While thousands of students are looking forward to meeting and hearing from Kanhaiya Kumar once he arrives in Mumbai today, not everyone has been as welcoming. If the students organising the event are to be believed, the Mumbai Police has been particularly resistant, going as far as to force the venue to back out at the eleventh hour.
Yesterday, the student organisers held a press conference to announce that they would go ahead with the event with or without the police’s support. Pic/Atul KambleYesterday, the student organisers held a press conference to announce that they would go ahead with the event with or without the police’s support. Pic/Atul Kamble
“After everything had been finalised and even the posters had been printed, the police pressurised the school management to cancel our hall booking,” said Dhananjay Kangude, a member of the Revolutionary Youth Association, which is one of the 12 student organisations in charge of the event.
Yesterday, the organisers held a press conference to announce that the venue had been changed to another school — private trust-run Adarsh Vidyalaya — in Tilak Nagar. They claimed the police was deliberately creating hurdles to hamper the event, but stated that they would go ahead with it with or without the police’s support. This deadlock quickly came to an end before the end of the press conference, after the Commissioner of Police Datta Padsalgikar gave the green signal.
Just two days ago, mid-day had reported how the organisers struggled to find a venue to host student politician Kanhaiya as one place after another turned them down. Eventually, they settled on a little known school in Worli gaon, run by the Janta Shikshan Sanstha.
Unhappy as they were about the venue’s lack of prominence, the students were relieved to have at least found a place. But just two days before the event, the school backed out, claiming there were objections from the police.
“We have been struggling for so long to finalise a venue. Already, several big halls and auditoriums in the city had declined our proposal. When we managed to find a venue, it seemed like the government had given police officials the responsibility to create hurdles and not let us conduct the programme. It is an attack on our democratic right. The police tried to create obstacles in everything, from the size of the venue to the traffic expected and much more,” said Kangude, adding, “Finally, another school in Tilak Nagar was finalised, and the management also provided a No Objection Certificate as the police were demanding it. Even then, the police took almost an entire day to accept it. We had anyway decided that the programme would be conducted, irrespective of police support.”
Abhilasha Shrivastav, national secretary of the All India Students Association (AISA), said, “The police asked, ‘If you have over 30,000 likes on Facebook, how can you manage with an auditorium that fits just 1,000’. We got tired of explaining that bigger halls were not interested in our booking, but it seemed like they were making deliberate efforts to cancel our programme. This is exactly what we are talking about — the need to defeat fascist forces and defend the republic. This is the objective of the event.”
However, another student organiser, Pranay Salvi, from Chatrabharti, cautioned against politicising the event. “It is a completely student-oriented event. The youth want to come together to bring change. We cannot politicise this movement.”
“A few people are spread-ing a lie that the police is opposing Kanhaiya Kumar’s programme. However, as per general procedure, organisers have to acquire NOC from the venue to conduct any programme. Once such NOC is acquired, police looks after security measures as required,” said DCP Dhananjay Kulkarni, Mumbai Police spokesperson.
Similar story in Pune
JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar will address students in Pune at Bal Gandharva Rangamanch on Sunday, but even there, the police are yet to give their permission. Initially, the event was planned at Rashtra Seva Dal’s Sane Guruji Statue in Pune, but the police allegedly approached the Rashtra Seva Dal to cancel this. Last evening, it was announced that Kumar will address the masses at Bal Gandharva Rangamanch and the organisers will take care of security. Pune Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime) PR Patil said, “The event venue is unclear to us as the organisers have not approached us or sought any police permission.”