NEW DELHI: St Stephen's College principal Valson Thampu today said its alumni have no right to "gatecrash" the institution and that he will not risk the security by letting the "trespassers footloose and fancy-free" on the campus.
Thampu made these comments in the wake of a controversy after some alumni including noted historian Ramachandra Guha and Chief Economic Advisor to the government of India Arvind Subramanian were denied entry into the premises to attend a condolence meeting for a popular dhaba owner last week.
"They think that Stephen's is their public thoroughfare! As if someone has conferred on them the birthright to gatecrash the campus. It is a campus where a large number of students lives. I cannot let these trespassers footloose and fancy-free on the campus, risking everything," said Thampu, who has a running battle with a section of alumni critical of him.
"I would have appreciated the hit-and-run organisers of this devious charade if they had announced that the programme was meant to mock the college, to defy the authority of the Principal and to outrage the inviolability of the campus," he said.
Sixty-five-year-old Rohtas, who was loved by generations of Stephen's alumni for his samosa and gulabjamuns, died last week due to tuberculosis and pneumonia. Around 100 alumni of the institution had gathered outside the campus on Saturday for a prayer meet for Rohtas but they were denied entry by the guards.
Rohit Bansal, a former trustee of the St Stephen's College Alumni Foundation Trust who was among those who had gone to pay their tributes to Rohtas, said they were not allowed to go for the prayer meeting and were told to state a different purpose for the visit.
Lashing out at historian Guha, Thampu said, "Guha claimed that I am a fascist because I was not at the gate to usher him in when he came uninvited with the express intention to gatecrash. He and his gang were simply trespassers. No permission was sought to hold any meeting on the college campus by any of them."
Questioning the need to organise a condolence meet for Rohtas, Thampu said, "How come a samosa-wallah is so important? Rohtas' claim to a honorary status is that he supplied samosa and nimbu paani to these persons of privilege. Has anyone felt the need to worship dhabawallas?"
Thampu also claimed former HoD of History department Sagar Dwivedi, who was among those attending the prayer meet, today called him to apologise, saying he did not know that the organisers had not sought permission for it.
Reacting to Thampu's remarks, a few alumni slammed him for his "choice of words" on social media. "What pains me about Valson Thampu's illiterate rants is how little he understands St Stephen's and (he) has done irreparable damage to the uniqueness of the Stephanian ethos," said Amitabha Pande.
Another alumni said, "Thampu has such contempt for people (alumni, dhabbawallas) that it easily can be construed as streak of craziness."
"He is entitled to his brazen and crass views but his choice of words just shows how askance he is from the sentiments of most alumni (sic)," said alumni Shivinder Singh.