute of learning and essential for a democratic society be restored immediately and Dr. Ravi Kant and his family be provided all necessary protection.

We view this aggressive display of the ABVP as yet another example of the intolerance and majoritarian sectarianism and violence that is increasingly becoming the norm all over the country, especially in the BJP-ruled States. We demand that elements giving public calls for extermination and annihilation be reigned in immediately if we wish to be counted among the comity of civilized nations.”

It all started when during a debate on KV-Gyanvapi mosque Dr Ravi Kant quoted from the book by Pattabhi Sitaramayya and said: “When Mughal emperor Aurangzeb passed through Kashi, the wife of one of his Hindu courtiers had been found in the basement of the temple, shorn of all her ornaments. An enraged Aurangzeb had then ordered that such a place could not be the abode of God and thus must be razed. The lady in question was however sad at the destruction of the temple, saying that her condition was not the fault of the temple but of priests and thus the place of worship must be re-built. Aurangzeb then ordered a mosque to be constructed on the ruins of the temple.”

Dr Ravi Kant said that during the debate he only quoted from the book while the ABVP workers were protesting without knowing the fact. These were not my view, but the view of the renowned historians. “The ABVP workers have raised objectionable slogans against me and even issued threats on my life,” he said.

You can read the entire statement by intellectuals and scholars supporting Dr Ravi Kant here:

"We, undersigned academics and activists, express our deep concern regarding the public heckling, intimidation and abuse directed at Dr. Ravi Kant, Associate Professor of Hindi and well known Dalit intellectual, on the premises of Lucknow University by a mob allegedly comprising students of the university as well as outsiders. Highly divisive and incendiary slogans, which included threats to Dr Ravi Kant’s life, were raised, and the Dept of Hindi of the University was surrounded. Dr Ravi Kant was forced to take shelter in the University Proctor’s office for several hours. The ostensible reason for this protest were remarks that he made in a discussion in the well-known online channel Satya Hindi, about the Gyan Vapi Mosque in Varanasi, in which he cited a story about its origins narrated by Patabhi Sitaramaiya in his book ‘Feathers and Stones’. Dr Ravi Kant, while making this reference, was careful to emphasize that this narrative could only be called a ‘story’, as its author did not cite any source in support. Nevertheless, within less than twenty-four hours of these remarks, a maliciously edited extract of his comment was circulated online which, by the next morning, snowballed into a violent protest which has created a grave threat to Dr Ravi Kant’s safety.

We are deeply distraught by the continued intimidation of Dr Ravi Kant and the manipulation of his comments, despite his clarifications about the context of his reference to this story and even his expression of regret at any hurt that the incident may have caused to those misled by the video clips circulated online. Even after Dr Ravi Kant was finally allowed to leave the Proctor’s office and return home, there has been talk of instituting disciplinary proceedings against him. Comments that he made on social media expressing fear for his life when surrounded by the mob are being sought to be used against him, and the risk of physical harm to him and his family is far from over. As human beings, we are appalled that anyone should have to spend even a minute in such peril, but our horror is doubled by the fact that these conditions of violence and intimidation obtain in a university, which must be a place where the mind is without fear and the head is held high, where knowledge is free, where critical examination of opinions and ideas is the norm, and where violence and intimidation should have no place whatsoever.

We express our solidarity with Dr Ravi Kant and urge the authorities of Lucknow University to ensure that the perpetrators of this attack on him are brought to book so that the ideals of what a university stands for are reasserted vigorously on the campus. Above all, we demand credible assurances from the university administration and the UP government that Dr Ravi Kant and his family will be afforded protection from any further harassment or intimidation."

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