The Narendra Modi-led BJP govern-ment’s economic agenda takes a backseat; and the campus politics is back, once again, reminding only of the days of early 70’s. Is the country drifting towards an emergency like situation? Though its reply may be disputed, but India has become a boiling cauldron of conflicting and perverted politics, casteism and regionalism. Now, total anarchy and intolerance have pervaded the country. It seems that people at the helm of affairs want upper-hand over others, and for that they may go to any extent. They do not hesitate violating the law of the land; disregard the Supreme Court rulings and the Constitution of India.
They are least concerned about real nationalism and patriotism; not bothered about the people who voted them to power and their rights. To grab power they can do anything. The glaring example of this is the recent Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) row. The Central government, throwing all the rules and regulation to the wind, intruded into the affairs of the University and arrested JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar on charges of sedition. And the police, at the behest of Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi, are in search of his companions, who are at large. The BJP government’s version is that during a protest march held against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru on February 9, the students allegedly had raised anti-India slogans. To substantiate their claim, video clippings are being shown in news channels throughout, which are prima facie seemed to be doctored by some vested interests.
The JNU row has drawn world-wide condemnation. A sizeable number of universities, intellectuals, academicians, political leaders and right-thinking people, while deploring the un-thoughtful act, opined that the government should avoid getting trapped in such issues. Expressing solidarity with the students and faculty protesting the government action on campus, they condemned “the culture of authoritarian menace that the present Modi government in India has generated.” Whereas, some blockheads in the ruling party like BJP MLA from Delhi OP Sharma and some lawyers have become over-enthusiastic and to show off their nationalism and patriotism, taken law into their hands and indulged in fist-fight with the agitating students and the media persons. But the Delhi police stood mute spectators of all these incidents, the reason is best known to them only.
Now this fire, ignited by the “so-called nationalists”, has spread to other universities and educational institutions, like Jadavpur University Kolkata. In fact, JNU row is not an isolated spark. The issue of suicide of Rohith Chakravarthi Vemula, a Dalit research scholar, suspended from Hyderabad Central University over a political dispute, allegedly involved by Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani, is yet to die down. Soon after the JNU protests began, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted that anyone shouting anti-India slogans “will not be tolerated or spared.” Singh even claimed that the “JNU incident” was supported by Lashkar-e-Toiba chief Hafiz Saeed.
It is open secret that the BJP government at the Centre wanted to muzzle the voice that contradicts the RSS ideology by slapping sedition charges against them. Recently, the government has issued a circular threatening the striking nurses in Delhi to slap sedition charges against them. It all shows the intellectual bankruptcy of the authorities that be. Notwithstanding the fact, ‘Mr Intelligent’, the honourable Prime Minister of the country, Narendra Modi, did not utter a word about the JNU row so far. In fact, the ‘Silent Saint’ is not in the habit of reacting on issues that plague the nation. It seems that he only opens his mouth to cast aspersions on the Congress and the Gandhi family, whenever he gets the opportunity, otherwise to laud his words and deeds within and while on foreign tours, as he has become a known globetrotter after becoming prime minister. On the contrary, the opposition Congress, the grand old political party of the country, has gone bankrupt of able leaders. It has no capable leader to raise the myriads issues the country is facing. If anybody in the party, like Rahul Gandhi, muster courage to shore up any issue, the (al)mighty ruling party throws its weight around to crush them.
According to reliable political sources, Prime Minister Modi wanted to do good things for the country, but his deputies smartly thwart his efforts, consequently, the JNU issue is born. The sources said the BJP was divided in three factions, though it is not apparent. Hence the anti-Modi factions allegedly put hurdles on the works he proposes and the party has to bear the brunt. Those who are raising the issue of nationalism in regard to the JNU students perhaps are oblivious to the fact that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), an ally of the BJP in Jammu & Kashmir, also protested against the hanging of Afzal Guru. The Modi government came to power with the economic agenda, but it shifted to implementing the hidden agendas of the RSS and that is detrimental to the democratic structure of the nation. It seems that the BJP government has given unwritten powers to the cadres of the RSS, the VHP, the Bajrang Dal and scores of other Hindu bodies to crush religious minorities and other political parties.
At first they have started attacking minority communities like Muslims and Christians. The Dadri mob lynching case in Uttar Pradesh, beating up of a Muslim couple on a train in Madhya Pradesh for allegedly carrying beef; attacks on Christian churches, institutions and congregations and assaulting and killing of pastors, nuns and believers in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and other states; forcible reconversion of Christians and Muslims to Hindu fold are a few ones to count. A right-wing activist Rajeshwar Singh, at a mass conversion event organised in Madhunagar near Agra recently has declared that “Hindu wave has just begun. In 10 years we will convert all Christians and Muslims.” (Published in The Times of India).
After FTII in Pune and HCU in Hyderabad, the saffron brigade is now casting its eyes on the campuses to capture the youth power with the tacit approval of the BJP government and the JNU issue is part of that agenda. While over 500 academics, including JNU alumni, have expressed concern over the JNU affair, a “wider global academic community of friends and comrades” ripped into the incident. They said JNU was “far more than a besieged university campus in India”. JNU stands for a vital imagination of the space of the university – an imagination that embraces critical thinking, democratic dissent, student activism, and the plurality of political beliefs. It is this critical imagination that the current establishment seeks to destroy.
They said, “Patriotism is the last resort of the scoundrels. The current rant against ‘anti-national’ slogans at JNU highlights the abundance of scoundrels among Indian politicians. The notion that there can be only one concept of what constitutes a nation, and that every other view is anti-national, is intellectually empty at best and authoritarian at worst.” One may disagree with the students raising anti-national slogans. But since when have students been a politically correct crowd mouthing patriotic hosannas? In all free societies, students have espoused all sorts of extreme positions, and must be free to do so. That is why they are called free societies.
Unfree societies are different. Communist China crac-ked down on Tiananmen Square and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt cracked down on Tahrir Square. The American students were at the very forefront of opposition to the Vietnam War. They rejected the government’s notion of patriotism. Their right to dissent was not questioned even by those who condemned their views. In 1933, the Oxford Union held a famous debate on the motion, ‘This house will in no circumstances fight for its King and country.’ The Union voted for the motion by 275 votes to 153. This ‘Oxford Pledge’ was later adopted by students at the universities of Manchester and Glasgow. This sent shock waves through Britain. The students were denounced as morons, cowards, anti-nationals and communist sympathisers. But none dreamed of arresting the students for sedition.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) sought to break away from Britain and form a separate Scottish nation. Are SNP leaders jailed for sedition? No. They have an honourable place in society, have been granted one referendum, and may soon get another. Free societies come down hard on those using or inciting violence, but bestow legitimacy on people advocating revolutionary change – even secession – through peaceful means. Free societies do not jail non-violent secessionists, but India does. And that raises the question whether India wants to be a free society. India can hang a Maqbool Bhat for murder, but should not jail a student leader for mere alleged sloganeering, which the latter report says he did not.
BJP President Amit Shah
In a scathing attack on the Congress over the JNU row, BJP national president Amit Shah said Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is unable to draw the distinction between pro and anti national activities. The statements given by Rahul Gandhi and other Congress leaders in JNU amply demon-strate, yet again, that they have neither regard nor love for the nation or its interests, he added. He said this incident at the JNU was nothing but a conspiracy to turn this premier institution of country into a hotbed for separatism and terrorism and bring it bad name.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh claimed that the “JNU incident” was supp-orted by Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed. “I also want to make it clear that the JNU incident has the support of LeT chief Hafiz Saeed. We should also understand this reality that Hafiz Saeed has supported this incident and it is extremely unfortunate,” said Singh, speaking to reporters in Allahabad.
Kiren Rijiju A day after Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh triggered a controversy over police action at JNU, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju said Singh’s statement was based on intelligence inputs which could not be shared in public. “Intelligence inputs indicate clearly that Hafiz Saaed and related organi-sations support the incident. The home minister has made a statement based on intelligence inputs,” Rijiju told reporters.
Taking an aggressive stand on the turmoil, Shiv Sena said all politicians who support the students’ agitation should be stripped off their ‘elected status’ and those raising slogans against India put behind bars. An editorial in the party mouthpiece ‘Saamana’ said the JNU campus has now become a hub of not only anti-nationals, but of Pakistani and Chinese agents, who are indulging in anti-national activities on government’s money.”
RSS leader Dattatreya Hosabale RSS leader Dattatreya Hosabale alleged that it was the result of a “conspiracy” and those who raised slogans in support of Pakistan and Afzal Guru are “traitors” and should be charged with treason. Students participating in such sloganeering must be dealt with strictly, he said. Hosabale alleged that the JNU event was a result of a “conspiracy”.
All India Congress Committee
In a befitting reply to Shah’s statement, the All India Congress Committee said that the RSS, the BJP and their student wing ABVP claim they are the fountainhead of ‘nationalism’. The fact is when the British were brutally suppressing India’s freedom fighters, the only people the British could bank on were RSS ideologues like Veer Savarkar. It was RSS’s poisonous ideology that eventually claimed the life of Mahatma Gandhi.
At a party meeting in Assam’s Sonitpur district, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi attacked the BJP and the RSS, saying they wanted to control everyone’s views and follow the agenda of creating divide and hatred among people. He said, “BJP and RSS have no respect for the diversity of the nation’s culture and sentiments of the people. They just want that everybody follow their views. They find terrorism everywhere, even in universities and brand anybody who does not agree with their views as terrorists.”
Hitting back at BJP chief Amit Shah for attacking Rahul Gandhi over the JNU row, Congress chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala said those once “externed by the Supreme Court over criminal charges” should not teach patriotism to the Congress, which has played a “stellar role” in freedom movement. Surjewala told reporters “it is ironical that those who are ‘inheritors of the thought process of Nathuram Godse’ are giving new definition to patriotism and love for the nation.”
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury launched a stinging attack on right-wing outfits for allegedly labelling Left parties as “anti-national” forces, saying there can’t be a “bigger” farce than “Godse-worshippers” putting out certificates on nationalism.
Parliament attack victims demand stringent action
Meanwhile, chairman of All-India Anti-Terrorism Front Maninderjit Singh Bitta along with the kin of Parliament attack victims demanded stringent action against the students allegedly involved in the “anti-national act” in the JNU. They also threatened to protest if no action was taken against those guilty of holding an event in support of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru on the JNU campus.
“We demand stringent action against those who had raised slogans against India, the judicial hanging of terror convict Afzal Guru, in support of Pakistan and demanded freedom of Kashmir. “They have insulted the sentiments of those families whose sons, brothers or husbands have sacrificed their lives during the 2001 Parliament attack,” Bitta told reporters here.
He said there was a need to find out those who were supporting the students. “Has the Government become so weak that it is not able to find who among 50 students had raised pro-Pakistan slogans?” Bitta said, adding that he will meet Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and JNU Vice Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar along with the martyrs’ family. (Inputs from agencies)
Former CPI (M) general secretary Prakash Karat attacked the Narendra Modi Government alleging that it “directed the crisis” at JNU and was attempting to impose ideological hegemony on varsities in the country. “Ever since the Modi Government came to power, universities across the country have been under siege. There have been constant attempts to impose ideological hegemony on universities,” said Karat during his visit to protest-hit JNU.
Nitish Kumar Bihar
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar attacked the Centre on the arrest of JNU Students’ Union president on sedition charge saying it was “too much of a design” to impose the ideology of ABVP, the student wing of the RSS, on the nation. It was “like imposing Emer-gency” in the country, he added.
BSP President Mayawati alleged the NDA government had branded JNU as “anti-national” to implement the “extreme and offensive agenda” of the RSS and termed as “political conspiracy” the arrest of JNU Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar on sedition charges.
Social activist Swami Agnivesh alleged that attempts were being made by ABVP, RSS and BJP to defame the “highest traditions of JNU” as their student’s wing was defeated in the campus elections. “It is totally wrong and such dirty acts should not have any place in politics. The incident of Hyderabad’s Central University is being re-played in JNU,” he said.
Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi Justifying the arrest of JNU SU President Kanh-aiya Kumar, Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi claimed that he had raised anti-national slogans during the controversial event in the campus but said police have so far found “no evidence linking the LeT” to the incident. “Kanhaiya was present at the event, where he delivered a speech and participated in an unlawful assembly which indulged in anti-India sloganeering. It was because of his involvement, and the evidence we have collected so far, that he has been arrested under charge of sedition,” Bassi said.
*Samuel Mathai is editorial advisor Mitaan Express
& Founder of Inquest Bhopal