Here is who Congress invited to talk about ‘protecting the secular fabric of our nation’

The All India Professionals’ Congress has invited Professor Roop Rekha Verma, ex-Vice Chancellor of Lucknow University, a social worker and an activist, at one of its events on the topic of ‘Protecting the secular fabric of the nation’. The event was confirmed on its Facebook page. Considering the myriad controversies social activists have been involved in recent times, we looked into the background of Professor Verma to learn her opinions and gain some knowledge about her ideological positions.

Source: The Facebook page of AIPC-Lucknow

Professor Verma is strictly against the building of a Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. She has, in the past, expressed reservations about the Allahabad High Court verdict which divided the disputed land between Ram Lalla represented by Hindu Sabha, Nirmohi Akhara and the Sunni Waqf Board in equal proportions.

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The 75-year-old is very sympathetic to Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav. “There is no sea change that you see on the ground,” she said in January 2017 while speaking about the SP government in Uttar Pradesh, “but this Government has managed to generate the confidence that something is being done for women.” According to one account, Verma along with a few others supported Arvind Kejriwal in 2014 against ‘communal fascist’ Narendra Modi in Varanasi.

In 2014, Verma was one of the intellectuals who branded Narendra Modi a threat to secular democracy. The statement by ’eminent people’ read, “Never before in post-independence India has political forces, which are a front for an organisation committed to creating a Hindu Rashtra, made as strong a bid for power as in the coming elections. These forces are led by a person who presided over a pogrom against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 and has never expressed any contrition over his role in that ghastly incident. And they enjoy the backing of the most powerful corporate houses in the country. The prospect of this alliance of corporate capital and communal forces coming to power constitutes a palpable threat to the future of our secular democracy.”

The former Vice-Chancellor of Lucknow University is vehemently against Hindu rituals being performed in educational institutions. She told HuffingtonPost, “The new VC (of Lucknow University) has this idea of beginning a session with Saraswati puja. I had opposed this saying a university is a secular place, students of all religion come here. So anything that is a ritual belonging to just one religion should not be performed here.” She is also against Hinduism in any government setting. “The tourism department’s hotels all have a Ganesh at the entry. If it was just for beauty, I would have understood. But no, there’s a puja done every day. There’s nothing associated with other religions present in these buildings I have noticed,” she added. She perceives the celebration of India’s cultural heritage as ‘saffronization’.

Professor Verma is believed to have been involved in an incident of vandalism at Lucknow University. In early July, a group of expelled students owing allegiance to the Samajwadi Chhatra Sabha had indulged in vandalism and attacked teachers leaving numerous people injured. As per Lucknow SSP, Verma was supporting the cause of the expelled students.

The activist is one of the ‘prominent Indians’ who are seeking to interfere with the NRC process. She was one of the academics and activists who filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking intervention in the ongoing NRC update in Assam. The group requested the Court that a direction is issued to recheck the documents of all those whose name hadn’t featured in the final draft.

The professor was also part of a tribunal organized by Act for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD) and Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) that came to the conclusion that minorities were being victimized by the Police on the charge of being involved in terrorist activities in the country. It appears that the tribunal reached its conclusions after hearing only one side of the story, that of the alleged victims and their relatives. It is pertinent to mention that ANHAD’s FCRA registration was cancelled by the NDA government in 2016. And we have well documented the activities of HRLN, which is an FCRA NGO as well, in our series on Civil Society.

Professor Verma was one of the signatories to a letter that demanded the repeal of AFSPA in Jammu and Kashmir. A certain portion of the letter appeared to blame the Indian government for Burhan Wani becoming a terrorist. It reads, “Available accounts of Burhan Wani’s life in militancy indicate that he was as a 16-year old, embittered and radicalised during the 2010 turmoil by the casual humiliations heaped on ordinary Kashmiris by the mass deployments of security personnel. He witnessed repeated violent incursions into his home and the harassment of near relations in what is called “crackdowns”, in terminology that has entered the youth argot of the valley. The death of his brother in a police encounter, when he had nothing to do with the militancy, is believed to have further hardened his resolve. Burhan Wani’s life story should be a cautionary warning that the heavy-handed, militaristic Indian approach to Kashmir, has only led to a quarter century of siege and growing alienation.”

It certainly appears that parallel to the ‘Mahagathbandhan’, Congress President Rahul Gandhi is seeking an alliance with ‘civil society’ to defeat Prime Minister Modi in 2019. The supposed understanding between the Congress and Civil Society here also exposes the farcical nature of Rahul Gandhi’s sudden towards Hinduism. Here, we have a woman who is against the worship of Goddess Saraswati in educational institutions and disagrees with the verdict of the Allahabad High Court in favour of Ram Mandir. That the Congress party has no compunction in inviting her to address a discussion on protecting secularism is quite revealing.

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