Nearly 100 students from various student organisations staged a protest rally at the Kalina campus of University of Mumbai (MU) on Saturday against recent instances of violence at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Ramjas College of Delhi University (DU).
The protestors blamed the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a right-wing student group, for trying to suppress free speech in college campuses across the country. A week earlier, the ABVP protested at Kalina campus, demanding action against 'anti-national' elements in various universities.
The latest round of protests was sparked by clashes between students groups last week after JNU students Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid were invited to speak at a literary seminar in Ramjas College. Khalid was arrested last year and booked for sedition for organising a rally on the JNU campus. Rashid was the then vice-president of the JNU students’ union.
On Saturday, protestors accused that the ABVP of targeting students who were opposed to its ideology. They blamed the right-wing group for the suicide of dalit scholar Rohith Vemula at Hyderabad Central University (HCU) and disappearance of JNU scholar Najeeb Ahmed last year.
"Emboldened by the BJP-led government at the centre, the ABVP is trying to muzzle freedom of expression at campuses. The hooliganism in the name of nationalism must end and ABVP activists must be arrested," said Suvarna Salve, a member of Samata Vidyarthi Aghadi.
Speaking on the occasion, Obaidur Rahman Ansari, city president of Students Islamic Organisation of India, said there is an atmosphere of fear in colleges. "Universities are supposed to be the placers where students engage in constructive activities, but now we see destruction everywhere. There's no trace of Najeeb Ahmed, despite the Supreme Court's intervention in the matter," he added.
Jenny Sulfath, a member of Radical Study Circle, a student group at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), said the discourse around nationalism is aimed at suppressing other national identities in the country. "ABVP is calling students [who don't agree with them] anti-national. One should consider other voices from the country, including those who don't want to be a part of the country," she said.