Islamabad: Students of Pakistan’s Sindh University who celebrated Holi on March 8 were told to submit apologies in affidavits for celebrating the Hindu festival on campus, reported The Express Tribune newspaper.
The chair of the university’s mass communication department, Badar Soomro, was the one who asked for the apology. And perturbed university administration officials are now inquiring into whether what happened was a disciplinary issue or a discriminatory one.
If religious discrimination is established, action will be taken against the concerned official, the university’s vice chancellor (VC) Fateh Muhammad Burfat said. He added that of 10 students who had to apologize, four are Hindu and six are Muslim.
“Sindh University has the highest number of Hindu community staff and students compared to any other university. They all work and study together with Muslims with utmost harmony,” he said.
The incident came to light when one of the students’ affidavits became public. Student Raja Deepak’s affidavit “spread like wildfire on social media”, wrote the Tribune.
“…Those were the days of Holi and friends threw colours of Holi at each other as is the tradition. But this was wrong according to the university’s law and because of which our department’s ID cards were taken away,” reads the affidavit, according to the newspaper.
Soomro, who has been member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan for decades, was taken aback by the insinuation of religious bias.
He told the VC that he took action to maintain administrative discipline and not to deny religious freedom. He added the students had not taken permission for the campus celebration. For any religious or cultural activity the students are supposed to write to the VC or the registrar for permission.
Some students told the Tribune that such rules are only now being followed to the letter. They implied it was religious discrimination.
“When we were new in the university, we saw our seniors celebrating Holi and other religious or cultural activities with complete freedom,” a student claimed.
“The inquiry committee headed by Dean of the Faculty of Law, advocate Jhamat Mal Jethanand, has been given a one-point agenda – to ascertain whether any discrimination took place,” said vice chancellor Fateh Muhammad Burfat at a press conference yesterday.