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Writing on the wall: Sedition charge unites parties at JNU

JNU protests Updated: Feb 17, 2016 09:32 IST
Prawesh Lama
Jawaharlal Nehru University

Students from the Periyar hostel rehearse for Natraj 2016 — the annual hostel night celebration at JNU on Monday. (HT Photo )

At JNU, something has changed. The writings on the wall say it all.

Till a week ago, student parties inside the campus fought with each other, battled for space on the wall next to the iconic 24x7 eatery to stick their posters – each for a cause they believed was greater than the other’s.

All that is gone.

The parties are still ideologically different, but are now fighting for the same cause.

The arrest of JNU’s student union president Kanhaiya Kumar — the first such incident in the last 41 years — has united all the parties minus ABVP.

The long line of police barricades outside the main gate of the campus is a constant reminder that they are being watched. Sunday afternoon’s human chain, to show support for Kumar, was one of the longest students have seen till date.

On the wall outside the 24x7 eatery, a notice calling students for a trek to Himachal Pradesh is half torn and covered by a Democratic Students Union poster urging everyone to come together to fight the “injustice” done to Kumar.

Neatly pasted next to the DSU poster — without covering a word — is a poster by the Oriya students Union that demands that sedition charges against Kumar be dropped. Another poster by the Students Federation of India asks students to protest against the ways of the ‘saffron rule.’

The workers at the 24x7 eatery find it funny. “Till some days ago, these parties would accuse their rival of tearing their posters. They would also accuse us of being mute spectators. Now they all have the same demands. Never have I seen so much discipline here,” said one worker.

Former students’ union president VLeninKumar has not left the administration block since the day Kumar was arrested. Lenin has been discussing freedom of expression and sedition charges with colleagues from other parties. “He is our student leader. Everyone’s stand is the same here. No one supports the anti-India slogans but the government action is uncalled for,” he said.

Read| We need thinking spaces like JNU and the govt must stay out of it

A hostel night celebration at the Periyar hostel in JNU. (HT Photo )

Night life is a thing of the past

JNU may be trending on Twitter round-the-clock and making headlines, but the guards at the university say the nights have become unusually quiet.

It wasn’t like this.

Security guards say until a week ago, they were more active and vigilant at nights when students came out for tea, late night walks and discussions at the famous Ganga Dhaba.

On Monday night, only two customers sat in the iconic eatery sipping tea on one of the rocks under a tree. The same rocks have witnessed heated late-night political meetings and discussions for decades now.

A young man who spoke to this correspondent said he was not interested in politics.

“Everyone is sleeping now. The student politicians know they have to wake up early in the morning and prepare for the protests. It is hard to believe that students are sleeping early to prepare for the next day. It was just the opposite before Kumar’s arrest. Discussion would happen late at night, go on for hours. The routine inside JNU has changed,” he said.

Read| Not anti-India: JNU teachers join strike, to take nationalism classes

While many choose rally march and slogan to show anger against the arrest of JNUSU’s Kanhaiya Kumar, many at the JNU campus chose to spread the message through posters and music. (Sanjeev Verma / HT Photo )

Life goes on. It’s JNU after all

But the raging protests have left some people untouched. When on Monday night, news anchors were crying themselves hoarse on primetime television, a group of students at the Periyar hostel were busy preparing for Natraj 2016 - the annual hostel night celebration.

At midnight, more than two hundred students were present outside the Periyar hostel, soaking in the excitement of the night in front of a makeshift stage. Students danced till late in the night. The crowd jeered a student who failed to amuse them with his nasal voice and a guitar that wouldn’t give out the right notes.

Here Kanhaiya Kumar was not relevant. Politics could wait.

Read?| What really happened on the night of Feb 9: A JNU student recounts