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Fight for Mahishasura on JNU campus

New Delhi, Oct. 31: A row over a Mahishasura poster that extolled the mythological demon over Goddess Durga deepened today at Jawaharlal Nehru University, with the student accused of publishing it sending a legal notice to the authorities.

The All India Backward Students Forum had published the poster on Navami, October 5, reproducing with it an article from the Hindi-English journal Forward.

Titled “Kiski puja kar rahe hain Bahujan (Whom are the backward castes worshipping)”, the article by Prem Kumar Mani theorises that Mahishasura was the asura (non-Aryan) ruler of the ancient Banga kingdom and was assassinated by Durga, an Aryan agent.

It says the garland of skulls Durga wears symbolises the massacre of the indigenous people, who today make up the backward castes, by the invading Aryans. It calls on the backward castes not to worship Durga, whom it calls a symbol of their subjugation.

Chief proctor H.B. Bohidar said the article’s circulation during Durga Puja had offended many students, who sent written complaints. Members of RSS student wing ABVP attacked a Forum meeting on the campus at 1am on October 9 and beat up its members, including women.

The university sent show-cause notices to Forum president Jitendra Yadav and two ABVP supporters, giving them till today to reply. The ABVP men sent in regular replies but Yadav sent a legal notice.

The show-cause notice had asked Yadav why he had caused disharmony, leading to violence, among students by publishing the poster during a festival. It also asked him to explain his act of “serious misconduct and indiscipline”.

Yadav’s legal notice argues that “everyone has the fundamental right of scrutiny of religious ethos”, his lawyer Nitin Meshram said.

“The poster is well supported by evidence from the Puranas and B.R. Ambedkar’s works. The university has not pointed out who is offended by it. The poster was published by the organisation, not an individual, and is well within the reasonable restrictions of the Constitution.”

Yadav alleged an attempt to push him and other backward caste students out of the campus. “We will launch a movement on the campus and in court if we are punished.”

Bohidar said the administration would consult its legal cell. “If we find their involvement in any offence only superficial, we can let them off with a warning. If it is deeper, we can even rusticate them.”

The campus being traditionally a Left and Far Left stronghold, many student organisations have come out in Yadav’s support. Around 200 students celebrated Mahishasura Day on October 24. A painting of Mahishasura by Lal Ratnakar was displayed.

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