| Modi: Unruffled
Chennai, July 28: Two IIT Madras professors today protested Narendra Modi’s presence at a convention on the institute’s campus, one of them holding up a placard that said, “Mr Modi, We Disapprove”.
Enakshi Bhattacharya, professor in the electrical engineering department, and Nandita Dasgupta, also a professor, explained later: “We came to protest his (Gujarat) government’s policies. He could not stop the Gujarat communal riots, his handling of the Narmada dam issue is deplorable, and recently he stopped the screening of the Hindi film Fanaa.”
The elite gathering at the IC&SR Auditorium was stunned as Bhattacharya walked towards the dais as the Gujarat chief minister was invited to make his speech, said a few words that couldn’t be heard and flashed the makeshift placard that was actually one side of her sling bag.
Modi was the chief guest at the inaugural of the Third Convention of the National Alliance for Mission 2007: Every Village A Knowledge Centre, organised by the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Microsoft and the Nasscom Foundation, among others.
The chief minister said he would first make a “multi-media presentation” on his state and moved to one end of the dais with M.S. Swaminathan, the renowned agricultural scientist. The lights were switched off for the DVD Modi had brought to be screened.
As Modi looked up towards the screen, sitting cross-legged, the two women moved towards the dais and staged their protest. The chief minister sat unruffled, but Swaminathan was visibly embarrassed and displeased. The women left the hall immediately after registering their protest.
Bhattacharya had pinned the poster ' a sheet of paper on which the words “Mr Modi, We Disapprove” were boldly written in ink by hand ' on one side of her black sling bag.
Apparently, she wrote the words after entering the auditorium. As she walked down the aisle, a cop urged her not to go near the dais, but even at that time the poster was hidden from view. The moment she called out “Mr Modi”, she turned the hidden side of the bag around which looked like a placard with those words written on it.
After the flutter was over in front of a chief minister who is in the top Z-Plus security category, security personnel recovered from their shock to scamper to find out what had happened.
The women had no formal invitation, but as IIT professors could not be barred entry.
“I don’t think he should come here. My objection is to his mode of governance and his policies in Gujarat,” Bhattacharya said outside the auditorium as the police questioned her.
Security officials said as no complaint had yet been made, they would let the incident pass as a “protest by two professors”.
“Who is he (Modi) to talk about taking knowledge centres to villages when he cannot even govern Gujarat'” Bhattacharya fumed when pressed for reasons for her action.
Modi went on to make his presentation, but it was clearly a bad day for him. Earlier, after a cold handshake, Mani Shankar Aiyar, the Union minister for panchayati raj, first failed to mention him while addressing the dignitaries on the dais and then quickly corrected himself to add, “Chief minister and friends”.