Pondicherry Student Denied College Entry; Rejects Gold Medal
Rabeeha Abdurehim, a gold medallist in Mass Communication from Pondicherry University rejected the medal after she was denied entry in the hall when President Ram Nath Kovind was giving a speech on the convocation ceremony that took place on Monday. President Kovind was also giving away awards and certificates after he delivered his speech.
The special superintendent of police allegedly asked her to go out when the president arrived on the pretext of wanting to talk to her. Then she was made to wait outside for an hour. This reportedly happened ostensibly because of her opposing views on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
“I could hear the President’s speech from outside. I don’t know why they did this. Maybe because of my opposition to CAA and for having participated in protests over the issue.
When I asked the police officers why was I not being allowed to take part in the event, they said they were not sure, but the SSP wanted it this way,” Rabeeha said, adding she heard the men in uniform discuss in whispers that she may be a “suspect,” News 18 reported. After President Kovind’s speech he left the hall, Rabeeha was finally allowed and when her name was announced to give away her certificate and the gold medal, she refused to accept the medal and only took the certificate as a mark of protest against the denial of entry and the brutality students across the country have been meted out for protesting against CAA-NRC.
“I rejected the medal in solidarity with every student protesting against CAA and NRC. They kicked me out because they feared I would do that. #resistNRC #resistCAA,”
Later, Rabeeha took to Facebook and wrote about the incident, “I have dreamt often about the moment I would receive my gold medal and master’s certificate fondly. Never did I imagine it would end up being a way in which I could send a strong peaceful message across India. As a woman, as a student, as an Indian, today in my graduation I reject the gold medal that is awarded to me in solidarity with all the students and public of India who are fighting against CAA and NRC in India. This is my way of showing the world what education means to us youth, not medals and certificates but learning the message of unity, peace and standing up against injustice, fascism and bigotry.
And even though (for ‘unknown’ reasons) I was sent out of the auditorium where 100s of students sat awaiting their medals when the president came and was only allowed inside when he left, I feel at peace for the fact that I was able to take a stand as an educated youth.”
She also corrected false allegations going around in the media saying that she was asked to remove her scarf, she said, “I have been seeing news which says I was asked to remove my scarf. That is false. No one asked me to remove anything. No one told me why I was kept outside.”
In another post, she clarified her position on rejecting the medal. “I rejected the medal in solidarity with every student protesting against CAA and NRC. They kicked me out because they feared I would do that. #resistNRC #resistCAA,” she wrote.
However, the college administration was clueless as to why she wasn’t allowed in the hall in the presence of President Kovind.
“We don’t know why she was asked to leave. We were busy with the event and we were not able to check with police on what happened. There was no question of allowing a student as she had registered for it and was allotted a seat and given the convocation attire. She would not have been allowed inside the campus had the university not want her to attend the event.
In fact, after the event came to an end, I went looking for her, but was not able to find her. I wanted to console her for whatever happened. I don’t know if police officers sent her out. We have students from different states, including the northeast where the NRC is a burning issue. We don’t differentiate among students based on religion. We will surely look into this and see what happened in this case,” Registrar B Chitra said.
Apart from Rabeeha, several alumni of the university who were also gold medallists boycotted the convocation ceremony in protest of CAA and NRC as the President was attending the event. The student council of the college had urged other students also to avoid the convocation, TNM reported. Reports say that several other students also only accepted their certificates and rejected the medals in solidarity with Rabeeha.
“In fact, after the event came to an end, I went looking for her, but was not able to find her. I wanted to console her for whatever happened. I don’t know if police officers sent her out. We have students from different states, including the northeast where the NRC is a burning issue.” says College Registrar
On allegations made by Rabeeha against the police, Puducherry Superintendent of Police Ravikumar said, “The statements made by Rabeeha are false. She first said we asked her to remove her hijab and later, alleged she was discriminated because she was a Muslim. All her allegations are totally false. In fact, it was a Muslim student in a hijab who carried the medals on a tray and gave it to the chief guest. If you see the video, you can see the girl throughout the event.”
He added, “The child (Rabeeha) was a part of the student council headed by SFI (Students’ Federation of India). So the university did not want any unnecessary drama during the event as it was the president’s first visit. The university wanted the function to be a smooth affair and might have not wanted her (presence).”