NEW DELHI: 'Democracy, the Media and Freedom of Expression.” was a discussion scheduled to be held at the Senate Hall of the Allahabad University, once a seat of learning and now better known for increasing lumpenisation. It was being organised by the Allahabad University Students Union but clearly ‘freedom’ was anathema to the Akhila Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad as was senior journalist Siddharth Varadarajan who was invited to speak.

The ABVP threatened violence and the Vice Chancellor who was initially to chair the meeting succumbed, and cancelled the programme altogether. He also got the District Administration to ensure that it was not even held in the Union Hall on the campus, and a prohibitory notice was issued.

The Students Union President then organised the lecture just outside the campus, at the Swaraj Vidya Peeth hall. The ABVP declared Varadarajan “anti national” and announced that he would not be allowed to set foot in the campus. As Varadarajan said later, “I defied this absurd diktat and walked into the university and went to visit the VC in his office along with the students' union president.

While we there, the ABVP surrounded the exit and I was warned by the university security which was present not to attempt to leave since "yeh ladke maar-pet par uthar aayenge" and that they would not be able to guarantee my security.”

The University authorities proved totally incompetent in the face of pressure from a bunch of students, first cancelling the lecture and then failing to protect the senior journalist and editor from the ABVP activists. Students Union Vice President and ABVP leader Vikrant Singh, subsequently told reporters,

“we had planned to paint the faces of Varadarajan and the event organisers and throw shoes and eggs at them. But we decided against it because a physical attack would have given them more publicity. We gheraoed the V-C’s office.”

There has been widespread condemnation of the incident, another “feather” in the cap of intolerance. The ABVP is currently in the news for the events leading to the suicide of Hyderabad Central University scholar Rohith Vemula with an altercation between the two groups of students over a campus issue, being turned into a matter of “casteism and anti-nationalism” by senior BJP leaders.