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HomeIndiaDU prof gets bail in ‘Shivling’ post case but protests go on...

DU prof gets bail in ‘Shivling’ post case but protests go on as students slam ‘systematic attack’

While granting bail to Dr Ratan Lal, the court said that while the post was ‘avoidable’ and ‘reprehensible’, it ‘didn’t indicate an attempt to promote hatred between communities’.

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New Delhi: Delhi University (DU) professor Dr. Ratan Lal, who was arrested Friday night for putting up an allegedly objectionable Facebook post about the purported discovery of a ‘Shivling’ at the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, was granted bail by a Delhi court Saturday.

The Tis Hazari court in its order noted that while “it is true that the accused did an act which was avoidable considering the sensibilities of persons around the accused and public at large”, the post “though reprehensible, doesn’t indicate an attempt to promote hatred between communities”. 

Speaking to ThePrint, Prof. Lal’s counsel Mukesh (who goes by only one name) said it was “an unfortunate state of affairs in the country that even intellectuals have to think twice before making any statements, that too such minor ones”.

Lal, who was arrested three days after a complaint was filed against him by Supreme Court advocate Vineet Jindal, general secretary of the North Delhi Lawyers’ Association, was booked under IPC sections 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race) and 295-A (acts intended to outrage religious feelings). 

Soon after TV channels started flashing news about the professor getting bail, Jindal tweeted: “Abhi toh shuruat hai (This is just the beginning).

Prof. Lal, who belongs to the Dalit community, teaches history at DU’s Hindu College. He has not taken down the Facebook post that triggered the uproar.

Meanwhile, members of Left-wing student organisation, the All India Students Association (AISA), have called for a protest against the “attack on Dalit voices” at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Saturday evening. 

“Dr. Ratan Lal has always stood against the ongoing attack unleashed by the BJP government on marginalised sections of this country. An attack on him is a clear attack on all the democratic voices of this country. His arrest was clearly part of the ongoing campaign run by Delhi Police at the behest of the home ministry to harass and victimise progressive intellectual voices,” Shreya, vice-president of AISA Delhi, told ThePrint. 

AISA members had staged a protest outside Maurice Nagar police station, where the professor was taken after his arrest, Friday night as well. 

Another protest was held outside Delhi University’s Arts Faculty Saturday morning, before the bail order came out.

Speaking to ThePrint, Abha Devi Habib, a Miranda College professor who was also present at the protest, asked how the post can hurt religious sentiments “when there is no clarity that the Shivling even exists”. 

“This is a systematic attack by the government on opinion builders or people who are working on the ground to raise pertinent questions, right from JNU students being attacked to professors being attacked. Ratan Lal is one such opinion builder who hosts shows on his platform on pertinent social issues. This issue over the Facebook post was just an excuse to curb such voices,” she added.

The protest saw participation from several student organisations including AISA, the Campus Front of India, the Democratic Students’ Union, Krantikari Yuva Sangathan, and the Students’ Federation of India. 

Prior to his arrest, Prof. Lal had told ThePrint: “Critique of religion has been a part of discourse since the time of Gautam Buddha to Ambedkar, from Periyar to Phule. I have not written anything wrong…if you look at the picture (of the Shivling) carefully it looks like points were marked on it and it was broken. Will pandits identify and declare a piece of relic historically important, or will historians do that?” 

He had also said that his remarks were only “sarcastic” and not intended to hurt anyone’s religious sentiments.

Also Read: ‘Hindus at Iftar, Muslims at Holi’: Alumni, students say religious celebrations part of JNU culture

Who is Vineet Jindal, lawyer on whose complaint prof was held

Advocate Vineet Jindal, who was the complainant in the case against the DU professor, has previously filed complaints against several known figures including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Bollywood actress Sunny Leone, as well as stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra.

Jindal, who identifies himself as a “lawyer, political analyst and social activist” on his Twitter bio, has previously sought action in matters ranging from “attacks on Hindu minorities during Durga Puja” in Bangladesh, killings of Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley, as well as Congress leader Salman Khurshid’s book ‘Sunrise over Ayodhya — Nationhood in our times’.

Speaking to ThePrint, Jindal said, “I don’t know how many of my complaints turned into FIRs and legal action was taken. However, they have been effective.”

“I had written to the Chief Justice of the Bangladesh Supreme Court seeking a probe on attacks on Hindu minorities during Durga Puja,” Jindal said, adding that he has been practising law for the last 13 years.

In August last year, he had filed a complaint with the Delhi Police against Rahul Gandhi for allegedly disclosing the identity of a minor who was allegedly raped and killed, by tweeting a photograph of himself with her parents.

In November last year, the Delhi High Court had dismissed Jindal’s plea to ban Salman Khurshid’s book ‘Sunrise over Ayodhya — Nationhood in our times’. Jindal had reportedly sought the ban in connection with the author’s comparison of Hindutava to ISIS and Boko Haram.

Then in December, he had filed a police complaint against actress Sunny Leone, seeking a ban on her music video album ‘Madhuban mein Radhika naache’, claiming that it had “hurt religious sentiments”.

In January this year, he had also sought action against BJP’s Delhi chief Adesh Gupta for “causing inconvenience to the public” by “obstructing traffic” during protests against the Aam Aadmi Party government’s excise policy.  

In March, he had sought a criminal contempt case against comedian Kunal Kamra for “scandalising Indian judiciary and disgracing its dignity”. 

In the same month, he had written to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, seeking a probe against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s “involvement with Khalistan separatists”. In September 2021, he had thanked Kejriwal for waivers on water bills. 

Also in March, Jindal had written to President Ram Nath Kovind seeking direction to reopen all cases pertaining to the “massacre” of Kashmiri Pandits and the constitution of a special investigation team (SIT) to reinvestigate incidents of killings in the Kashmir Valley.

(Edited by Gitanjali Das)

Also Read: 9 years on, Jadavpur prof arrested for forwarding Mamata cartoon is still stuck in legal battle


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