Statement from Democratic Teachers Network
We condemn in the strongest terms the police raid upon student hostels in Jawaharlal Nehru University. JNU Students Union President Kanhaiya Kumar, a charismatic voice of the democratic aspirations of students, was lifted by plain clothes police in what appeared to bystanders to be a vigilante attack rather than a police action. Male police have been breaking into and entering hostels including women’s hostels, in a blatant violation of the rule of law.
The fact that a student leader was arrested on charges of sedition, a draconian colonial law intended to break the Indian National freedom struggle, demonstrates the anti-national character of the police and the fascist government directing them. The case was filed directly by BJP MP Maheish Girri, who is proudly taking forward the deadly persecution of marginalised people that has come to characterize BJP MPs and MLAs – other examples include Sangeet Som who incited the Muzaffarnagar riots and the lynch mob against Aqlakh Ahmad (despite himself being a beef exporter), and Ramchander Rao and Bandaru Dattatreya who hounded dalit student Rohith Vemula to death. Further, Kanhaiya has been at the forefront of protests before the MHRD against their shutting down non-NET fellowships for University students, and against their role in the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula.
Is the education of students, the democratization of universities, an anti-national cause? Is it anti-national to oppose the death penalty – which has been abolished by 140 other countries – the majority of countries in the world? Are those countries acting against their own national interests when they abolished death penalty? What kind of nation believes the death of a human being is necessary for national integrity? The particular islamophobic blood-thirsty campaign that the ABVP-RSS and their paid media outlets such as Zee News, etc. are running against Umar Khalid, one of the organisers of the protest meeting at JNU, demonising his Muslim identity, yet again displays their blatant hatred towards anyone who is not a caste Hindu.
This hatred is extended to all those who have been in the forefront of the struggle against Fascism. This falls right in line with the killings of Prof. Kalburgi, Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabolkar, Ujjain University professor Dr. Sabharwal, and many others, by the Sangh Parivar. This is in addition to other acts of vandalism such as the attack on a meeting regarding Justice for Rohith Vemula at Mahatma Gandhi University, Nalgonda, and similar other attacks on protest gatherings at Lucknow University, Ambedkar University, brutal beatings assisted by the police on protesting students at Delhi, etc.
The Haryana Central University in fact even filed FIRs against its own students who had only taken out a candle march in the memory of Rohith, accusing them of “anti-national activities” and has banned all protests in future. The unfolding fascist face of the BJP is also evident when we consider that the last time a JNUSU president was arrested was during the Emergency period from 1975-77. If student leaders can be arbitrarily picked up under colonial laws, another Emergency under these communal fascists is not far away. The general public should realise the growing spread of undemocratic RSS control over every supposedly independent and autonomous space.
The JNU Vice-Chancellor is an example of this trend, being a person who is comfortable attending “science events” organised by RSS-related organization, Vijnana Bharati, despite the profoundly unscientific statements made by RSS members including the current Prime Minister. The VC’s statement about this event reveals both his bias and his ignorance of constitutional law; he seems to not be aware of Article 19 of the Constitution which upholds freedom of speech and association. A constitutional bench of 5 Supreme Court judges has examined the Sedition Act in Kedar Nath Singh vs. State of Bihar (AIR 1962 SC 955), and concluded that comments, “however strongly worded, expressing disapprobation of the actions of Government”, under which Kanhaiya has been charged, “without exciting those feelings which generate the inclination to cause public disorder by acts of violence, would not be penal”. Several other judgments have upheld this distinction between criticism, however strongly worded, and an incitement to “imminent lawless action”. It is notable that Mr. Sangeet Som is more guilty of inciting “imminent lawless action” than anyone else mentioned in this statement.
Over the last one and half years, we have seen planned takeover of Central Institutions by the RSS through either coercion and cooption of the administrative bodies supposed to govern these institutions, or through blatant use of crude force by using the police and their own vigilante groups. Since the current BJP government has come to power, it has been in the news either for the unsuitable appointments to head institutions such as ICHR, FTII; packing positions in the CBI with Gujarat cadre who have protected Modi from being charged for his murderous riot-mongering in Gujarat; or for their unapologetic interference in the functioning of the top institutions in this country to shut down the progressive voices of this country’s institutions.
This includes banning the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC) in IIT-Madras, targeting the ASA students in UoH, abruptly terminating the appointment of Gandhian activist and professor Sandeep Pandey at IIT-BHU, accusing him of absurd charges of being “anti-national” and “naxalite” at the behest of the VC of Banaras Hindu University (known to be an RSS pracharak from Allahabad university), clamping down upon the campus community at Pondicherry University accusing the entire community of “Islamization”, ABVP preventing Siddharth Varadarajan from speaking at Allahabad University etc. All of these instances show a clear disregard for universities as spaces of debate, dialogue and critical thinking spaces. It also demonstrates the policy of intimidation to frighten and silence the voices of students and teachers in the universities who question the status quo. It is time that all the citizens of this country who believe in democracy make their voices heard against this muffling of dissent that is highly detrimental to the democratic functioning of this country.
We demand that the Union Government must take immediate steps to prevent the intimidation of students and to immediately withdraw this patently false case that tramples on Kanhaiya and others’ Constitutional rights. We demand that the police should immediately leave JNU campus, and that all other campuses across the country should be demilitarized, which includes the revoking of all anti-democratic circulars and bans on student activities in educational institutions. The Sedition Act, and other such colonially imposed draconian laws, must be immediately revoked by anyone who claims to have national interests in mind.