Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and BJP chief Amit Shah engaged in some long-distance skirmishing on Monday over the JNU crisis that has snowballed into a major political row with leaders from a slew of parties weighing in.
Gandhi accused the BJP and RSS of trying to create conflict between people of different faiths and beliefs even as Shah asked him to apologise for igniting “anti-national activities” at the Delhi-based university and wondered if he was rooting for another partition of the country.
“While we work for peace, the BJP wants to spread violence and destroy the brotherhood between communities,” Gandhi said at a rally in poll-bound Assam. “They want to make Hindus fight against Muslims. You can see Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana... wherever they (BJP) went, they triggered clashes between communities by spreading hatred.”
The Congress and other opposition parties have criticised the government crackdown at the prestigious university with its student union leader being arrested under charges of sedition while the incident has sparked a debate on free
speech in India.
Shah attacked the Congress leader in a blog, accusing him encouraging anti-national forces by supporting the JNU students who allegedly shouted anti-India slogans while commemorating Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru who was hanged three years ago.
“Are you not encouraging traitors by protesting in support of these anti-nationals?” he wrote. “Has Rahul Gandhi lent his voice to separatists in the country? Does he want another Partition?”
The JNU row has escalated an ideological confrontation between the Narendra Modi government that critics say is pushing a Hindu nationalist agenda and left-leaning organisations.
CPI (M) leader Prakash Karat questioned the Centre’s definition of nationalism and said he would prefer to wear the “anti-national” badge with honour.
“It has become a much wider issue for the society because this is not a clash of ideas between different groups of students,” he told the media while visiting the JNU campus amid a swirling students’ protest. “It is the government and the establishment directly intervening to set the agenda to change the framework of our education system and values.”
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who political observers say may emerge as a national alternative to Modi ahead of the 2019 general elections, likened the government action against JNU students to the Emergency.
“It’s too much of a design to impose ideology of the ABVP, which is the student wing of the RSS in educational institutions,” he told reporters in Patna. “The saffron party should explain if BJP leaders attending a ceremony on Nathuram Godse, the killer of Mahatma Gandhi, is an example of nationalism?”
His Delhi counterpart, Arvind Kejriwal, criticised the BJP on NDTV for having “double standards” with the Centre ordering action against the students while the party is trying to revive an alliance in J&K with the PDP “which calls Afzal Guru a martyr”.
(With agency inputs)