11 educational institutions target of organised Hindutva mobs in in Kolhapur: Fact-finding team

June-August 2023, as a sinister run up to the 2023 general elections (followed by the state assembly elections), women teachers in as many as nine schools in Kolhapur Sangli and neighbouring districts, are being pressurised and targeted; tactics are planned coercive manipulations in classrooms followed

In the past three months, alarming incidents, of mob student-driven violence, have occurred in the educational sector in the districts of Kolhapur-Sangli-Satara, which are under the jurisdiction of Shivaji University. Close to a dozen incidents of organized mob intimidation of teachers and the school administration have come to the fore. Disturbing is the creation and constitution of this “mob”. In several cases it is students who initially make objectionable statements within the class, who when the teacher rationally responds, return with “mob” outside the premises, pressurizing the administration to “act” against the teacher!

This planned program is reportedly being implemented in various educational institutions, targeting teachers by deliberately inciting students on religious grounds, putting pressure on the management of educational institutions and disrupting the harmonious educational environment. None of this would have come to light but for the senior women activists from various organisations, who put together the fact-finding report under the umbrella organization, “Women Protest for Peace” (WPFP).

This group, consisting of educators and gender rights’ activists, visited all the educational institutions, spoke to all the protagonists and then compiled the report which was submitted to the District Collector, Rahul Rekhawar, and last week. All these are important institutions in this area, particularly because boys and girls of the Bahujan community are able to avail of higher education; these are conclusions of an all-woman fact-finding team that made available its report to SabrangIndia recently.

The concerned institutions are:

  1. Kolhapur Institute of Technology (KIT), Gokul Shirgaon, Kolhapur
  2. Vivekananda Institutes of Education:
  3. Vivekananda College, Kolhapur
  4. Dattajirao Kadam Arts, Science and Commerce College, Ichalkaranji
  5. Seventh-day Adventist School, Kolhapur
  6. Rayat Shikshan Sanstha:
  7. Chhatrapati Shahu College, Kolhapur
  8. Pandit Nehru Vidyalaya and Junior College, Kaulapur,
  9. Yashwantrao Chavan College, Pachwad, Satara
  10. Rajarshi Chhatrapati Shahu College, Kolhapur
  11. Chandrabai-Shantappa Shendure College, Hupari, Kolhapur

Kolhapur is known for its contribution to social justice, with the legacy of Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj. However, as part of a carefully orchestrated strategy in the build-up next year’s elections, Kolhapur, as at least 15 districts in Maharashtra has seen the rise of hate speech, hate crimes and systemic communal violence. Police have been reluctant or tardy, though organisations locally in Kolhapur and Citizens for Justice and Peace have been consistently campaigning with the authorities for meticulous registration of FIRs, independent investigations and prosecutions in all these cases.

In recent months, there have been attempts by some individuals and organisations to disrupt social peace in the city. Sabrangindia has reported extensively on the recent violence starting June 5, a 16-year-old minor boy from Kolhapur shared a video on his Instagram account featuring pictures of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan. Tensions mounted the next day and despite the registration of the FIR against this individual, unchecked by the police and administration saw a majoritarian mob gathering and calling for a “shut down” of the city. The protests created a tense atmosphere and over 30,000 people gathered at the Shivaji Chowk. Stone-pelting against targeted Muslims and their shops including vandalizing them was allowed initially unchecked by the wider community. Thereafter a peace rally was organised and then on Sunday, June 25, the occasion of Shahu Maharaj’s birth anniversary, the city of Kolhapur, also the city that gave us rationalist, Dr Govind Pansare, witnessed a march for peace and harmony: sadbhavna or goodwill marked the rally which aimed at promoting unity in a district recently wrecked by communal violence, targeting the minorities.

Clearly the hate and divisive experiment has not stopped. Detailed documentation of the recent incidents by the FFC show this. Identities of the professors and teachers targeted have been concealed as a measure of protection.

The first incident takes place a day after the abovementioned incident on June 8, 2023 itself. On that day, at the Kolhapur Institute of Technology, Gokul Shirgaon, Kolhapur, a woman professor in the college was asked to take a ‘value education’ class. After the class started, some students started a discussion on the topic of ‘gender discrimination’. They made derogatory statements about the minority community: “Muslims are rapists. Hindus are never involved in any kind of riots. Babri Masjid was demolished by order of Supreme Court, etc.” The professor responded with a clear stand regarding these statements, based on facts: “Rape is not limited to any religion or caste. Rapists have no religion or caste. Rape is the most heinous form of crimes against women.”

It is clear that the question-answer session was carefully planned. Some of the students secretly filmed the video of her talk, edited it (read doctored it) and posted it on social media. The video went viral. Based on this doctored clip, some Hindutva-alligned organizations put pressure on the college management and the professor, demanding action against her. They threatened to stop the examinations if no action was taken. They demanded that she render a public apology and insisted that she should publicly apologise, in open, at Shivaji Chowk, Kolhapur.

Succumbing to the pressure, according to the letter issued on June 16, 2023 regarding this incident, disciplinary action was taken against the professor. Without investigating who did the filming in the class without permission, who contributed to distorting it and spreading it, the institute sent the professor on compulsory leave. However, despite this, the professor flatly refused to apologise.

Progressive women in Kolhapur, as well as other progressive youth organisations, met the management of the institute. They argued that the     professor had not violated the discipline of the college in any way. They demanded that the action against the professor be withdrawn, that she should be reinstated in service immediately; the matter be investigated impartially, and that action be taken against the students who doctored and disseminated the video. This issue was also discussed at the national level, with the ‘India Academic Freedom Network’ and other organisations releasing leaflets supporting her.

Even after that, the management advised her to apologise, but she refused. The institution then asked her to ‘work from home’ for a few days. At the end of the forced leave period at the end of the semester she was allowed to re-join service only on August 21, 2023.

Six weeks later, on July 17, 2023, at the Vivekananda Education Society, Kolhapur (reference, Daily Lokmat, Kolhapur. July 18, 2023, there was a controversy over the hijab. A teacher asked a student wearing a saffron to leave the class. Subsequently, angry students argued and asked why Muslim girls were allowed to sit in class wearing the hijab. This created an atmosphere of tension in the college premises for some time. Students mobilized and organized protests in large numbers, in front of the college office, with students shouting slogans such as “Jai Shri Ram”. Police were also called in to calm the students. No information was given by the college administration regarding this incident, but the video of students sloganeering went viral on social media. The college has not taken any action.

Three days later, on July 21 at the Dattajirao Kadam Arts, Science and Commerce College, Ichalkaranji another controversy over religious dress: (Reference: Lokmat News Network 22.07.2023). That morning,

reportedly, two students came to Dattajirao Kadam ASC College wearing saffron scarves. They were stopped at the entrance by security guards and teachers. They confiscated the scarves and asked the students to retrieve them on their way out from college. After this information spread, some students argued that other religions were allowed certain garments, why not them. At this time, some college students wearing hijab were also stopped at the entrance. As soon as the information about this spread, supporters of both the communities gathered outside the college in large numbers, sloganeering started and tensions rose.

As soon as the information about this incident came to light, Deputy Superintendent of Police Sameer Singh Salve, Inspector Raju Tashildar, Satyawan Hake, Pravin Khanpure reached the spot along with the Rapid Action Force.

A large crowd from both sides had gathered in the petrol pump area in front of the college. A stampede broke out as the police used lathi charge to disperse the crowd. There was a big traffic jam on the Kolhapur Road as this was going on in the main road itself. Deputy Superintendent Salve, Principal Dr. Anil Patil, supporters of both the communities held a meeting    at which accusations were hurled. The college administration bought time by announcing that they would discuss it with their senior officers and take a decision. Police security was deployed in front of the college throughout the day.

Hindutva organizations have warned of protests in front of the college if the college administration did not take a proper decision on religious dress by the next Monday, that is July 24, the organisations said they would stand outside the college and distribute saffron scarfs to all the youth entering the college. This did not actually happen, but there is an uneasy calm in the town.

Then comes the incident at the Seventh-Day Adventist School this time in Kolhapur. On August 4, 2023, during a school examination, a student wrote ‘Jai Shri Ram’ on the answer sheet. As per the examination rules, no writing/ picture can be drawn on the answer sheet which will show identification. The teacher told the boy not to do so, but the boy became very aggressive. He then urged other students to write ‘Jai Shri Ram’ on their answer sheets. The teacher, herself a Hindu, got angry and punished the boy. This news “mysteriously” reached a mob of 40-50 men, conveniently waiting outside who, as soon as the school was over, barged into the school and demanded that the school management apologies for punishing the student. There was loud sloganeering and banging of doors.

Inspector Ajay Sindkar of Shahupuri Police Station intervened and held a meeting between the school administration, Hindutva activists and parents. In this meeting, the school administration promised to act against the concerned teacher.

Amidst a tense situation in the school, the next day the school management, teachers and some other people met former Shiv Sena MLA Mr. Rajesh Kshirsagar and discussed the incident with him. No concrete conclusion was reached during this discussion. Mr. Rajesh Kshirsagar explained to the teachers to calm down and asked the school management not to escalate the matter. He said that since he was very ‘positive’ about the school, and he would not escalate the issue if the concerned teacher was asked to resign. When the parents of the concerned child were called by the school, they said that they had no complaint, and they only wanted their child to study further. When the said incident took place, police security was also provided in the school for two days. The management did not come forward to take concrete action by filing a police complaint against the mob entering their school.

When the fact-finding committee met the school administration, the administration behaved very politely. But they were not eager to talk. The following points emerged from the discussion:

  1. Seventh-day Adventists have many branches in Maharashtra and in Incidents of this nature are occurring in many of them.
  2. This is an attempt to disturb and de-stabilise the
  • Many parents have met the teachers and administration of the school and expressed their They also hoped that this  should not affect the students.
  1. The mob demanded that the school put up pictures of national and political leaders in the school. After that, such photos have been put up everywhere in the school.
  2. Seventh-day Adventists school management has advised a wait-and- watch policy for some time to calm the situation. Therefore, the teacher concerned has been advised to remain on leave till further
  3. According to the information received by the committee, on another occasion, when a cleaning staff was called to mop water spilled in the corridor, the children asked her what religion she belonged to. When told that she is a Christian, the students insisted she chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’. Also, ‘Jai Shri Ram’ was written on all the school boards. When asked if this information was true, the administration    categorically denied that it had happened.

Similar attempts have been made to vitiate the atmosphere and disturb the peace in many colleges of Rayat Shikshan Sanstha. To discuss the matter, the fact-finding Committee met Ms. Saroj Patil, General Body Member of Rayat Shikshan Sanstha. The facts that emerged about various colleges under the Rayat Shikshan Sanstha umbrella are as follows.

The first such institution is the Rajarshi Chhatrapati Shahu College, Kolhapur. On August 12, 2023, Ms. Saroj Patil was chairing a meeting of the College Development Committee (CDC) when a group of 20-25 boys entered the room by kicking the door open. Among them, nine students belonged to the college hostel. All of them wore saffron scarves around their necks and saffron marks on their foreheads. When asked how they came in without permission, they became aggressive and started an argument about hostel facilities. The administration had explained to the students that the hostels were being repaired and thus no hostel admissions would be given this year. On being persuaded, some hostel facilities were provided to the needy students in a long corridor. The Hindutva organisation decided to use this issue to enter the CDC meeting and   create a ruckus. The college administration was clear that they were unable to offer facilities this year and had informed the students. Ms. Patil told the FFC that she intervened on behalf of the students who apologised and are now continuing to stay and study in the college.

Then there is the Pandit Nehru Vidhyalay and Junior College, Rayat Shikshan Sanstha, Kavlapur, Sangli District. On the day of the farewell ceremony of class 10, the students gave a Ganesha image to the staff. Chandrayaan-3 mission was launched on July 14, 2023. On the second day, in the backdrop of Chandrayaan-3 launch on July 15, 2023, a discussion was held among women professors on the scientific progress of the country and theism in the college staffroom. At that time, a female professor removed the Ganesha image from the staff room, taking the stand that it is not appropriate to have images of deities of any religion in the educational institution as per the ordinance of the Rayat Sanstha. The teacher concerned told the FFC that since the headmaster Mr. Mulla was on vacation acting headmaster Mr. Gaikwad was in-charge. After that, on July 17, July 25 and August 22, 2023, groups of Hindutva-inclined youth and villagers came to the college three times and put pressure on the institution against the teacher. They demanded that she should apologise, and the school should take action against her and transfer her with immediate effect. The teacher refused to apologise.

Gram Sabhas were also held on this question in the school premises. Various groups in the village used this incident to create pressure in the institution and mobilise villagers by giving a religious colour to the matter.  Discussion about Hindu-Muslim relations are ongoing in the village, in schools, and colleges. The concerned teacher is having to live under extreme mental stress. The FFC also found that Principal Mulla was transferred from the college to “maintain peace” in the village.

Thereafter, it is the Ms. Saroj Patil and Principal Dr. Manjushri Bobde from the Yashwantrao Chavan College, Pachwad, Satara, who met with the FFC about an incident that took place on August 9, 2023, August Kranti Day. A lecture was organised on August Kranti Din August 9, 2023 at the college, the guest speaker, made some remarks in his speech about the stories related to Hanuman are from the puranas (Hindu mythology and folklore). In the same speech he also referred to Comrade Govind Pansare’s book ‘Who was Shivaji?’, and tried to explain the importance and work of Shivaji Maharaj. Some of the students present at the lecture were Hanuman devotees and their feelings were allegedly hurt. They became agitated and objected to the speech of the guest speaker. The vice principal calmed them down and “apologized” to the students.

When this happened a teacher in the college commented that most students copy and pass their exams and they should stop doing this and instead read Comrade Govind Pansare’s ‘Who was Shivaji?’ On the second day, a mob of villagers and former students came together and demanded that she apologise for mentioning Shivaji in the singular, without according to him the status of Majesty. (This is a sore point with Hindutva organisations with activists claiming Shivaji Maharaj as a much-loved leader and ruler and Hindutva organisations according to him the title of Emperor).

At this time the sub-inspector of Pachwad village and the husband of the teacher was also present. She refused to apologise, stating that she only mentioned the book and did not refer to Shivaji Maharaj in the singular. Interestingly the Sub-Inspector of Police wrote to the college to take disciplinary action against the teacher. The college authorities have since forwarded the letter to the Rayat Shikshan Sanstha, “for further action.”

This incident was discussed at the Rajarshi Chhatrapati Shahu College, Kolhapur with the concerned professor.  Speaking of the incident at the Chhatrapati Shahu College, the concerned professor said that she had not gone back to college since the incident more than three weeks back and has reported sick. The FFC met Dr. Laxman Kadam the principal of the college. Information obtained from discussions with them is as follows:

The college administration had decided to make special efforts to ensure that students maintain discipline in the college premises. On August 17, 2023 at 12.30 p.m. the senior college professor was checking the dress code and identity card of all students when she noticed a student outside the classroom. She asked him in which class he studied and to show his identity card as it was not visible as he was wearing a saffron scarf. After telling the student that he should not come wearing such a scarf because the identity card is not visible and that the discipline of the college should be followed, he yelled at her and left the premises.

After that, in the staff meeting held around 1.30 pm, Principal Dr. Laxman Kadam said that when some Hindutva organisations came to meet him with complaints, he came to know about the incident. The professor clearly said that it was only a disciplinary matter.

Dr. Kadam told the FFC that a large group of Hindutva organisations came to meet him and barged into his office. They started shouting slogans. The principal called the police and pacified the crowd. The group demanded    that they be told of the dress code regulations of the college.

They repeatedly argued, asking if there were different rules for Hindus and Muslims. Hijab and cap are allowed, but why not saffron scarf, they asked. The principal told them that it is mandatory for students to adhere to the dress code (no jeans, shorts etc) with the prominent display of the identity card. There was no problem if students wore saffron scarves or any other clothing like saffron scarfs, Hijab or skull caps, the issue was that the identity card was not prominently displayed by the student. The mob demanded that the principal produce professor Mulani asking for her to apologize to them. The principal flatly refused.

Dr. Kadam said that three groups of different Hindutva organisations came to meet him and demanded an apology from the professor. Dr. Kadam decided to apologise on her behalf but they were not satisfied. After that, Shri. Ravikiran Ingwale of the Shiv Sena came there and took a stand in favour of the institution. (Note: Mr Ingawale took the opposite position in the KIT college case, described earlier in this report). Mr. Ingawale was allowed to meet the professor. He told her that if she wanted to work in the college, she would have to stop telling Hindus to adhere to a dress code. He told her she may go work elsewhere and insisted that the principal send her on forced leave. The college has decided that it is better to calm the situation and have issued a memo to the professor. She is presently on compulsory leave. The principal has advised the Rayat Shikshan Sanstha to transfer her with immediate effect. The professor is nearing retirement.

The last incident documented is at the Chandrabai-Shantappa Shendure College, Hupari, Kolhapur. A professor in the college put out a social media post about Adv. Prakash Ambedkar laying flowers on Aurangzeb’s grave and saying that since injustice is being done to both the Muslims and Dalits, they should unite. As Hupari village is very sensitive on all matters communal, it got a very negative reaction from the villagers. Principal Bhosale was surrounded by a mob and a case was registered against the professor. There was a demand to transfer the teacher with immediate effect. The institute   has transferred the teacher.

The fact-finding team, in its meeting with the Collector has recommended that

  • An independent committee be appointed to conduct an impartial inquiry into these incidents.
  • Strict action be taken against those found
  • Launching of a helpline to respond to complaints and also reach out immediately to affected parties in case of such

In its detailed analysis, the report states that 

  1. The incidents that took place in the months of June -August 2023 in various educational institutions in Kolhapur and Sangli districts are not isolated occurrences. They are predetermined and have a pattern of direct intervention by external elements in educational
  2. Educational institutions have become targets of Hindutva groups and
  3. There is a deliberate attempt to create tension and rifts on religious lines among students, their parents, and general citizens by targeting educational
  4. In these educational institutions, the main intention is to create pressure on the management. It must be noted that it is mainly women teachers who are being targeted. Many teachers are sent on forced leave or transferred under pressure without due process or even a simple
  5. Many concerned teachers/administrations have expressed the opinion that tension is being created in this manner in view of Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections coming up in
  6. The role of the police is not balanced. Their bias towards the majority Hindutva organizations was

The women who are part of this unique effort, WPFP are Dr. Megha Pansare, Shramik Foundation Tanuja Shipurkar, Mahila Dakshata Samithi Rehana Mursal, Meena Seshu, Sangram Sanstha Bharti Powar Seema Patil, Andha Sradha Nirmulan Samithi Smita Vadan, Muskan Sudha Patil, Muskan Pranita Mali, Maharashtra Minority Christian Development Council Anupriya Kadam, Vidhrohi Sanskritic Chalwal Kiran Deshmukh, Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad Charushila Patil, Jijau Brigade Ranjana Patil, Jijau Brigade Hema Desai, Jijau Brigade Alka Deepak Devlapurkar, Anandi Mahila Jagruti Sanstha Jayashree Kamble, Avani Institute Pushpa Kamble, Ekti sanstha Deepa Shipurkar, Aman Foundation Alka Devlapurkar, Anandi Mahila Jagruti Sanstha Anuradha Mehta, Dalit Mitra Bapusaheb Patil Library Sarika Bakre, Swayamprabha Manch Ulka Yadav, Mahila Dakshata Samithi Ashwini Jadhav Manisha Warang-Ranmale Dr. Bharti Patil Tabsum Imran Malladi Tajnum Jameer Mole | Nasim Chikode Series Sheik Yasmin Desai Farzana Shaikh Manisha Brihaspati Shinde Meena Tashildar Shubda Hiremath Hemlata Patil Munira Shikalgar Ashwini Jadhav Malika Sheikh

The FFC also received preliminary information about the incidents from the social workers Mrs. Pranita Mali and Mrs. Seema Patil, Kolhapur.


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