Bhopal: Days after allegations of promoting 'love jihad' and religious fundamentalism on the campus, the principal of New Government Law College in Indore resigned from the post.
In his resignation letter, Principal Inamur Rahma wrote, "I'm deeply saddened with the ongoing protest carried out by the university students as well as unknown students since December 1, 2022. Hence, I'm stepping down from the post of principal."
The protests were carried by the RSS student wing- Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) alleging "religious fundamentalist thoughts being promoted by four Muslim teachers of the college".
Speaking to BOOM, Rahman said, "I was compelled to resign. Unknown students were chanting disrespectful slogans and leveling baseless allegations by invoking my religious identity."
Rahman had been serving as the college principal since 2019 before he resigned.
How Did The Allegations Of Religious Fundamentalism Begin?
Rahman's resignation came two days after Dipendra Singh Thakur, President of ABVP's college unit, in a memorandum to the College Principal, questioned the "high number of Muslim" faculty members in the university.
Responding to the allegation, Rahman told BOOM, "Out of the 28 faculty members, there are only four Muslims".
In a two-page memo, the student had accused the college administration of "promoting Muslims and Islamic culture inside the campus". He also accused four Muslim teachers of promoting 'Love-Jihad' claiming that they took female students to restaurants and pubs.
The Principal of the law college had then recommended a probe led by a retired district court judge. He urged them to submit the report in the next five days. The principal also removed accused professors from academic work for five days, until the investigation was underway.
Rahman said despite knowing that the accused professors have a "clean record", he ordered an inquiry because the students demanded it. "One holds a doctorate degree in law, another professor from Kashmir has been teaching in this college since 2014, another is a lawyer in Indore High Court, and the other is a lady teacher who has joined recently," he said.
Just a day after the probe was initiated, students from ABVP alleged that a book against the Hindu community is being taught to students. They assembled outside Rahman's office to demand his resignation, alleging that students were forced to use this textbook for reference.
"Even though I initiated a probe into the allegations and dismissed all of the professors from the university till the probe committee submit the report, the ABVP students raised insulting slogans against me, demanding my resignation. This hints towards a part of a conspiracy hatched against Muslim professors," he said, breaking down while speaking on the phone.
The Controversy Over A Book
The book titled 'Collective Violence and Criminal Justice System' was kept in the library of the Government Law College in Indore. The book is written by Dr Farhat Khan and published by an Indore-based publication.
The president of the ABVP's college unit claimed that Farhat Khan's book contains "very objectionable content against the Hindu community, RSS, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, and Durga Vahini." While raising the issue of the book, ABVP members alleged that the Muslim professors are making "provocative statements before the students against the Army, government, the Hindu community, section 370 and the Indian history".
Thakur alleged that the book has been "promoting religious hatred" and has been taught to students for the past five years.
Following the controversy, the college administration reportedly removed the book from the library.
However, in a written statement to Bhawar Kuan police, Rahman said he had no knowledge of the book when he took charge in 2019. "It was bought by the then-principal in December 2014 based on the recommendation of three faculty members; Professor NK Pagariya, Dr. JK Jain and professor Praveen Kumar Choudhary," he said.
Sharing the receipt of the book, he said, "Neither anyone issued that book in my tenure nor was it recommended by the professors. When they (ABVP) issued a copy and raised objections over the content of the book, it was removed from the library."
"The book has never been a part of the curriculum," he added.
Hitesh Khetrapal, Indore-based Amar Law Publications who published the book told BOOM, "We published that book in 2014. But in 2021, I received a call from an advocate who was speaking on behalf of the RSS raising objections to some parts of the book." After the objections were raised, the publisher spoke to the author and retrieved all the sold books.
"We printed new editions after omitting the objectionable part," he said. "The author also tendered a written apology after the objection, a copy of which is in our records," he added.
Hitesh runs Amar Law Publication, the publishing house started by his grandfather in 1965 and named after his father 75-year-old father Amar Khetrapal.
When asked about the original copy of the book in the Library, he said, "I don't know how the original edition was still there."
"When we learned about the contentious content of the book in 2021, we spoke with its author Dr Farhat Khan and had the relevant pages of the book changed," Khetrapal said that the book's author has already submitted a letter of apology regarding the disputed portions of her book.
FIR Filed Against Principal, Teacher And Author
Hours after Rahman's resignation came, Indore's Bhawar Kuan Police lodged an FIR against him.
A faculty member of the college Dr Mirza Mojij, writer Dr. Farhat Khan and an Indore-based publisher were all booked under sections 153-A (promoting enmity amongst two groups), 295-A (making deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage the religious feeling of a group), 500 (defamation), 504 (intentional insult with an intent to provoke and breach peace), 505 (statements conducting to public mischief), and three other sections of the Indian Penal Code.
When asked about the students who started the protests, Rahman said, "A dozen students associated with the ABVP neither attended classes nor paid the college fee for the last few years. The college administration was pushing them to pay or else face termination."
He said that these students devised a plan to target Muslim professors to divert the issue.
"They wanted to pressurize the college administration so they don't ask him to pay fees or fail him in the next examination," he said.
"The complainant Dipendra Singh Thakur has dues of Rs 30,000. Besides, he never attended any classes nor passed any examination that he appeared in the last two years. He is still in 1st year," Rahman said.
The FIR was lodged on a complaint of one Lucky Adiwal, an LLM student who also was pressured by the college to clear the two years pending fee, according to college authorities.
The principal of the law college alleged that students associated with ABVP often passed remarks on the religious identity of Muslim students. "They once taunted me for attending the Friday prayers," he said adding that the Muslim teachers and students remained silent despite often facing communal slurs.
A Rise In Such Cases In Madhya Pradesh
There has been a trend of such incidents in Madhya Pradesh, the state set to go for polls next year. In the past three months, Madhya Pradesh has seen at least three cases in which teachers or professors belonging to minority communities were targeted by right-wing groups.
On October 7, a Muslim principal of Vidisha's Kurwai CM Rise School, Shaina Firdous was removed after Bajrang Dal members objected to the presence of a Mazar inside the campus. In a complaint to the district education officer, Bajrang Dal members alleged that the principal built Mazar inside the school campus with government funds. They also alleged that she stopped the installation of the Hindu goddess Saraswati's idol inside the campus. Allegations were leveled that the principal did not allow the recital of the national anthem.
When the media reported on these rumours, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) chairperson Priyank Kanoong took notice. On a complaint from a retired employee of the school, he made recommendations to remove the principal.
He has also recommended an inquiry into reports of the presence of radical Islamist organisations such as the Popular Front of India and Students Islamic Movement of India in Kurwai, where the institution is located.
"The involvement of organisations like PFI and SIMI in the State of Madhya Pradesh is well known… it is recommended that the state government may also consider getting a thorough investigation carried out in relation to the involvement of organizations like PFI and SIMI in the Kurwai Town," the NCPCR report noted.
After the controversy, the administration demolished the disputed Mazar.
In yet another incident, on November 2, ABVP members held protests outside a Christian missionary school -- Christ Senior Secondary School -- in Guna district after a class 6 student alleged that two teachers punished him for raising 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' slogan after the morning assembly.
A day after, the police booked two teachers -- Justin and Jasmina Khatoon -- under section 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), section 506 (for criminal intimidation) of the IPC along with section 75 of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015.
The Municipal council slapped a tax notice of Rs 89 lakh and initiated an inquiry on the land usage. And meanwhile, the Revenue department retrieved 16000 sq ft of the school's land 'encroached' by the school for the playground.
In the recent Indore Law college case, alleging 'Love-Jihad', ABVP members had said that one of the professors Ameeq Khokhar used to ask students to hang out after college and encourage them to go to pubs with him.
Khokhar, a practicing lawyer at the High Court, called the allegations by the right-wing groups "baseless". "I have been practicing for years and have a reputation, but such frivolous complaints that have absolutely no basis stand to jeopardize my entire career. I have never met a single student outside college alone. It was only in October that I had taken students on a scheduled visit to the High Court but even then, it was a whole group," he told BOOM.
Sohail Wani, another professor at the college, accused by right-wing groups of promoting fundamentalism said, "I have been teaching at the law college for the last eight years and conducted two national moot courts. The allegations are simply out of bigotry."
He claimed that he never taught any students who are accusing them of radicalization. "This is the first time I heard the names of these students. I neither taught them nor saw them on campus," Wani said.
Both the professors claimed that the students who were protesting and making such allegations were not a part of their class and hardly ever interacted in the college.
Leaders of the ruling BJP government including Home Minister Narottam Mishra and BJP State president VD Sharma flared up the issue by making strong statements in support of the ABVP leader. Meanwhile, the opposition Congress chose to remain silent over the issue.
Issuing a statement over the ongoing row, CPI (M) State Secretary Jaswinder Singh accused the BJP government of polarization."It's a plot to remove Muslims from higher education and to polarise voters ahead of elections," he said.
"On one hand BJP remains silent on paper leaks, examination scams and Vyapam scam, but in this case, it not only initiated a probe within 24 hours of the complaint made by an ABVP student with a dubious record but also lodged FIR against the Muslim principal and teacher before submission of the report." Singh asked, "When the book was purchased in 2014, why is the FIR being registered against a principal who was transferred there in August 2019 even when the book it is not part of the curriculum?"
Do you always want to share the authentic news with your friends?