Indore: There’s an eerie silence that lurks in the corners of the Shasakiya Navin Vidhi Mahavidyalaya (New Government Law College) in Indore.
It’s been 10 days since the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad’s protests over the contents of what they claimed was a “Hinduphobic” book in the college library led to faculty suspensions and eventually a police case. And yet, no one quite knows how things went quickly downhill in this seemingly quiet law college.
On 1 December, the ABVP, the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), held protests against a reference book in the college library. At the root of the row were two books written by one Dr. Farhat Khan — ‘Collective Violence and Criminal Justice System’ and ‘Women and Criminal Law’.
The ABVP claims the books had “anti-Hindu” content.
However, what started as allegations against the book quickly morphed into accusations of “Hindu hate”, “love jihad” and “anti-India propaganda” against the college’s Muslim professors and has led to the suspension of five faculty members. The college principal, Inamul Rehman, resigned over the controversy on 3 December but was eventually placed under suspension too.
This came after the state government ordered an investigation into the allegations.
“Based on an investigation report of a seven-member team, the principal of the college, Dr. Inamul Rehman, and assistant professor, Dr. Mirza Beg, [have been suspended] with immediate effect. The three guest professors posted in college have also been removed,” Higher Education Minister Mohan Yadav said in a tweet Thursday.
In addition, there’s also an ongoing police investigation, based on a First Information Report by the ABVP.
But the student body claims it wasn’t a sudden event and that their protests were a culmination of three years of “evidence collection” against the college’s “Muslim professors”.
“Nine out of 15 faculty members are Muslims,” Dipendra Singh Thakur, the college’s ABVP unit president had told ThePrint. “These Muslim professors were bringing their personal opinions such as views on Kashmir, the Indian Army, and Article 370 into the classes that were supposed to be unbiased.”
Shashikant Chaurasia, the Station House Officer of Bhanwarkuan Police Station, which is investigating the allegations, said police were now awaiting the report of the departmental inquiry that they will use as evidence to build their case.
Meanwhile, Amar Law Publications, the publisher of the book, has distanced itself from it.
ThePrint reached Dr. Farhat Khan but she declined to comment.
ThePrint also tried to reach Rehman and Beg for their comments but their phones had been switched off. This report will be updated if and when a response is received.
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On 3 December, Mohan Yadav, the state’s higher education minister announced a seven-member inquiry panel into the allegations.
Meanwhile, as protests mounted, six professors — Amik Khokar, Mirza Moziz Beg, Firoz Ahmed Mir, Sohail Ahmed Wani, Milind Kumar Gautam, and Poornima Bhise — were suspended for five days.
The same day, an FIR was registered on the basis of a complaint by Lucky Ahlawat, an LLM student of the college and a former ABVP secretary of the Indore Division. Besides Rehman, the FIR accuses Beg, author Khan and Amar Law Publications of spreading “hatred towards the nation” and “promoting enmity and hurting religious feelings”. However, it’s still unclear what evidence the complaint uses to make the allegation.
Ahlawat told ThePrint that the ABVP had been “collecting evidence” for three years.
“The protests were not spontaneous. They were a result of three-year-long findings, where we collected evidence against the principal and professors and created one report of all the accusations and demands and showed it to them, while also distributing its copies in the college,” he told ThePrint.
The “report” he’s talking about is a 14-page booklet with photos of highlighted “anti-Hindu passages” from Khan’s book, ‘Collective Violence and Criminal Justice System’.
But Khan’s book isn’t the only “offending” item on the list. It also contains a litany of other allegations against the professors — from statements on the abrogation of Article 370, their criticism of the central government’s New Education Policy, and also allegations of how Muslim professors “invite” women students to “pubs and discos” at night.
The booklet also lists what it calls instances of nepotism in the college — allegations of how all nine Muslim professors are known to one another.
“Till now these kinds of activities were only common in JNU but this poison is now been spreading and an atmosphere of mutual conflict is being created,” the booklet, written in Hindi, claims in the end.
It wasn’t just the book that was the problem, the college’s ABVP president Thakur, quoted above, told ThePrint — it was the “entire ecosystem of hostility”.
While Rehman and Beg have been “suspended” with immediate effect after a departmental inquiry, it has yet to be officially communicated to Narendra Dev, GNLC’s acting principal who was appointed on 5 December — two days after Rehman resigned.
“I was on leave from 23 November to 3 December,” Dev, who’s been at the college for 30 years, told ThePrint. “I was asked to take on the position of acting principal from 5 December onwards. There has not been a ruckus since I took the position.”
Without giving the specifics of the investigation, Mathura Prasad, a member of the committee that inquired into the allegations, told ThePrint that the panel had submitted its report to the state government and its conclusion “was as stated by the respected minister Mohan Yadav ji”.
“I can’t say when the official documentation will be released/made available as it is under his jurisdiction,” he said.
It’s also unclear what authorities mean by suspension, especially since Rehman had already tendered his resignation before he was officially suspended.
‘Everyone’s a target’
At the college, the events have left both faculty and students bewildered.
With examinations coming up, the campus is nearly deserted. Many faculty members, too, have gone on leave.
“I don’t know why it began now all of a sudden,” Abhinav Singh, an LLB student told ThePrint. “ABVP students believed that the books in question were kept in the library intentionally. But in my memory, it has been there since before 2019, when the current principal came. It was never issued. There are many books, not always related to the course of CRPC and IPC, to only be read for supplementary knowledge.”
The few faculty members still left in college shift nervously at questions.
“We won’t speak about anything; everyone is at target,” a faculty member who didn’t want to be named told ThePrint, adding that four of the professors who faced suspension have been working at the college for over 10 years. “I never imagined anything like this happening. It was such a good college and now it has been cursed.”
Another faculty member told ThePrint that the principal, Rehman, was “a good man” and the inquiry report was likely because of an “unbalanced ratio” of people arguing against the faculty.
“I knew him personally and believe that he was a good man and one of the best legal scholars in the entire state,” she said.
There aren’t many witnesses to what happened. But several students agreed there must be “some truth” to what the ABVP has been saying.
“There were nine Muslim professors. The problem is not that they were Muslims but that they were promoting people of their own religion,” Aryan Verma, a student at the college said. “I heard that Amik Khokhar sir was a nephew of the principal. These people got these jobs, not because of their legal knowledge, but through nepotism. I’m sure there are more such cases otherwise why would there be so many Muslim professors.”
Even a Muslim student, Nausheen Skeikh, believed there could be some merit in ABVP’s arguments.
“I don’t agree or disagree with the decision but if what was claimed has been proven true that one religion was being called superior at the expense of another, then it is very wrong, and it is a justified verdict,” she said.
A faculty member quoted above, however, believes that students were now agreeing with the ABVP’s arguments because of fear.
“Initially, only ABVP students protested. [Now the] condition is such that students have to agree with them,” the faculty member said.
Hindu women are ‘instruments of lust fulfilment’, Muslim women lacked freedom
In his response to the row over the book, Rehman claimed that the book was already in the library when he was appointed principal.
“There is a course named ‘Collective Violence and Criminal Justice System’. Considering that there is no prescribed syllabus for this course, students can choose any book on this topic…I was appointed Principal in August 2019, while this particular book has been in the college library since 2014,” he had earlier told the media.
The publisher, meanwhile, claimed they only ever printed 750-1000 copies of the book, which was usually used as reference by LLM students, and that with so few books around, couldn’t retract it. They however made the author submit an apology to the administration.
A look at the “objectionable passages” highlighted in the booklet shows that the author, Farhat Khan, was critical of Hindu society’s treatment of its women.
In one passage seen by ThePrint, the author claimed Hindu women were instruments of lust fulfillment in a male-dominated world and that every religious scripture was written in a manner showing how they were subservient to men.
The same author, however, was also equally scathing of the Islamic world.
“The Islamic law put a lot of emphasis on the respect for women but in reality, they lacked social, financial and religious autonomy/rights,” one of the passages seen by ThePrint shows.
Ahlawat told ThePrint that he was also considering adding more names to the FIR against Khan’s second book, ‘Women and Criminal Law’.
“This is a national issue,” he told ThePrint. “I’m planning to add one more name to the FIR against ‘Central Law Publications’, the publisher of the second book by the same author. This book had been put in the library during Rehman’s tenure,” he said.
However, SHO Chaurasiya said investigations were currently limited to only one book.
Police also denied reports of the author’s arrest in Pune, saying that she has only been served a notice under the Criminal Procedure Code and asked to cooperate with the investigation.
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)
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