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FC students protest against religious function on campus

College says it is being organised for 40 years, students cry secular image is hurt

pune Updated: Aug 25, 2018 16:10 IST
Ananya Barua
Ananya Barua
Hindustan Times, Pune
pune,maharashtra,fergusson college
Students, including some affiliated to the National Students’ Union of India and Janata Dal (United), stage a protest against Satyanarayan Puja organised on Fergusson College campus on Friday.(HT Photo)

The 133-year-old Fergusson College witnessed protests from a small group of students against the institute’s decision to conduct a religious ceremony on campus on Friday.

While the Deccan Education Society, which runs the college, organised a ‘satyanarayan puja’ on campus on Friday, a group of about 50 students, including some affiliated to the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) and Janata Dal (United), protested saying that the religious ceremony tarnished the secular character of the institute.

The students shouted slogans on inequality and violation of secularism on campus. Student representatives of the ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad) said they were not opposed to the puja.

Later in the day, the college issued an official statement which said that the ‘satyanarayan puja’ was being organised at the college for the past 40 years by the non-teaching staff. “However this year, some organisations have objected to it. Keeping their protestations in mind, we will release the final decision only after consulting the management and the Maharashtra government GR on the same,” the statement issued by the college spokesperson said.

Kaustubh Patil, a second year History student who was among the protesters said, “It’s clearly unconstitutional to conduct such ceremonies in a space which is supposed to be neutral to religious influences. If you are worshipping Satya Narayan, why not celebrate Bakri Eid or even Pateti, which is the eve of the Parsi New Year? Both these festivals took place just a few days back only.”

Sunil Jadhav a second year Economics student who was also among the protestors, said they were opposed to such “religious influences” on the campus. “An illustrious institute like this is a symbol of unity and should not be dividing us like this on any ground at all. The college at no point can try and impose their religious ideas on the students through these practices,” he said.

Satyanarayan Puja organised on Fergusson College campus by the non-teaching staff on Friday. (HT Photo)

The college authorities, however, defended their stand and said that the religious ceremony was being held by the trust every year over the last many decades.

Students said the holding of religious functions on campus was a violation of Article 28 of the Constitution of India. While the clause 1 of Article 28 states that no religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of State funds, clause 2 states that nothing in clause (1) shall apply to an educational institution which is administered by the State but has been established under any endowment or trust which requires that religious instruction shall be imparted in such institution.

Fergusson College- The illustrious past

Freedom fighter Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak and eminent Marathi writer Vishnushastri Chiplunkar established the Deccan Education Society in 1884,the same year when the Fergusson College was also founded by the trust naming it after the then Governor of Bombay Presidency, Sir James Fergusson. In its early years Tilak and renowned reformer Gopal Ganesh Agharkar served as academic staff. Congress stalwarts such as Gopal Krishna Gokhale and the great social reformer, Dhondo Keshav Karve were life members of the society and taught at the college in the 1890s. Two former Prime Ministers, PV Narasimha Rao and VP Singh studied at this college.

First Published: Aug 25, 2018 16:06 IST