I am not a child and you are not a motherly minister, one of the six JNU students accused by police of shouting seditious slogans has told HRD minister Smriti Irani in an open letter, blaming “saffron politics” for the death of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula.
“I heard the speech you gave in Parliament. I want to make it clear that this letter is not from a ‘child’ to a ‘motherly’ minister but from a person who believes in a certain political ideology to another political person...,” Anant Prakash Narayan, former vice-president of the JNU students’ union, said and accused Irani of “failing” Vemula’s mother by doubting her Dalit identity.
“You assert your identity as a woman... But Vemula’s mother, a Dalit woman, fought this patriarchal society to raise her kids. She gave them her identity. But why is your government associating the identity of her children to her husband? Why are you snatching away her right to have an independent identity? (sic),” Narayan said, adding that his own mother has told him to “keep fighting the Modi government”.
The letter, published on Kafila.org, comes a week after Narayan and four others resurfaced in JNU. Two of them – Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya – were arrested while Ashutosh Kumar is being questioned. Narayan and Rama Naga have been asked to join the investigation. The sixth student, JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar, was the first one to be arrested.
Narayan said students were being targeted for challenging the “cultural nationalism of the RSS”. “We are your natural target because universities are places where there is reasoning and science... We do not expect mercy from you. You can attack us with all your might but we will also face you with full confidence,” the student said, signing off the letter as “from the ‘anti-national’ created by you”.
He also attacked Irani for revealing the names of eight JNU students who have been debarred on the basis of an interim report by the institute’s inquiry committee. “We were debarred by an inquiry committee which didn’t even listen to us. Should you not have been cautious not to announce our names in Parliament till the committee released its decision?” he said.
He also took on the minister for rebuking the students for holding a Mahishasur martyrdom day on campus. “Don’t you know that in certain parts of this country, Adivasis and Dalits associate their religious beliefs with Mahishasura (the demon slain by Goddess Durga). I am a Communist and don’t believe in religion. But I believe that everyone has a right to practice their religion as per their beliefs,” he said.