The principal of Ahmedabad’s H K Arts College, Hemantkumar Shah, resigned on Monday after his decision to invite Dalit leader and independent MLA Jignesh Mevani as chief guest to the college’s annual function was overturned by its trustees (on Sunday), college officials said.
Vadgam MLA Mevani, an alumnus of the college, and a strong critic of the state’s Bharatiya Janata Party government, was to hand over prizes to students during the college’s annual function scheduled for Monday.
The college trust, citing opposition to Mevani from a section of students, refused to allow the event to happen in the college’s hall, leading to the cancellation of the function, said a functionary of the college trust. “The trust has nothing against Mevani, but it got the sense that going ahead with the programme might spoil the atmosphere. The trust will not allow anything on campus that threatens this,” said Amrish Shah, secretary of the college’s trust.
In his resignation latter, principal Shah termed the trust’s move “undemocratic”.
He called out trustees such as Jnanpith awardee Raghuveer Chaudhari and Padma awardee Kumarpal Desai. “I agreed to become principal on insistence of great figures like Desai and Chaudhari, but what has happened is undemocratic and curbing of rights of speech and expression,” Shah said. He also asked the trustees to define “atmosphere” as cited by them in their letter. The “prevailing political atmosphere is the kind where one’s right of free speech has been curbed,” he said, adding: “the pressure (on the Trust) was (from) the students affiliated to the BJP. I invited Mevani as he is an alumnus and an MLA.”
People familiar with the matter said after some students threatened to disrupt the event, all trust members, except principal Shah and vice-principal Mohan Parmar, voted against the event. Parmar has resigned as well.
Principal Shah could not be reached for comments.
Reacting to the row, Mevani blamed “BJP goons” . “Because of threat calls made by BJP goons, trustees of H.K.Arts college, Ahmedabad, which I graduated from, cancelled the annual function where I was invited as chief guest.Was going to talk about the life and mission of Baba saheb (BR Ambedkar). Salute to Principal Hemant Shah who resigned on moral grounds,” he tweeted.