Thampu vs Samosa controversy: St Stephen's alumni and faculty slam treatment of Rohtas

Amidst, or rather, despite all the turmoil and chaos in National Capital, it appears St Stephen's College principal Valson Thampu's battle with the samosa refuses to go away.

The latest development is that 33 members of the college faculty have signed a letter to the principal dissociating themselves from his actions in the aftermath of 'samosa-wallah' Rohtas' demise.

Firstpost acquired a digital copy letter from Laal Sitara, a closed Facebook group described as "The Official Group of the St Stephen's College Alumni Executive" and is reproducing it here in its entirety:


 Thampu vs Samosa controversy: St Stephens alumni and faculty slam treatment of Rohtas



Not to be outdone, Thampu, simultaneously, issued an addendum to the agenda for the 235th governing body meeting that included an interesting point (circled below). Nandita Narain and Sangeeta L Sharma (see above) were the first and seventh names respectively on the letter addressed to Thampu. And now he is taking them to the governing body for organising a 'trespass' of the college campus.


Meanwhile, alumni Sanjeev Bikhchandani and Rohit Bansal wrote to fellow alumni in a bit to invoke trustees to wake up to the injustices being perpetrated on the campus of their alma matter:

Subject – Rohtas, the College Dhaba and its continuity

Dear Diljeet and Deepak,

We write to you in your capacity as Trustees of the Alumni Foundation of St Stephen’s College, Members of the Governing Body of St Stephens College and you Diljeet as a Member of the Supreme Council of St. Stephen’s College.

And we are writing in our capacity as former Trustees of the Alumni Foundation of St. Stephen’s College, as concerned alumni of the College and as your well-wishers.

We would like to set a few facts on record so as to clarify any confusion about who acted to support Rohtas and who did not and when and how.

The following annexures are attached to this email :

Annexure 1 – Note on the Rohtas issue by the Principal Reverend Valson Thampu as attached to an email sent to Justice Manmohan Sarin President of the Alumni Foundation dated November 18, 2012. The entire note is relevant for it outlines the reasons for the personal vendetta against Rohtas.

Annexure 2 – Email exchange between the undersigned of November 27 2012 upon perusal of the note mentioned in Annexure 1. The most relevant extract of this email exchange is Sanjeev’s comment.  “No but I was listening when both DM and VT said that if we don’t sack Rohtas now then VTs term will be over and then how will he get sacked.”

Annexure 3 – Email exchange between Diljeet and Rohit with Deepak and Sanjeev being copied. The key learning from this is that Diljeet was unsympathetic to Rohtas’ plight, was unwilling to formalize his presence on campus and was hiding behind legal technicalities to defend his stand while referring to Rohtas as a trespasser.

Annexure 4 –  Deepak Mukarji’s email to the other trustees of the alumni foundation wherein you have described the dhaba as illegal and are loathe to formalize Rohtas’s presence on campus through a lease.

Annexure 5 – Note written by Raju Sharma and posted by Sangeeta Luthra Sharma on the Facebook Group Laal Sitara giving some details about how Rohtas was systematically persecuted in the last three years of his life

Annexure 6 – Appeal put out by Ms Nandita Narain on the Facebook Group Stephanians wherein she has alluded to several acts of persecution against Rohtas to financially ruin him including curtailing the products he is allowed to sell, restricting their prices etc.

Annexure 7 – Note put out by the Principal Reverend Valson Thampu on his facebook page wherein he makes disparaging remarks about Rohtas after he was dead.

We write to express our concern about the treatment meted out to Rohtas by the College administration in the last three years of his life (Refer to Annexures 5 and 6 of this letter).

You may recall that in 2012 the Principal and the two of you had wanted to evict Rohtas and the Dhaba from the college campus.  The Alumni and faculty were up in arms (Refer to Annexures 1, 2 3 and 4 of this letter).

It was due to the efforts of some of the Trustees of the Alumni foundation in 2012 that Rohtas had narrowly escaped being evicted from College after eight decades of service to College by him, and his father Sukhiya before him. An event that would have had catastrophic consequences for Rohtas and his family, who are actually quite poor no matter who says what to the contrary. In the run up to the settlement between Rohtas and The Principal and in the weeks after the settlement - the Alumni Foundation had had several meetings, phone calls and email exchanges. The Trustees of the Alumni Foundation had been divided vertically with Justice Sarin, Dr. S Y Quraishi, Bobby Kewalramani, Rohit Bansal and Sanjeev Bikhchandani in support of Rohtas and the Principal and the two of you opposed to providing any kind of relief to Rohtas.

It was the pro Rohtas group of the Alumni Foundation under the leadership of Justice Manmohan Sarin and Dr. S Y Quraishi, ably supported by Bobby Kewalramani that had prevailed upon the Principal and the two of you to spare Rohtas and thus a settlement was reached.

Fortunately we were able to save Rohtas at that time.

After the settlement you, Deepak, had been assigned the responsibility to create and execute a plan that would enable Rohtas to run a financially viable business and continue in  College. We thought you had done that. Certainly if this wasn’t being done you did not tell the Alumni Foundation so.

We were extremely disturbed when we read Mr. Raju Sharma’s post on Laal Sitara after Rohtas passed away, wherein he revealed how Rohtas had been targeted even after we had had a settlement and how he had never been given an opportunity to attain financial viability.

Not only was the settlement not honoured and a model for the financial model of Rohtas not worked out – he was actually harassed and hounded.

Surely the Governing Body member entrusted with helping Rohtas and the legal member of the Governing Body and member of the Supreme Council both of you must have been aware of what was happening.

You will recall, Deepak, that Rohtas had approached me, Sanjeev Bikhchandani, a few days after the settlement and your appointment as the person who would resolve Rohtas’ problems. He had wanted permission to increase the width of his Dhaba by one and a half feet. He said that with this extra width he would be able to fit his charpoy inside the Dhaba at night when he slept. He wanted to do this before winter so that he was not exposed to the bitter Delhi cold in winter. I had brought Rohtas to you and explained the problem to you and you had said you would resolve it. Obviously it did not happen.  Perhaps the Principal did not give permission – do clarify. After reading what Raju Sharma has written I cannot help but think whether that simple act of kindness would have saved Rohtas’ life in 2016.

Deepak, on your advice two days ago, we have done some digging into the identity of those who persecuted Rohtas. It appears that two of them are being awarded with five year employment contracts in the coming few days. Perhaps they did a good job. We understand that there is a Governing Body meeting in the next few days. If any such contracts come up for approval we do hope you will ask probing questions around the issue of Rohtas’s persecution by these two gentlemen and perhaps hold the contracts.

During our inquiry we were told about other ways that Rohtas was harassed. Is it true that his bills for food supplied to the college have not been paid since September 2015? Is it true that College Societies and Clubs have been told that if they order food from the Dhaba for their events their bills would not be cleared by the College? Is it true that Rohtas’ helpers were not allowed into college to bring raw material for the Dhaba and so an ailing Rohtas at his age had to do hard labour from 5AM each morning carrying large sacks of material to the Dhaba? Is it true that to raise the price of a samosa by one rupee from the nine rupees he used to charge he had to plead for months while a cup of tea in the café sells for more than twice that price? Was this a deliberate strategy to drive him to financial ruin? Do clarify because these and other important questions need to be answered.

The role of the Supreme Council is to protect the Christian character of the College. Tell us Diljeet, as Supreme Council member, was the persecution of Rohtas consistent with the values of Christianity? How does it help preserve the Christian character of college to target and victimize a poor defenceless person who you have power over?

Anyhow – Rohtas has gone, possibly before his time. Nothing will bring him back. Perhaps some appropriate competent authority will bring his tormentors to book — we understand that some alumni are actively exploring remedies in this direction. If not then God will certainly punish them.

Diljeet, we have heard that an eviction notice is ready and will be issued to Rohtas’ son the moment he returns from mourning. We understand he has been told this over the telephone by the Estate Officer. And we have heard from a Governing Body member that this is happening under your advice. We hope this is not true but if it is we would request you to not proceed with this course of action.

What we are requesting today is that the two of you revise your opinion on the legitimacy and desirability of the continuance of the Dhaba under the ownership of Rohtas’ family and use your influence (and both of you have plenty of influence with the Principal) to allow Rohtas’ son to continue running the Dhaba. And to  allow him to enlarge his product range and charge a fair price. We are sure you can do it if you decide to.

Best Regards

Rohit Bansal

Sanjeev Bikhchandani

The annexures are reproduced below. Email addresses have been omitted for privacy:

Annexures to the Email From Rohit Bansal and Sanjeev Bikhchandani

So, what do you think?

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Updated Date: Feb 20, 2016 14:48:19 IST