Omar Abdullah's govt under fire for stopping historian Mridu Rai's lecture in Srinagar

  • Peerzada Ashiq, Hindustan Times, Srinagar
  • Updated: Jul 10, 2014 19:35 IST

Omar Abdullah's government was criticised by political parties, civil society activists, scribes and writers on Thursday for stopping the lecture of noted historian Mridu Rai by invoking section 144 that bans assembly of more than four people.

"A lecture threatens Omar's Kashmir? A common fear of words but even Dinanath Batra relies on due process, not the cops," wrote journalist-author Hartosh Singh Bal in protest of the police's move to stop Rai's lecture.

Mridu Rai former professor of South Asian History at the Trinity College, Dublin, who recently joined Calcutta's Presidency University, was scheduled to deliver a lecture on 'languages of violence, justice: the state and insurgent Kashmir' at hotel in Srinagar on Wednesday. The lecture was organised as part of Pandit Rughonath Vaishnavi annual talk by the Coalition of Civil Society (CCS).

Hundreds of angry netizens on Twitter tweeted on the action of police.

Andrew North, South Asia correspondent, BBC, tweeted "Why did Kashmir government of @abdullah_omar use anti-riot law to stop an academic talking in Srinagar?" (sic)

In another tweet, Ben Arnoldy, managing editor, Monitor Global Network, wrote "It's disturbing that police in India's democracy would shut down an academic lecture."

Renowned academic Amitabh Mattoo, teacher, Australian varsity, wrote on twitter "Outrageous!! An internationally renowned academic is not allowed to lecture in Kashmir by the state government."

Rai's book on Jammu and Kashmir 'Hindu rulers, Muslim subjects: Islam, Rights and the History of Kashmir' created a major stir among academic circles in 2004 and was widely debated and quoted book in the valley. According to the organisers, anti-riot act under Section 144 was invoked to disallow his lecture.

Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Geelani alleged that the ban on Rai's lecture proves Jammu & Kashmir is actually a state where the government is totally intolerant towards the opposite voices."

"India is claiming to be the largest democratic country of the world but this claim is miserably exposed in Kashmir where the freedom of expression has been practically banned and the people are not allowed to peacefully put forth their view point," said Geelani.

Geelani asked the Srinagar DC "Explain that which authority other than him can ban such events?"

"Jammu & Kashmir is said to be a democratic government but actually the orders of Indian home ministry are followed here and they want to control everything of this state on their own," alleged Geelani, who claimed that "it has become a routine to ban and restrict seminars and academic conferences".

Opposition Peoples Democratic Party termed the police action as "silly and dictatorial".

Rai, however, delivered the lecture to a limited audience at a crammed room on Wednesday afternoon. "I will never be silent," she told the audience.

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