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Gauhati University Reacts to Scholar Rehna Sultana’s ‘Pro-Pakistan’ Post

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Guwahati, August 17, 2019:

One of the most frequently-asked questions in Assam these days must be: “Is Gauhati University Scholar Rehna Sultana ‘Pro-Pakistan’?”

At a time when communal strife is tearing the nation apart, some rabblerousers continue to add fuel to the fire on social media platforms. The multiple mass shootings across the United States, many of which were allegedly triggered by ‘hate’ spread on the internet, are testimony to the extent of hate and vitriol that can be spread through social media. Rehna Sultana, a Gauhati University P.hD scholar, born in Hajo of Assam, has also often been accused of inciting ‘hate’ on social media.

The scholar has been condemned by some users for attempting to ‘divide people along communal lines’ with her supposedly ‘incendiary’ statements on Facebook.

A few days back, during the occasion of Bakr-Eid, a post by this Gauhati University scholar went viral on social media platforms. The controversial post celebrated the ‘joy of Pakistan’ and eating beef, apparently equating the two.

People were naturally alarmed, as the post, which was circulated in the lead-up to Independence Day, appeared to be an attempt to stir up communal tensions, which are already at an all-time-high after the abrogation of the Article 370.

Speaking on this issue, Gauhati University Vice-Chancellor Mridul Hazarika said that the University authority is not monitoring the students’ social media activities, however, he cautioned that there is a need for students to not get swayed by emotions, and post more sensibly. “However, we will never encourage any anti-india sentiments in the University, and leave it to the State Government and the local Police authorities to punish the culprits”, he said.

Gauhati University General Secretary Nayan Jyoti Goi, said that that the Gauhati University student fraternity is utterly dumbstruck and devastated at the turn of events. “We are saddened because her name is associated with the University. How can she teach with such an anti-nationalist mentality? I, on behalf of the community, condemn her, and we are all utterly and thoroughly ashamed. An Assamese scholar should not be giving such opinions on social media. She has been causing trouble for some time, and urge her to be more careful in the future since she was born in this nation”, the student leader opined.

Reacting to this, a former student of Dibrugarh University said, “This entire incident causes one to wonder, why did she post that ‘status’ during the formulation of the NRC, when relations between the communities is already frayed? Many sections of the media have focused on her mention of ‘beef’, however, the fact that she was hailing the ‘joy of Pakistan’, is being largely ignored.”

Rehna’s intention behind the post is not known, but it clearly indicates that there is a need for people to post is a more mature and level-headed manner on online social platforms.

Although the post has now been deleted, it is entirely possible that the screengrab of it which is still being circulated online, could find its way to radicals.

Moreover, during these sensitive times, the Assam Police administration has been on ‘high-alert’ ever since the Pulwama attacks, when many pro-Pakistan posts surfaced on social media and many of the offenders were arrested. Thus, Rehna’s post has also caught attention of the authorities, and a suo moto case was registered against the scholar at the Jalukbari Police Station in Guwahati.

The incident has created a furore across the State of Assam, and netizens were quick to jump on the throat the scholar, while many came to her defense, citing that the ‘status’ was posted two years ago.

What this incident shows is that there is a need to be more sensitive while posting statements on Facebook, as it is a hotbed and recruiting platform for radical elements such as ULFA and ISIS.

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have become a platform for the spread of communal sentiments, and it has been witnessed that anger that is aroused on social media often spills on over to the ‘real world’. This entire incident raises many questions, such as: Is Sultana a supporter of India living in India? Has her ‘mentality’ changed since she posted the ‘status’ (as many as 3 years ago, as per some sections of the media). These are some questions that the citizenry as well as media should try to get to the bottom of.

Although eating beef, or any other kind of meat, is not a crime, it is indeed cause for alarm when an Indian resident, and that too a scholar, equates it with the “joy of Pakistan”, which continues to maintain tenuous relations with India despite numerous attempts at peace.

Join us as we continue the awareness campaign to preserve the only Ramsar site in Assam which is facing immense threats (A Ramsar site is a wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention). We need your help to preserve this site of great ecological importance. Join the #LetsSaveDeeporBeel campaign and tweet about it, and do tag us on Twitter. It is time to create awareness.

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