By Maya Palit
On the same day that the Union Minister, Venkaiah Naidu, hinted that the central government was deliberating about making the sedition law more stringent (“If raising azaadi slogans is not treason, then I don’t know what is,” he apparently stated in an interview), human rights activist Seema Azad had to disguise herself as a Sikh woman to speak at a seminar in Panjab University. Funnily enough, the seminar was about fascism and its effects.
Official permission for Friday’s seminar had been denied by the university authorities, and ABVP members at the university had claimed that they would disrupt the event if she was allowed to enter the campus. (They’d even threatened to use ‘swords’ and ‘lathis’.) But students from the SFS party staged a demonstration outside the Vice Chancellor’s office and then held the seminar there anyway. Several organisations and individuals spoke about attempts to stifle academic freedom around the country, and ABVP members were apparently hovering around near the event, but didn’t realise Azad was present.
Backlash has begun against Azad, with the ABVP state president Sourabh Kapoor attacking her for her covert speech at Panjab University: “She entered the campus like a thief. If she was such a nationalist, she should have faced authorities instead of disguising as a Sikh woman.” After the week of violence at Ramjas College, and continuing attacks against Gurmehar Kaur and attempts to troll her, the question is where this clampdown on universities across the country is headed, and whether women activists will continue to get the rough end of the stick.