Monday, 30th October 2017

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Lone Muslim on college trip says she was abused for refusing BJP cap

She suggested she was 'targeted' because of her religion

By Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow
  • Published 5.04.19, 5:53 AM
  • Updated 5.04.19, 5:53 AM
  • 3 mins read
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BJP supporters wearing caps and masks at a rally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Pasighat, Arunachal Pradesh, on Wednesday. PTI photo

A Muslim law student has alleged on Twitter that she was harassed and touched inappropriately by college mates in a bus during a trip to Agra when she refused to wear BJP caps and other accessories, suggesting she was “targeted” because of her religion and tagging Prime Minister Narendra Modi in her social media complaint.

Umam Khanam, a 22-year-old student of Dewan Law College in Meerut whose Twitter bio says she is a “proud Muslim”, “gracefully 5ft’10 tall” and that she “loves to talk about political philosophy”, wrote that the two male teachers accompanying the group of 55 students on April 1 did nothing to protect her.

Umam, whose social media posts and retweets have often been critical of the BJP over issues such as Kashmir, Pakistan, Ayodhya and trolls, has received overwhelming support, with some pointing to an atmosphere where a college trip is also “communalised”. A Twitter campaign —#StandWithUmam — has been started.

Umam, whose Twitter cover picture says “Raise your voice”, has said she did not share her ordeal for “publicity” or “political drama”.

In a series of tweets on April 2, she wrote: “Yesterday I went for a college trip to Agra.… I was the only single Muslim student out of the 55 students. We had 4 faculty members out of which 2 were male members.… The students got drunk… and they made me their target.

“They bought some stuff like caps of bjp etc etc and they were forcing me to wear that when I refused… they started misbehaving with me.… They tried to touch me in an indecent manner and all that was happening in a bus with 2 male Teachers who were ignoring all such stuff they were doing with me.”

Umam wrote that her college mates pulled her by her hand and tried to force her to dance with them. When she refused, they made “indecent” comments and “started playing songs like ‘Jiski biwi lambi uska bhi bada naam h use kothe pr bitha do’ (All thanks to Bollywood),” she wrote.

“They ruined my whole bus journey,” Umam said, adding that when some of her friends came to her rescue, “the drunkards… started misbehaving with them also”.

“They targeted me and they tried to threaten me because I rejected to wear those BJP stuff and dance with them and in the end I was the only ‘MUSLIM GIRL’,” Umam tweeted.

She said that her college mates did not misbehave with any other girl in the group and that some girls, too, “supported” and “enjoyed” her harassment. “They tried to scare me but… I feel am more strong and this is what BJP has done to us,” Umam wrote.

Tagging Prime Minister Modi and a few others, Umam wrote: “So much of hatred for Muslims out there... and now it has reached such an extent that students are harassing and molesting others. RT (retweet) so it can reach out to every single person out there. Thank you. Proud Muslim.”

This newspaper could not contact Umam.

When local reporters tried to reach out to her through a friend of hers, a man claiming to be the elder brother of Umam said over phone: “We have written whatever we had to share with the people. We will get back to reporters as and when we need their support.”

Calls to the landline and mobile phone numbers provided on the website of Dewan Law College went unanswered on Thursday evening.

Many people, including Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, retweeted Umam’s account and expressed solidarity with her. While some said that Muslims were “not safe in their own home”, others demanded action by the police and the college authorities.

The local police said they would take action if a formal complaint was lodged. In response to one of Umam’s tweets, Uttar Pradesh police tagged Meerut police, saying: “Kindly look into it.”

Meerut police replied, asking the name of the college that organised the tour and promising action.

On social media, Umam has received the support of many people.

One Twitter user wrote: “Such a shame to read this in year 2019. Let’s put our political ideology aside and try to understand what she went through. Do we want this to happen to our mothers our sisters just cause they are a minority among a bunch of people.”

Another user wrote: “So this is what we have come to. Read this tragic account where even a college outing is now communalised and Muslim students targeted. Shame.”

Tharoor retweeted Umam’s account and wrote: “If this is Modi’s ‘New India’, I want our ‘Old India’ back!”

In response to the support she has received, Umam tweeted on Wednesday evening: “I posted my story because I wanted to share what I have gone through… how miserable I felt…. Yes I haven’t complained to police because I will complain to college higher authorities tomorrow.”

“If they don’t come up with some serious conclusion then I will go further. Thank you for your concern,” she added.