Sunday, March 3, 2019

Interview with Sandeep Wathar

Sandeep Wathar, an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at VPDPGH College of Engineering and Technology, Karnataka is against war. He was attacked by members of the ABVP and BJP on 2 March 2019 inside the college campus for his alleged ‘anti-national’ social media posts. Sandeep had criticized the BJP government for fomenting war hysteria. As a junior faculty in his thirties, his position is vulnerable. His appeal for solidarity from wider society compelled us to conduct the following interview. It is a brief testament to what fascist victimization looks like in every corner of India today.

Q: From available reports, it is clear that you were attacked for your anti-war views. Could you please tell us how the attack was organised?
A:  It is my conscious and firmly held conviction that war should never be an option.  Coming to the incident, it falls into the usual pattern through which BJP frames anyone opposed to its views as ‘anti-national’. I have been treated exactly the same way as many others. First they went through my social media (Facebook) profile. Then they identified a post with the Pakistan Prime Minster Imran Khan’s picture and video. I had used the F*** word in relation to the BJP. They took screenshots and messed it up by adding nonsensical observations.  Then they tried attacking me physically inside the college but my colleagues and other staff members rescued me. 

Q: Since the attack, are you being threatened? Have you received support and solidarity from any quarter?
A: Yes. These fringe drunken lunatics have made threatening phone calls but there is no serious threat as of now. However, I am worried about my father. My students are helping me out. They share my other social media posts where I have highlighted corruption, climate change, environment, economic inequality. I thank them for their support.

Q: Despite the attack and your uncertain future, you are upholding the right to freedom of speech?
A: It is not just my freedom of speech which is being threatened. This is about India's freedom to exist as a democratic polity and society in the future. Everyone and everything which goes against the BJP’s policies and positions are at risk. I am certain many will agree with me that I am not exaggerating. Lies have become the order of the day but I still hope truth will prevail. 

The interview was conducted by Vikalp team member Suchetana Chattopadhyay.

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