On the 24th of April, it was announced the Law Faculty of Jamia Millia Islamia would be organising an online lecture series where notable dignitaries from diversified fields will be taking online lectures. The Lectures started from the 25th and on the 30th of April, Supreme Court advocate J Sai Deepak was slated to speak on the issue of Minority Rights and the issue of reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Universities like Jamia Millia Islamia and the Aligarh Muslim University. On the morning of 30th April, Mr J Sai Deepak was informed that his online lecture was cancelled. However, there is a string of events that happened between the invite being extended to the lecture being cancelled.
The discussion before the invite was extended
A representative of the Student Body of Jamia Millia Islamia, that is organising this lecture series, spoke to Advocate J Sai Deepak and requested him to be a part of the lecture series. Initially, the student body representative wanted Mr Sai Deepak to speak on the issue of ‘Mob Violence’. This request was turned down by Mr Deepak saying that he wanted the discussion to be academic instead of discussing issues that have political undertones. He said that while the discussion will be academic, any overlapping political issues can be discussed, however, he would want to stay clear of political undertones.
After much discussion, Mr Sai Deepak suggested that he would like to speak on Minority Rights and also touch upon the issue of reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Minority institutions like Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University.
The student coordinating with Mr J Sai Deepak spoke to the Student Council and confirmed via email the event to Mr J Sai Deepak on the subject of minority rights and secularism as discussed previously.
A poster to that effect was released on the 29th of April itself.
The protests – Some students start protesting, say won’t allow lecture by J Sai Deepak in Jamia Millia Islamia
As soon as the invite was extended to Mr J Sai Deepak, sections of students from Jamia Millia Islamia started protesting and demanding that the talk be cancelled.
This was confirmed by several students from Jamia Millia Islamia itself.
On 29th, a student confirmed that his friends in the Students Committee had convinced the University to proceed with the lecture, however, it remains to be seen whether they will be able to convince the “students” (who were protesting).
@jsaideepak sir thank you for accepting the Jamia invite. My friends in the Committee did convince the University. Will they be able to convince the students, that remains to be seen.#outrageisstarting— Sango (@sango_221) April 29, 2020
Soon, J Sai Deepak started getting messages from Jamia students informing him of the brewing protest against him and the demand for his lecture to be cancelled.
At this point, Mr Sai Deepak reached out to the Student Council via email informing him of his continued availability for the lecture subject to the condition that none of the student organisers would be harmed, either physically or otherwise, as a consequence of the invitation. Mr Sai Deepak emphasised that his priority was the safety of student organisers.
30th April 2020 – Jamia cancels lecture by J Sai Deepak
Despite the confirmation, on the 30th of April, the day the lecture was set to take place, the Law Faculty of Jamia Millia Islamia University cancelled the lecture by J Sai Deepak. A notice that cited no specific reason for the lecture being cancelled was put up, specifically naming J Sai Deepak and informing the students the specific lecture was cancelled.
It is pertinent to note that this notice to students did not cite any reason for the cancellation of the lecture. It can be safely presumed that the lecture was cancelled due to the pressure on the University by the protesting students who were also against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
Owing to Mr J Sai Deepak’s public positions on the Citizenship Amendment Act, Article 370 and on illegal migration, some students of Jamia Millia Islamia were demanding that his lecture be cancelled.
The student who had alerted about the protests first, informed on Twitter too that the event was cancelled due to the pressure by a few protesting students.
The event now stands cancelled. @jsaideepak sir was invited for a session in Jamia’s Faculty of Law and after few calls of boycott, the spineless administration is rattled. And the same lot lectures people on intolerance and Free Speech. #intolerantJamia pic.twitter.com/Vgz3YBRMBN— Sango (@sango_221) April 30, 2020
The strange reason provided by Jamia Millia Islamia to J Sai Deepak
While the notice by Jamia to its students did not provide any reason for the cancellation of the lecture, an email to Mr J Sai Deepak said that his lecture was being cancelled because the wife of an employee of the Law Faculty of Jamia had passed away due to old age.
It was on 30th itself that J Sai Deepak was informed of the event being cancelled. However, the reason provided was suspect as one sees no reason for an online lecture to be cancelled by a university due to the death of the wife of an employee due to old age and illness.
Freedom of Expression only for chosen ones? UpWord steps in
Branding it intolerance and the administration cowering to the demands of intolerant students, UpWord has decided to host the lecture by Advocate J Sai Deepak on its platform, which is set to be attended by the Jamia students who had signed up to attend the previous lecture.
However, from Minority Rights, the subject has now been changed to ‘Freedom of Expression’ (or the lack of it).
Cowering to intolerant forces, administration of Jamia Millia Islamia has canceled the lecture of J Sai Deepak scheduled today at 8:00 PM. @jsaideepak will now interact with the students live on Upword at the same time. Join at https://t.co/lKp6fDjaNn at 8:00 PM. #IntolerantJamia pic.twitter.com/8p9XrPLLmD— Upword (@upword_) April 30, 2020
It is worthy to note that Jamia Millia Islamia was at the heart of the anti-CAA protests that turned violent in November with Islamists joining in and indulging in unbridled stone-pelting, arson and vandalism. Ironically, the ‘protests’ were launched in the name of defending Constitutional values.