January Print Issue
For the first time, Tata Institute of Social Sciences campus, Mumbai, hosted a prom night. The event was organized by the student’s union on 23rd December 2015. The color scheme for the costumes was red & black. It was organised with proper prior permission, on a ghostly abandoned basket ball court, which has not been functional because of lack of funds to repair the baskets. The event, with its aura of romantic lights and blessed with photogenic couples, witnessed a large turnout of students and was deemed a success for the organizers. Students, who normally don’t even brush for class, took time to dress up and orchestrate their attires for the special prom night.
Last year in February, another event was organised, which was canceled in the last minute. The reasons given were varied, beginning with the absence of permission for the space by the student organizers and then labeling the event as “un-academic” according to articles published in newspaper daily Mumbai Mirror.
The event was a talk by Arun Ferreira, a civil right activist. He was due to recite excerpts from his work, “Colors of the Cage”, which describes his four and a half years in prison, awaiting trial under 11 charges of Naxalism and sedition. Ferreira was acquitted of all these charges in 2014. Last month, he joined the ranks of criminal lawyers in Mumbai, after completing his degree from Siddharth Law College. He is now working with advocate Suresh Rajeshwar. Along with Rajeshwar, he is now part of the Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) and Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR).
The book chronicles his jail time and lists his inhumane treatment. Ferreira was beaten black and blue. And, now as he dons the black advocate’s coat, it must surely come tinged with the red of blood. . Ferreira writes in his prison memoir ‘Colors of Cage’:
‘To make me more amenable to their demands, they stretched out my body completely, using an updated version of the medieval torture technique of drawing (though there was no quartering). My arms were tied to a window grill high above the ground while two policemen stood on my outstretched thighs to keep me pinned to the floor. This was calculated to cause maximum pain without leaving visible injuries. Despite these precautions, my ears started to bleed and my jaws began to swell.“
Who decides which reds and blacks are academic and which are otherwise? Is it the students or the administration? It seems that as long as the event is politically apathetic, it is approved. The only events unquestioned are the ones which do not rock the political boat. And these events can take place in an academic space with or without the government’s influence.
A gathering can itself act as bridge between academic and non-academic spaces. It all depends on whether it is the hormonal excitement of a prom or the intellectual stimulation of a talk. But this maun hormone, gets excited only to please the status quo. It seems all we have left is to choose between the red, of anger, passion, love, torture and the black of the costumes whether for prom or for the courts.