The arrest of JNU students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar under anti-national charges is an attempt by the BJP government to snuff out the progressive voice of the university, kill campus activism and foist a Hindutva version of nationalism, said many academics and students of the university.
“During the Emergency, the JNU and the government were in conflict but at that time students and teachers were opposing authoritarianism. Now the government sees JNU as an ideological hurdle to its campaign for Hindutva nationalism and hence the assault on the university under the excuse of anti-national charges,” said professor Prabhat Patnaik addressing a gathering of students and teachers on Wednesday.
Students and teachers gather every evening on the campus to discuss nationalism, an initiative to ideologically repudiate the Hindutva concept of nationhood. Giving a lecture on ‘What is a nation’, professor Gopal Guru said constructing a nation by creating an antagonistic ‘other’ was dangerous. The lecture series will conclude with Prof Tanika Sarkar’s presentation on ‘Gandhi’s nation’.
Condemning the slapping of sedition charge on the JNUSU president, professor Purushottam Agrawal said, “JNU is fighting for democratic and secular nationalism, not just the release of Kanhaiya.”
Calling the arrest and police action against students an assault on the study-and-struggle culture of JNU, Agrawal said, “Democracy is not just a government formed through elections; it involves institutional norms and a mob frenzy over concocted anti-national activities is anti-thetical to it. The sangh parivar is out to marginalise thinking and demonise intellectuals.”
Some students fear that a false anti-national tag may put the university in bad light and hamper their job chances in interviews. “Kanhaiya has not spoken anti-national language and there are no anti-national activities in JNU. The university encourages debate among divergent viewpoints, some are too radical. Wrong state actions are condemned and debated here and that should not be considered as anti-national,” said a Ph D student, refusing to be named fearing police harassment. Many students were worried as police had gone to their native places and talked to their parents.
One can see ABVP’s ‘commandments’ rejecting communism written on the same wall along side AISA’s radical lines trashing neo-liberalism – a testimony to the coexistence of contrasting ideologies on the campus.
Calling making of a video on Kanhaiya’s speech and his arrest as pre-planned, another Ph D student asked, “How can anti-national tag be labelled against JNU when it has produced so many civil servants, intellectuals, policy-makers and even ministers?” He said many of those who masqueraded as nationalist also wanted to build a temple for Nathuram Godse.
“Demolition of Babri Masjid was the biggest anti-national activity and those behind it are now champions of nationalism,” said a professor, refusing to be identified fearing witch-hunting.
Associate professor Mahendra Pratap Rana said, “Raking up the JNU row is a diversionary tactic of the BJP government after its failure to create jobs and push growth. Government has made another mistake after facing flak over Rohith Vemula’s suicide in Hyderabd University.”