A senior official of the Banaras Hindu University who removed an RSS flag from a playground on campus has been forced to quit her post and has also been charged by the Uttar Pradesh police of "insulting religious beliefs".
The RSS, short for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, is the ideological mentor of the ruling BJP.
Kiran Damle, the Deputy Chief Proctor at the Mirzapur campus of the renowned Varanasi-based university, reportedly removed the flag while students affiliated to the RSS were holding a shakha (gathering) on Tuesday morning. The students later held protests on the campus, forcing Ms Damle to quit her post.
Ms Damle's troubles, however, did not end there. After the local RSS unit filed a complaint, the police registered a criminal case against her on charges of insulting religious beliefs.
The stunned official says she was only following rules of the institution. "I asked the shakha members to remove the flag themselves, but they paid no attention. So I picked up the flag and gave it to my peon. When they came after me, I told them that they couldn't hoist the flag at such a sensitive time. When they insisted, I said I would not allow it inside the stadium," she said.
RSS members then staged a protest at the administrative block claiming that Ms Damle's action amounted to disrespecting the flag. "We were in the shakha since 6 am, doing pranayam and yoga. Damleji came and insulted the flag. She said no shakha would be permitted here because we don't favour any community here," said Sanskar, a student at the university.
The protesters also accused Ms Damle of misbehaving with students.
Sources in the university administration told NDTV that they are in talks with senior RSS leaders in Mirzapur to resolve the issue. However, even politicians from the ruling party seem to have taken a stand against Ms Damle.
"Kiran Damle has resigned. I have forwarded this to the Vice Chancellor. We are awaiting a decision. She has accepted her mistake. She said she did it innocently. She said she did not know the RSS flag is so respected. She is ready to give this in written. We did not want things to escalate, but filing an FIR is not in my hands," said professor Ramadevi Nimannapalli , in charge of BHU's South Campus in Mirzapur.
"The RSS has been holding shakhas here for many years now. It was the last wish of (BHU founder) Madan Mohan Malviyaji that any institution started by him should have shakhas. She has insulted his memory," said Ratnakar Mishra, a BJP MLA who visited the campus during the protests.
The opposition Congress lashed out at the RSS. "RSS shakhas should not be held on the campus of educational institutions. In any case, why are outsiders -- including RSS officebearers -- interfering in the affairs of the university," questioned former Congress MLA Lalitesh Pati Tripathi.
(With inputs from PTI)