The post titled “IIT-Bombay cancels talk by former DU prof on Israel-Palestine conflict (November 8th, 2023)” published in Indian Express remorses the cancellation of Mr. Achin Vanaik's lecture. Nevertheless, Indian Express could not get time to write or show the venomous speech given by Mr. Sudhanva Deshpande, a sympathizer of terrorists - Zakaria Zubeidi and Ghassan Kanafani, and many more. This open letter written by the students of IIT Bombay aims to cover only two of the issues - one tries to enquire about the above-mentioned article of Indian Express, and, secondly why it conveniently chooses to stay mum on the serious issue of Deshpande indoctrinating young students of IIT Bombay?
We start with the latest event - Why do the IIT Bombay students say NO to Terrorism?
Under the guise of an academic course called "HS-835: Performance Theory & Praxis, Prof. Sharmistha Saha (Department of Humanities & Social Sciences, IIT Bombay) invited Mr. Sudhanva Deshpande on November 6th, 2023, while the Hon'ble Vice-President of Bharat was interacting with the students and faculties of the IIT Bombay. The Hon'ble Vice President was addressing the students of IIT Bombay to not fall prey to the Anti-national & Anti-Bhartiya narrative. Whereas, at the same time, Deshpande in his opening speech made very serious revelations which were not only non-academic but also did invoke the attention of the legal agencies and judiciary. Deshpande stated that -
“In 2015, the first time I have gone to Palestine. I've been there twice. On my first visit, I was lucky to meet Zakaria Zubeidi”. He further stated, “Ghassan Kanafani said that, "In order to have liberation, we need guns. We have to fight the occupation. You know it has to be an armed struggle. But if we don't have the culture to go with the guns, guns will turn on us. In other words, you know, we will start killing each other if we don't have the culture with the guns. This is something that I do want to emphasize that the Palestinian struggle is a freedom struggle. And there has been no freedom struggle in the history of the world, in the history of colonialism that is entirely 100% nonviolent. It is never!”
How does Deshpande introduce terrorist Zakaria Zubeidi to IIT Bombay students? Deshpande states that -
“And, I was struck by what an incredible vision this man (Zakaria Zubeidi) who is a militant fighter, who has taken part in militant army, who is a legendary fighter of Palestine and also one of the main characters in the film that we will be seeing. I was struck by the beauty of the vision of one free Palestine.”
We the students of IIT Bombay raise a question - how can someone call terrorist Zakaria Zubeidi an “incredible, visionary man and legendary? Unlike, IIT Bombay Prof. Sharmistha Saha and her invited speaker Deshpande, we the students of IIT Bombay can’t tolerate the glorification and justification of terrorists Zakaria Zubeidi and Ghassan Kanifani. On November 6th the IIT Bombay students arrived at the Lecture Complex Room (LC 301), fearing that the guest speaker Deshpande, would incite violent feelings and hatred in the hearts of the gullible students under the guise of teaching an academic course HS 835. And, it happened! The video shared by the students of IIT Bombay exposed Prof. Sharmistha Saha and terrorist sympathizer Sudhanva Deshpande to the world for glorifying terrorists and their armed rebellion. Conveniently, Deshpande avoids mentioning the terror attack (Oct 7th, 2023) on Israel. He is Inculcating in the minds of the young students to take up arms and is not speaking about the Islamic invasion of Jewish people. He further mocked the democratically conducted elections of Israel as "name sake". And, the Indian Express can ignore covering these serious events!
Why do IIT Bombay students oppose Mr. Achin Vanaik's visit to IIT Bombay?
After Mr. Achin Vanaik's divisive speech at O.P. Jindal University (November 1st, 2023), it stirred up controversy at several academic institutions. And, the students of IIT Bombay voiced their grave worries to the administration on November 6th, 2023. Mr. Achin Vanaik is infamously known for making anti-religious (especially anti-Hindu) statements i.e., “Hindutva is fundamentally and foundationally anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic”, openly on stage and polarising the minds of the students. Added to that, he has also made anti-Indian Army statements by arguing, “When you have Pulwama and soldiers are killed over here - that’s terrorism and when you (Bharat/Indian Army) go out of base and...(kill - that’s not terrorism?)”. How can Achin Vanaik call our Indian soldiers ‘terrorists’ and their acts ‘terrorism’? He further keenly discusses the intention and determination of the suicide bombers. How can the students of IIT Bombay accept a mentality that questions the very actions and motives of our brave Indian soldiers? We better choose to offer respect to our Indian soldiers and stand in solidarity with them.
Secondly, we the students of IIT Bombay are curious to find the intention of the host Prof. Anush Kapadia (Department of Humanities and Ashank Desai Center for Policy Studies, IIT Bombay) in organising this event which unfortunately appears to be propaganda-driven. Along with intention, the students also questioned the IIT Bombay administration about the outcome of this sort of event. Talks and demonstrations of this sort which carry a political colour, if conducted, can potentially damage the pious environment of the institute and we trust that the institute should come up with strict policies barring the occurrence of these sorts of events in the future.
As students who hold our institute in high regard, we believe we must ensure that our institution upholds the highest standards of ethics, safety, inclusivity, transparency, and educational excellence. We hope that our countrymen will give serious consideration to our concerns. Also, our request to the IIT Bombay administration to take appropriate action on the organizers of this and similar anti-national events is awaiting.
We the Students of IIT Bombay humbly submit that much about Achin Vanaik is available on various platforms and in many newspaper reports. His comments at OPJindal Institute, Haryana are out in the public domain and he stands exposed. But despite this, Indian Express's clever art of selective quoting and presenting half-truths raises doubt in the minds of informed readers about the "innocence" of the “poor chap”. The less said about the double standards of Indian Express, the better! The omission and deletion of convenience are so stark and vulgar to be missed by an observing eye. Informed readers may recall the absolute and resolute silence of Indian Express in reporting the insinuations on Hinduism by Professor Divya Dwivedi of IIT Delhi at the sidelines of the G20 Summit. Also, a kind request to the Indian Express to quote the exact statements of Achin Vanaik.
Students of IIT Bombay
Signatories of this open letter wish to remain anonymous.
(The open letter has been published unedited.)
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