CHENNAI               -          A gold medallist in mass communication from Pondicherry University refused to accept her medal during the convocation after she was denied entry into the hall when President Ram Nath Kovind was giving away the awards and certificates.

Rabeeha Abdurehim, who has been vocal about her opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Act, said the special superintendent of police came and asked her to come out of the hall as she wanted to have a word with her. The topper in post-graduate department of mass communication said she was then made to wait outside the convocation hall for over an hour.

“I could hear the President’s speech from outside. I don’t know why they did this. May be because of my opposition to CAA and for having participated in protests over the issue. When I asked the police officers why was I not being allowed to take part in the event, they said they were not sure, but the SSP wanted it this way,” Rabeeha said, adding she heard the men in uniform discuss in whispers that she may be a “suspect”.

When Rabeeha was finally allowed in after Kovind left the venue, she accepted the certificate, but refused to take the medal as a mark of protest. She said it was a big insult to her and her community and expressed hope that her act of rejecting the medal would convey a strong message to the Centre.

“As a protest against all that is happening against students in India right now, I’m rejecting the gold medal. It was an insult to me and every student fighting against whatever is happening right now. This is my way of protest and it was in solidarity with all the students around India… With every boy, girl, Muslim, Hindu and every Indian out there fighting against CAA and NRC (National Register of Citizens),” she told News18.

Two other gold medallists — Karthika and Arun Kumar — voluntarily skipped Monday’s convocation as they said they did not want to receive the award from Kovind who recently gave his nod to the CAA and enabled it to become a law. Another student did not turn up for the event reportedly citing the same reason.

Sources in the police department said the administration was wary that she might raise slogans in front of the President or reject the award. Some reports also suggested that Rabeeha was asked to remove her hijab and when she refused to so, she was asked to stay out of the hall.

However, the university authorities said there was no question of not allowing her inside the convocation hall and they had no idea why Rabeeha was asked to stay out of the event.

Registrar B Chitra told News 18, “We don’t know why she was asked to leave. We were busy with the event and we were not able to check with police on what happened. There was no question of allowing a student as she had registered for it and was allotted a seat and given the convocation attire. She would not have been allowed inside the campus had the university not want her to attend the event.

“In fact, after the event came to an end, I went looking for her, but was not able to find her. I wanted to console her for whatever happened. I don’t know if police officers sent her out. We have students from different states, including the northeast where the NRC is a burning issue. We don’t differentiate among students based on religion. We will surely look into this and see what happened in this case,” she said.

Puducherry Superintendent of Police Ravikumar said, “The statements made by Rabeeha are false. She first said we asked here to remove her hijab and later, alleged she was discriminated because she was a Muslim. All her allegations are totally false. In fact, it was a Muslim student in hijab who carried the medals on a tray and gave it to the chief guest. If you see the video, you can see the girl throughout the event.

“The child (Rabeeha) was a part of the student council headed by SFI (Students’ Federation of India). So the university did not want any unnecessary drama during the event as it was the president’s first visit. The university wanted the function to be a smooth affair and might have not wanted her (presence). However, the student was allowed in later. Few other students were also asked to stay out, but this girl alone made it an issue. I was there throughout and I can tell you the allegations made by her are totally false.”