In the late hours of 9 October, the Mahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya, in Maharashtra’s Wardha district, issued an order rusticating six individuals—five students and, oddly, one alumnus, all from Dalit and Other Backward Class communities. The central university expelled the students after they held a demonstration earlier that day to commemorate the death anniversary of the Bahujan ideologue Kanshi Ram despite being denied permission for the same. The students said that the MGAHV administration’s vehement opposition was on account of an act of dissent during the event—around one hundred and fifty students came together to write postcards to the prime minister Narendra Modi about various issues plaguing the country. “When they could not stop us from raising our voices, they removed us,” Chandan Saroj, one of the expelled students, told me.
According to Saroj, who is Dalit and pursuing his MPhil in the university, students have organised tributes to Kanshi Ram in previous years as well, and never needed to seek prior permission for such events. “We wanted to organise this programme on his death anniversary as all the lynching incidents are targeted against Dalits and Bahujans,” Saroj said. “Those who tried to stop our event did so because they are under pressure from the Sangh and the government to control the students.” The current head of the university administration is affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The circumstances of the students’ expulsion invoke grave questions about the motivation to deny permission for the demonstration, as well as the functioning of the university.
The five students—Saroj, Neeraj Kumar, Rajneesh Ambedkar, Pankaj Vela and Vaibhav Pimpalkar—had organised the protest after the Bihar Police booked 49 celebrities for sedition, in early October, because they wrote to Modi about the growing incidents of mob lynching in India. The students decided to write similar letters en masse in protest. “When the administration heard about this, they told us that they will not give us permission to hold the event,” Saroj said. “We said that it is our fundamental right to write a letter to our prime minister. They responded that we will have to formally request for permission.”