As the JNU row fuelled a debate about what it means to be patriotic, predecessors of Kanhaiya Kumar in the JNUSU president’s post also had the protest against the sedition case filed against him, saying they will oppose any bid to brand JNU as being ‘anti-national’.
While academicians and students across the country came out in support of the protesting JNU students, those who held the post of the JNU students’ union president before Kanhaiya, led the ongoing student movement.
Sucheta De, who was the JNUSU President in 2012, said, “It is in the JNU culture. Me and Kanhaiya belong to different parties, but this agitation was against the attack on students and their freedom of speech.”
De, who is a PhD scholar, said the protest was against “the branding of the entire university as anti-national”.
Two-time JNUSU President Rohit (2002-2004), who now teaches at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, was among those who were attacked at the Patiala House court complex on February 15 when he had gone there to attend the hearing in Kanhaiya’s sedition case.
“When I graduated from being a student to a professor at the same university, I had thought my days of marching on the streets and being beaten by police were over. Little did I know I would be confronted with all of that again,” he said.
According to V Lenin Kumar, JNUSU president in 2013 and a PhD scholar at present, “The government chose the wrong university this time. We as student leaders have fought for some issue or the other cutting across party lines, be it Lyngdoh committee recommendations or payment of contractual workers. Kanhaiya’s arrest was just one of them”.
Ashutosh Kumar, Kanhaiya’s immediate predecessor, is also among the six students who have been charged with sedition over an event on the JNU campus to protest against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. He has been questioned twice by police in connection with the row.
Mona Das (2004), Sandeep Singh (2007), Akbar Chowdhary (2013), Dhananjay Tripathi (2006) are also among the former JNUSU presidents who are present on campus and have joined the agitation.
Kanhaiya, who walked out of Tihar on bail last week, said, “I was inside jail; whatever I got to know was from media reports, but I was confident that students will all get together to fight against this crackdown. It is in JNU’s DNA to make everyone’s headache its own”.
Amit Sen Gupta, who was the president of JNUSU in 1989, last week resigned from Indian Institute of Mass Communication alleging he was being targeted for his support to the students movement at JNU, FTII and Hyderabad Central University.