Lucknow A a number of citizens gathered at Babasaheb Ambedkar’s statue in Hazratganj on Sunday to extend solidarity to dalit professor of Lucknow University Ravi Kant who was stripped of a proposed award that was to be conferred on him later this month.Kant said, “Award cancellation is an attempt to curb freedom of speech and expression. It is a censorship by the government and its right wing supporters. NCRB report also indicates there has been an increase of 150% in crime against dalits. Anybody who criticises the government is easy target for mob lynching.”Professor Ravi Kant, a dalit, regularly speaks on dalit and other marginalised communities’ issues. The Rajya Karmachari Sahitya Sansthan, UP, decided to confer Raman Lal Agarwal Award on him on February 26 but cancelled it after a complaint from a Delhi-based NGO Human and Animal Crime Control Association that Professor Ravi Kant had written many posts on social media criticising BJP governments at the Centre and in UP. The organisation informed Professor Ravi Kant about the award cancellation through a letter.The professor said the government appeared to be hell-bent on curbing the freedom of speech. “Dalits are being harassed regularly as upper castes feel that all important jobs are meant for them and there is no room for dalits. Those who get jobs via reservations are being looked down on,” said Ravi Kant who did M Phil from Jawaharlal Nehru University before becoming assistant professor in the Hindi department of Lucknow University.“We condemn the onslaught on academic freedom. We are of the view that Professor Ravi Kant, as an independent and free citizen of this country, has the right to express his views on any medium of his choice. This expression of his views in no way constraints his academic responsibilities. Professor Kant is a responsible teacher and an informed citizen. We stand by his right to freedom of speech,” said Abdul Hafiz Gandhi, spokesperson, Samajwadi Party.Condemning the organisation for award cancellation Abdul Hafiz Gandhi said constitutional rights were involved here. An academician was not considered a public servant and was free to express his political views. Meraj Ahmad Azad, assistant professor of law, said that the notion of ‘nationalism’ seemed to be monopolized by certain sections. Naheeda Aqueel, state president, All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz (AIPMM), said that it was a personal attack by the government.NCP state president Ramesh Dixit said cancellation of award showed the dictatorial attitude of the state government. BD Naqwi, retired district judge, said this award cancellation protest would catalyse the movement for social justice.