Lucknow Literature Fest cancelled as ABVP protest against Former JNUSU Press Kanhaiya

The fifth edition of the Lucknow Literary Festival has been cancelled after the district administration withdrew permission to the three-day festival that began on Friday after right-wing groups manhandled former JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar.

The event had begun on Friday and several panel discussions were slated for Saturday and Sunday. But in a late night order on Friday, Lucknow District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma cancelled permission for the festival on the ground that the schedule submitted by the organisers when they applied for approval didn’t have the names of Kanhaiya, BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha, BJP MP Varun Gandhi and AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi.

The district administration cited the maintenance of law and order during civic elections as the reason for cancellation.

Kanhaiya was one of the invitees on Day 1 for the release of his book, Bihar Se Tihar. The event was open for all at She-roes Café which is managed by acid-attack survivors.

As soon as Kanhaiya got down from the car and entered the venue around 7 pm, over a dozen activists of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad barged in from nowhere shouting slogans against him.

kanhaiya lucknow litfestThe organisers, the students of Lucknow University and members of Samajwadi Party were quick enough to encircle Kanhayia but angry activists heckled and manhandled him not allowing him to reach the stage.

The activists kept chanting “Jai Sri Ram”, “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” and “Vande Mataram” throughout. They also called Kanhaiya a “traitor” and demanded he go back.

The scuffle between the ABVP and Lucknow University students forced the acid attack survivors running the cafe to appear on stage with folded hands requesting all to maintain peace.

The women and student supporters protected Kumar by encircling him and managed to take him to the stage, outnumbering the ABVP activists.

Even as Kanhaiya reached the stage, the activists continued loud sloganeering in front of the stage shouting that Kanhaiya’s session won’t be allowed at any cost. The acid survivors then took the stage and requested the activists to stop their agitation and allow the event to proceed.

Organisers kept announcing from the stage, “You were allowed to protest as agitations are part of the democracy. Please calm down now and let the event proceed.”  The pleas didn’t work. Sloganeering of “Kanhaiya wapas jao” continued for over 30 minutes as the former JNU student leader was kept guarded on the stage by more than 50 youngsters.

Over 300 spectators who had come to listen to Kanhaiya were hassled by the turn of events. The absence of police at the venue shocked many. The men in khaki finally arrived as the information of the altercation reached them.

kanhaiya lit fest lucnowThey sought to calm down the unruly activists asking them to leave the venue. After some resistance, the police managed to take out the activists. Organisers and spectators sighed in relief and the event started once again, after disruption of almost 40 minutes pushing senior BJP leader and actor Shatrughan Sinha’s session behind schedule.

Kanhaiya Kumar was among student leaders arrested last year in a sedition case in connection with an event on the JNU campus against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru during which anti-national slogans were allegedly raised. They were later granted bail in the case in which the charge-sheet has not yet been filed.

Kumar started his address with, “I would have been happy if those who did not agree with my political views would have engaged me in a dialogue, which is the sign of a healthy democracy. I am not an anti-national but belonged to a family of freedom fighters. You have governments in 18 states but you cannot suppress an independent voice or stop someone to express his thoughts.”

Taking a potshot at Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Kanhaiya said, “Muskuraiye ki aap Ram Rajye mein hain(Smile since you are in Ram Rajya). In Satya Yuga, Lord Rama had left his kingdom for vanvas but in Kali Yuga, Yogiji has ended his vanvas to govern the state.”

In an apparent dig at his hecklers and Yogi, the ex-JNU students’ union president offered his condolences to the RSS worker in Kerala who died allegedly while making bombs and to the kids dying at BRD Hospital, Gorakhpur.

Originally published on Newslaundry