Nearly a week has passed since students shouted anti-national slogans at an event in Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University that triggered sedition charges and protests all over the Capital.
The simmering controversy has spilled over into sedition charges, violence outside courts, senior minister criticising the students and television anchors hosting high-decibel debates.
But what really happened on February 9? Who were the students who organised the event ‘A Country without a Post Office’ to commemorate 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru?
“On 9th February 2016, ex-members of a student organisation DSU, short for ‘Democratic Students Union’ called for a cultural meeting of a protest against what they called ‘the judicial killing of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat’ and in solidarity with ‘the struggle of Kashmiri people for their democratic right to self-determination’,” wrote Agarwal.
A lot of Kashmiri students from inside and outside the campus were to attend the event.
The DSU is a small “ultra-leftist” group of well-read students who believe in Maoism. It’s a very small group of very well read students, said Agarwal.
“They are not terrorists or Naxals by any means. I have been in the campus for more than two years and never have I witnessed or heard of them committing a terror activity as much as of throwing a stone, let alone overthrowing the state!”
About 20 minutes before the meeting was to start, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad wrote to the administration, asking it to withdraw permission as it was ‘harmful for campus’ atmosphere’, he wrote.
Fearful of clashes, the administration denied permission.
“Now, for those who do not know, JNU is a beautiful democratic space where all voices are heard, all opinions however radical, respected. And ABVP was scuttling that space.”
The DSU asked for help from the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union and other Left student organisations like the SFI (Students Federation of India), and AISA (All India Students Association) to gather in support of their right to democratically and peacefully hold meeting and “mind you, NOT in support of their ideology or their stand on Kashmir”, he wrote.
DSU, JNUSU, and other student organisations decided they would not let the administration and the ABVP scuttle their “hard-earned democratic space” to debate and discuss, and decided to go ahead with the meeting, he said.
The administration sent security guards to cover the badminton court where the meeting was supposed to happen, and refused the permission to use microphones.
The organisers agreed, and decided to continue the meeting around the dhaba without mics.
“However, the ABVP mobilised its cadres and started threatening and intimidating the students and organisers. They started shouting cliched slogans like’Ye Kashmir Hamara hai, saara ka saara hai’,” Agarwal wrote.
In response, and to create solidarity among the students attending the meeting, the organisers started shouting, “Hum kya chaahte? Azaadi!”
Next slogan -”Tum kitne Afzal maaroge, har ghar se Afzal niklega!”
Agarwal said a group of Kashmiri students came from outside JNU to attend the meeting and formed a circle in the center of the gathering.
“Trust me, not one of whom was from JNU! I was present during the event for some time, and I could not recognize a single face from that group as being from JNU.”
Agarwal said the Kashmiri students – who faced the “wrath of AFSPA for decades” -- were angry to see the ABVP disrupt their meeting, and started shouting the slogans against India, like: “Bharat ki barbaadi tak, jung rahegi, jung rahegi!”
“India, Go Back”
“In my almost 2.5 years of stay in JNU, I have never heard these slogans shouted anywhere. These are nowhere even close to the ideology of any left parties, let alone DSU,” he wrote.
“About the slogans of ‘Pakistan Zindabad’, it is disputed. I did not hear any such slogan while I was present there. There is a slogan in a video, but it’s not clear as to who shouted it - the Kashmiri students or the ABVP as a conspiracy.”
Agarwal also said JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar didn’t shouts slogans and is a member of the All India Students Federation(AISF) -- the student wing of the Communist Party of India(CPI) with no “Maoist or secessionist ideology” and is the mildest of all Left parties.