Communalism and secularism are two words that seem to raise the hackles of Sangh Parivar outfits in Gujarat.
Members of the Maharaj Sayajirao University (MS university) in Vadodara were on Tuesday witness to an ugly incident during the course of a seminar on communalism.
The history department of the university wanted to arrange a one-day seminar on 'History of Communalism and History of India' in the campus under a scheme of the University Grants Commission.
The seminar, scheduled for Tuesday, was to be addressed by reformist leader Asghar Ali Engineer.
However, three days back, a member of the university senate Gopal Bhatti and an Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarti Parishad leader Mehul Lakhani objected to the event.
Bhatti is a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader and a political appointee on the senate.
To avoid a confrontation, a group of academicians decided to make the seminar a private affair, shift the venue outside the college campus and finance it from their own funds.
On Tuesday, when the seminar began in the Sindhrot Nature Park with over 70 history teachers in attendance, around a dozen people barged into the venue at 0930 IST and started raising slogans.
Objecting to the selling of a booklet by Delhi-based NGO Nishan, the intruders insisted that only RSS material be sold at the venue.
When the organisers tried to pacify them and asked them to leave, 'they shouted anti-Pakistan slogans and accused us of supporting Pakistan when they play cricket matches against India?' a witness said.
"We told them that like you, we too have a right to express our views. We don't interrupt your meetings; you should not interrupt our meetings. But they were not willing to listen to logic and kept raising irrelevant issues," professor of physics at the University and one of the participants, J S Bandukwala told rediff.com.
The disturbance continued throughout the day, but to the utter surprise of the organisers, more than 70 young teachers, most of them ladies, refused to leave the premises, the witness said.
Instead, a few participants told the slogan-shouters to 'shut up', he said.
"We don't want to hear you. Who are you to tell us not to listen to lectures on secularism and communalism?" they demanded to know.
"I am happy that people from middle class families were willing to resist the pressure and attend the seminar till evening," Professor Bandukwala said.
"The ruling party intimidates people in such a manner only when they fear losing elections," he added.
Professor Bandukwala was among those who was harassed and threatened with dire consequences during the riots that followed the train-burning incident in Godhra.
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