“We do not believe in the French interpretation of secularism”: IIMC’s KG Suresh Discusses the Yagna Being Conducted at the Institute

20 May 2017
Tashi Tobgyal/Indian Express Archive
Tashi Tobgyal/Indian Express Archive

Today, the Indian Institute of Mass Communication in Delhi, in association with Media Scan, a weekly newspaper, will host a day-long seminar on journalism, titled “National Journalism in Current Scenario: Media and Myth.” The seminar will be preceded by a yagna—a Hindu ritual. According to news reports, Hitesh Shankar, the publisher of the Panchajanya, a mouthpiece of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, was scheduled to moderate the inaugural session of the seminar. SRP Kalluri, the former inspector-general of Bastar who has been accused of human-rights violations, has been invited to participate. Students and alumni of IIMC, along with several observers, have criticised the institute for hosting the seminar. Many characterised the yagna as opposed to the ideals of secularism. Others characterised the ritual as evidence of IIMC’s “saffronisation.” The institute has been embroiled in several controversies in recent months: in March 2016, Amit Sengupta, then a professor at IIMC, was transferred to the the institute’s Odisha branch, and many on campus alleged that his transfer was a result of the government’s interference in the institute. In December 2016, an academic associate’s termination led many to claim that this too, was a result of the administration’s political affiliations.

On 18 May 2017, Sagar, a web reporter at The Caravan, spoke to KG Suresh, the director-general of IIMC. Suresh, who is scheduled to speak at the event, is a former senior fellow with the Vivekananda Foundation, a public-policy think-tank affiliated to the RSS. Sagar spoke to Suresh about the seminar, the institute’s policy regarding religious rituals on campus, and the controversy surrounding the event.

Sagar: It has been reported that IIMC will be conducting a yagna before a seminar at the institute.

KG Suresh: You see, if tomorrow The Caravan comes and says we are a media organisation and we want do something for discussion on media—we generally [agree], because we look at IIMC as national property and we want all the campuses across the country to become a media hub. In this context, whether it is Laadli Media Awards—they had their jury meeting [this year, at IIMC]—[or] last year there was a media educator’s conference for which Mr Rathore [Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore is the minister of state for information and broadcasting] had come. So whenever media organisations approach us, we give people our venue and we give it to them free of cost.

Since we are giving it to them free of cost, we have to state that we are partners to any event. If we don’t say that, then there will be audit objections and they will say, why didn’t you give it on hire to private parties? On issues which have nothing to do with media, we also give our auditorium out on rent. We are very supportive of any media organisations and we don’t look into who is being invited and all that. I am not talking about newspapers or something; I am talking about media organisations that are voluntary. Commercial organisations, we charge.

Sagar is a staff writer at The Caravan.

Keywords: RSS journalism IIMC Amit Sengupta KG Suresh Vivekananda Foundation Panchajanya Hitesh Shankar seminar