These last couple of days turned out to be distressingly disturbing for each and every Aam JNU student like me. Even innocuous acts like logging onto one’s own facebook account became a cause of excruciating agony and gut-wrenching disgust.
Overnight a Central University of National and International repute was declared anti-National, and anti-social.
The print and electronic media were torrentially inundated with hashtags Shutdown JNU, Cleanup JNU and the like. Folks, who would rather get irritated with the National Anthem playing before the movies in multiplexes, than standing up for mere 52 seconds, became ‘self-declared Desh-Bhakts’, taking onto themselves the onus of a new wave of ethnic cleansing, that of JNU and its deshdrohi vidyarthis; without even verifying the turn of events and the actors involved.
It was a classic example of the Domino effect. A single comment or tweet opened the floodgates for millions more. Hurling abuses at JNU and its students became symbolic of displaying one’s own patriotic instincts. If you weren’t engaging in JNU bashing, you were as much of a deshdrohi as them.
This was the dominant scene ever since that fated day of February 9, 2016 when a students’ organisation called DSU (Democratic Students Union) had gathered in front of the (in)famous Sabarmati Dhaba on the campus for a cultural event protesting against the judicial killing of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat and in solidarity with the struggle of Kashmiri people for their democratic right to self-determination.
The programme called ‘A Country without a Post Office’ intended to showcase the protest through poetry and music, was attended by Kashmiri people from within and outside the campus and became the site of the alleged anti-India sloganeering; following which a case of sedition was lodged against several students and they were booked under IPC Sections 124A (sedition), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (acts done by several persons with a common intention).
Subsequently, JNU Students Union (JNUSU) President Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested after ‘videos of his alleged involvement’ surfaced and has been in custody ever since.
This has been the dominant, rather the popular face of the JNU Row, until recently.
In a country engulfed in the tolerance-intolerance debate over the past few months, tolerance for an insider or a Pro-JNU position seemed abysmally low. Scores of primetime news debate shows were driving their channel’s TRP with a deafening display of their outrage at this ‘sickular’ university, ungrateful of the ‘taxpayers money’ it runs on.
This one-sided, value loaded interpretation of the turn of events, leading to the targeting of a university of global prestige as a hub of anti-national activities was heart-rending.
Overnight, it was forgotten that the University under question is the same that has given to this nation notable alumni like P. Sainath, Sitaram Yechury, Nirmala Sitharaman, S. Jayashankar and many others, and that distinguished professors like Romila Thapar, Bipin Chandra, Yogendra Singh, T.K. Oommen, etc., adorn its academic profile.
However, in a marked departure from what was expected from all this provocation and despite the onslaught of the countless abuses, scorns and unceasing attempts at silencing the voice of dissent that emerged unequivocally due to this incident, JNUites responded with non-violent means- placards, slogans, articles; basically anything inviting a discussion rather than a debate.
In a historic turnout, over 10,000 students, professors and journalists joined JNU’s Solidarity March at Mandi House, where the supporters were seen as giving red roses to people with counter-viewpoints, suggesting an amicable settlement of this small, yet heavily politicised issue.
This united march — demanding the immediate release of Kanhaiya Kumar and showing the disapproval against the attack on Kanhaiyya and his supporters including journalists, students and professors by lawyers and party goons outside Patiala House Court, just before Kanhaiya’s hearing, not once, but twice, while police were mute spectators — was a huge success and an indicator of the forcefulness of this Students’ Movement and the twist in the tale, likely to happen.
The winds are now beginning to blow in favour of the left bastion. This is evident from the recent turn of events like the surfacing of claims pertaining to ‘doctoring’ of the anti-national videos, resignation of the three members of the RSS students’ wing- Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) of the party’s JNU unit due to ideological fall out and NDTV India’s Ravish Kumar’s telecast questioning media as a site for inciting violence.
This has brought respite to the distraught JNU fraternity and a cause for cheer. The University is being seen taking this incident in a positive spirit by organising classes on Nationalism by eminent historians, cultural programmes like Dastan-e-sedition by Dastangoi, talks and tales.
Today, I speak on behalf of the students of JNU.
Yes, JNU is a politically charged space. Yes, it is the bastion of the left. Yes, there are parchas promoting protests every now and then.
However, we, the students at JNU are all given a choice, a space to see for ourselves and align with any ideology or remain neutral, as we like. JNU is a ‘sanctuary’ where a romance of ideologies occur, yet providing the students with the freedom to negotiate and figure out for themselves; to learn and unlearn.
We are taught not to accept anything uncritically. Dissent is as welcome as assent. We all love and respect our nation as much as our peers do. We might be anti-establishment, but are, in no way, anti-national.
We are not against a fair and a balanced trial because we have nothing to hide, yet what we are against is a Media Trial and Public Trial.
I’m a politically dormant person, with the least bit inclination to join any protest or promote any particular ideology. Yet, today, I speak, not because I’m a leftist or a rightist, a nationalist or an anti-national, but because my University is under attack. And I take it as my foremost duty to protect it and provide it with a chance to be heard too.
JNU deserves to be heard!
This post first appeared in Candid Today: http://www.candidmedia.in/jnu-needs-to-be-heard-too/#ixzz40ytjivBN