A group of pro-Kannada activists, allegedly belonging to the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (T.A. Narayana Gowda faction), roughed up Ram Rajasekharan, director, Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), here on Thursday.
They threw black paint on him when he arrived to inaugurate a symposium organised by the University of Mysore on the Manasagangotri campus.
The incident occurred around 10 a.m. as soon as Dr. Rajasekharan, who was the chief guest at the international symposium on ‘Chemical biology–drug discovery 2014’, reached B.N. Bahadur Institute of Management Sciences. About 15 to 20 activists barged into the premises and mobbed his car raising slogans against him.
B.S. Vishwanath and V. Ravishankar Rai, senior members of the faculty at the university, who were near the entrance to receive the chief guest, rushed to the rescue of Dr. Rajasekharan along with a couple of CFTRI staff, a few research scholars and students. But they were outnumbered by the protesting group. In the melee, the black paint fell on Prof. Vishwanath and Prof. Rai too.
When Dr. Rajasekharan’s driver sensed trouble, he reversed the vehicle. But the activists, which included a few women, chased the car raising slogans and tried to damage the vehicle.
The university staff, who were present at the venue, said there were only two policemen and they were mute witness to the incident. The activists dispersed before a police team arrived.
The immediate provocation for the attack is an incident which took place on the CFTRI premises a few days ago. An organisation named CFTRI Sahrudaya Balaga wanted to celebrate ‘Kannada Habba’ at the institute’s auditorium. But they were denied permission and the venue of was shifted to Vanaranga at the Rangayana. Some literary and theatre personalities, who attended the programme, expressed anguish over the CFTRI’s decision. The denial of permission was perceived to be an “anti-Kannada” stance of the director.
“I am shocked”, this was how Dr. Rajasekharan reacted to the incident. “I don’t know what to say. They pushed me and dragged me,” he said.
At a press conference later with fellow scientists at his office, Dr. Rajasekharan said, “I kept out non-academic or non-scientific activities from the institute. This annoyed a small group of staff members who were fulfilling their personal interests without discharging their duties. They even threatened me for my action.” He has lodged a complaint with the police.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) K.N. Rajanna recorded his statement. Mr. Rajanna told presspersons that about 20 people were behind the incident and four of them had been arrested.
The Jayalakshmipuram police have booked cases against Praveen Kumar Gowda, district president of the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (T.A. Narayana Gowda faction), and others under nine IPC sections. K.S. Rangappa, Vice-Chancellor, University of Mysore, condemned the incident. “I spoke to Commissioner of Police M.A. Saleem, who has promised to take action against the accused. I will ask the director of B.N. Bahadur Institute of Management Sciences to lodge a police complaint,” Prof. Rangappa said.
Security has been tightened on the CFTRI campus following the incident.