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Monday, Dec 16, 2019

JNU row a year later: Kanhaiya to Khalid, how lives of 5 students changed

Five JNU students grabbed headlines after the event, in which “anti-national” slogans were allegedly raised, to commemorate Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. HT looks at how the event shaped their lives and how they look at the future.

delhi Updated: Mar 02, 2017 10:27 IST
Heena Kausar and Shradha Chettri
Heena Kausar and Shradha Chettri
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya and Shehla Rashid Shora protest in front of the administrative block in New Delhi.
JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya and Shehla Rashid Shora protest in front of the administrative block in New Delhi.(Vipin Kumar/HT File Photo)
         

A year ago, Jawaharlal Nehru University erupted in protests over the 2013 execution of Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri separatist convicted of conspiring in an attack on Parliament 16 years ago, but whose trial many human rights groups felt was flawed. Five JNU students grabbed the headlines at those campus protests in which alleged anti-national slogans were shouted.

HT looks at how the event shaped their lives and how they look at the future.

Kumar was not directly involved in organising the event but allegedly raised anti-national slogans. Sedition charges were slapped on him and he was arrested.

Kumar says he continues to do what he did earlier — student activism and studies. But he is aware of the scrutiny on what he says and does. “There is a lot of scrutiny and I am interpreted in wrong ways many times,” Kumar, who recently wrote a book, said.

“I am either writing my dissertation or addressing people in different cities,” he said. He said it is not just JNU that has changed but the entire country. “The present government continued with economic policies of its predecessor such as fund cut in higher education. But they are trying to impose an ideology,” he said.

“They will call us anti-national because their idea of a nation is different from the Constitution. Their idea is inspired from Manusmriti. We are against their ideology and they are ruling the country so they will obviously call us anti-national.”

After the arrest of JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar and other union members going in hiding, Rashid emerged as the face of the student’s protest. She organised marches, addressed students and gathered support for the movement.

Her future plans changed after the February 9 event. Rashid wanted to go to Harvard University for PhD but has now chosen to stay in India. “I have changed my plans and want to focus on activism in India. All progressive forces need to come together and fight this onslaught by the right-wing,” she said.

For Rashid, February 9 was not an isolated event and she along with others saw it coming, albeit not at such a large scale. “Before February 9, there were incidents when ABVP created a hurdle in screening of documentaries, talks and speeches. We knew we will be attacked once the new government came in power but we didn’t expect it to be at this level,” she said. She said the incident has given an opportunity for people to start a new discourse on issues.

Khalid was one of the main the organisers of the event against whom sedition charges were filed.

He spent 24 days in the prison.

Khalid said not much has changed for him since the event. “I have been doing politics on this campus for the last seven years. My ideology, convictions are the same but I have evolved as a person. Through the February 9 episode, the government itself gave us a platform to propagate our ideas to the people. By the attack, the government thought they will finish us, but they ended up taking our message far and wide.”

Khalid added: “The attack on JNU started not on February 9 but on January 27, when the new vice-chancellor came. With our movement we defeated the first round of attack of #ShutdownJNU but the attack is still relentless. Just that now it is not a televised spectacle. But attempts in different ways are being made to make the institution internally hollow. As long as V-C Jagadesh Kumar is there, the attack on JNU will continue.”

The then general secretary of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) and member of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), he was the main complainant against the event.

Kumar said the February 9 episode strengthened his conviction to work for the national cause. “As a student and member of ABVP, in the February 9 incident, I performed my constitutional duty. The incident has helped develop my personality greatly and made me stronger to think about the country and to work towards working for the society.”

“The incident has helped regain and revive the culture of JNU of debate and dissent with peaceful existence of students from different ideologies. But sadly, since the controversy, no constructive politics is taking place in our university... It has now become important to tell the world that JNU is not only about protests. So this a request that media should stop giving space to such deconstructive politics.”

Bhattacharya was one of the main event organisers. A case of sedition was filed against him and he spent 24 days in jail before getting bail.

Bhattacharya, who wanted to be a journalist reporting on land issues, said his options have been limited due to the incident.

He still sees a silver lining. “Whatever the state wanted to do… to make us into villains, I think that has worked for us. I think they have done a service to us. Because of what they did, people want to know what we think on issues... Curiosity is better than status quo,” he said.

He said things are not as bad for him as they are for his friend Umar Khalid. “I still have that anonymity to go out and work without many people recognising me. But for Umar, stepping out of JNU is a struggle... There is a difference between being a Bhattacharya and a Khalid,” he said.

How JNU became the hotbed of controversies
A look at how the February 9, 2016, event spelt chaos at JNU and where the controversy stands one year later. The year also saw other controversies that set students and teachers on a collision course
2016
  • Feb9: Event to commemorate the death of Parliament attack convict, Afzal Guru, held at JNU. Anti-national slogans allegedly raised at the event
  • Feb 10: JNU president Kanhaiya Kumar picked up by police from the campus and sent to police custody. The organisers of the event — Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya— and few other students disappear from the campus
  • JNU constitutes a high-level inquiry committee, suspends eight students
  • Delhi govt orders magisterial probe
  • Issue raised in Parliament
  • Feb 11: A case of sedition lodged at Vasant Kunj police station against unknown people
  • Students organise protest and the controversy turns into a national issue
  • Feb15: Kumar attacked by group of lawyers in Delhi HC. Even journalist and teachers were attacked and called anti-nationals.
  • March 2: Forensic probe of a set of video clippings of the event, ordered by the Delhi govt, finds two videos were "manipulated" where voices of people not present in the clips were added.
  • March 3: Kanhaiya Kumar gets interim bail for six months.
  • March 15: The probe panel of the university says "masked outsiders" had raised anti-national slogans.
  • April 25: JNU rusticates Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya. Umar fined ~20,000 and Anirban barred from JNU campus for five years.
  • April 26: JNU students reject punishment, burn report.
  • May 10: Umar and Anirban move court against their rustication, court asks varsity to explain the decision and submit relevant documents as well as the report of its panel.
  • May 12: Kanhaiya, others move HC against JNU action. The matter is pending in the court.
  • June 16: JNU forms a committee to look into the appeals of the students against whom punishment was announced.
  • July 23: JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar fined ₹10,000.
  • August 20: A research scholar and member of the All India Students Association (AISA), Anmol Ratan is accused of raping a fellow student on the campus. He surrenders, blames political rivalry. Political organisations, including ABVP protest, and Ratan made out of bounds from the campus.
  • October 15: A masters student Najeeb Ahmed disappears from the campus after alleged brawl with the ABVP members. Police still looking for him.
  • Dec 12: The protest ground of the university at the administrative block made out of bounds for students.
  • Dec 13: A notice issued to professor Nivedita Menon for addressing students at the administrative block.
  • Dec 23: Academic Council meeting discusses implementation of UGC guidelines which would alter the JNU admission policy.
  • Dec 26: Teachers and students protest.
  • Dec 28: JNU suspended 9 students for disrupting the academic council meeting.
2017
  • Jan 18: In protest, JNU teachers start the azaadi lecture series protesting the university.
  • Jan 21: The nine suspended students begin hunger strike.
  • Jan 30: Students begin protest against the university for adopting UGC notification on making interview sole criteria for admission. The protest took place outside MHRD.
  • Feb 3: University issues a statement that admissions will take place according to the old admission policy of 80 for entrance test and 20 for interview.
  • Feb 7: JNUSU holds a referendum on the policy, continue the hunger strike.