These Foreign Students In JNU Are Backing The Protests & Say The Government’s In The Wrong

New Delhi,Safwat Zargar: Messages of solidarity and support are pouring in for the on-protest students of Jawaharlal Nehru University from foreign universities, intellectuals and alumni across the world. In the university, a number of foreign students enrolled in JNU turn up daily for protest meetings at the university’s administration block. They come to express their support for arrested JNU Students’s Union president Kanhaiya Kumar.

A research scholar at JNU told ScoopWhoop that the whole incident was unfortunate and blamed the university for “mishandling” the crisis.

“I have been a student of JNU since long and most of the students here believe in the idea and unity of India.The incident has been mishandled and what is being portrayed to outside world is a different picture. JNU is a space which offers equality to all people irrespective of caste, creed, color or religion,” the student said on condition on anonymity.

Almost all the foreign students who were part of the protest were reluctant to speak about the ongoing crisis. And those who spoke only did so on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. According to estimates, about five per cent of JNU’s 8000 students are from foreign countries.

JNU students agitating for the release of the Students Union President Kanhaiya Kumar on Tuesday | Source: PTI

If you compare the ratio of few students who allegedly raised anti-national slogans on the campus with the overall number of JNU students, they don’t even constitute a fraction of a percent. They don’t represent JNU. But the reality is that a strange paranoia has engulfed whole campus and as a JNU student we’re afraid to go outside. It’s a target on an institution. There’s insecurity on campus,” the research scholar said.

Another foreign student at JNU said the police crackdown on students will only aggravate the crisis.

“It [crisis] requires everyone from both the sides to settle down and debate the matter,” he said.

He also said the incident proves the failure of the university’s administration to handle the matter.

“The university is a democratic space where divergent opinions and ideas are deliberated upon and critically analysed for a better and conscientious society. The university should have allowed the internal inquiry mechanism to investigate the incident before taking any other step,” he said.

Journalists at a protest march on Tuesday | Source: PTI

On Tuesday afternoon, dozens of activists of Bharat Yuva Sangh protested outside the JNU gates against what they called ‘anti-national’ elements present inside the campus.  Inside the campus, the agitating students continued with their protest near the university’s administration block and held a march. Many of the foreign students were also part of it.

On the sidelines of a protest gathering, a young foreign scholar told ScoopWhoop about a certain “kind of pattern” visible in India since the BJP came to power in 2014.

“I see a strong link between the Rohith Vemula case and present JNU crisis. This university had vehemently protested against BJP government and ABVP for its hand in the circumstances that led to the tragic end of Rohith. You see it was a BJP Union Minister who had written letters of compliant about anti-national activities in Hyderabad University to Ministry of Human Resource Development. A similar thing happened in the case of JNU after which police crackdown started. Sloganeering was wrong, but the crisis has swept away all the innocent and neutral students with its tide,” the scholar said.

JNU students shout slogans against NDA Government over the arrest of JNUSU leader Kanhaiya Kumar outside the Patiala House Courts in New Delhi on Monday | Source: PTI

Another research scholar said that sending the police in pursuit of students in this case wasn’t appropriate for a democracy.

It’s fine to send down police to arrest and hound students in a university if you are living in a dictatorship but sadly, it’s happening in a country which calls itself world’s largest democracy,” she said.  She refused to be named for fear of her visa being revoked.

“The anti-national slogan raising was just an excuse to target JNU. It is a politically motivated attempt to stifle liberal and leftist opinions in the university. I don’t think it’s based on a specific event but rather than on an ideology that hates dissent and opposite opinion,” the scholar said.

Feature image source: PTI

Posted by on February 17, 2016. Filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Response to These Foreign Students In JNU Are Backing The Protests & Say The Government’s In The Wrong

  1. Copied from Haffingtonpost :

    JNU Sedition Charge: Modi Government Is Acting Like A Bull In A China Shop

    Make in India week –- A week that will spark a renewed pride in Indian industry by showcasing the potential of design, innovation and sustainability across India’s manufacturing sectors over the next decade.

    That’s what the Make in India website describes as its goal.

    Just in time for Make in India week, we learn there’s something else we can make in India by the stroke of a pen–sedition.

    The arrest of JNU Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar on charges of sedition makes for an ominous curtain raiser to the cheery can-do optimism of Make in India, proving that the heavy hand of the state can also unmake in India.

    Patriotism might be a virtue but is the lack of patriotism a crime?

    This is not about Afzal Guru, whatever one thinks of his trial and execution. This is not even about Kanhaiya Kumar. This is about taming JNU and showing upstart students that Big Brother is not just watching, Big Brother can throw you into lock-up.

    Here’s what we know happened at JNU. A group of students held an event, apparently not authorized by the university, and allegedly shouted slogans against the government for the hanging of Afzal Guru, convicted in the Indian Parliament attack. The university said it’s initiating disciplinary enquiry to figure out how the event took place. Kanhaiya Kumar says he was not at the protest and does not agree with “extremist elements who spoil the image of JNU”.

    From slogan-shouting to sedition?

    The government had already sounded the warning bells.

    Home Minister Rajnath Singh said “If anyone raises anti-India slogans, tries to raise questions on the country’s integrity, they will not be spared. Strongest possible action will be taken against them.”

    Minister of State Kiren Rijiju said “Be it JNU or any other institution, anti-India slogans can never be tolerated.”

    HRD Minister Smriti Irani said the nation “can never tolerate any insult to Mother India.”

    Patriotism might be a virtue but is the lack of patriotism a crime? Can you, should you, be sent to lock-up for being unpatriotic?

    There is a video circulating of students raising the slogans “India go back” and “Bharat ki barbadi tak, jang rahegi, jang rahegi” (Until the downfall of India, the fight continues, the fight continues). It does pose an enormous headache for the vice-chancellor of the university where such slogans are raised. Our freedom of expression laws in India are anyway compromised, liable to be preempted for all kinds of reasons, from protecting communal harmony to the whims of a thin-skinned politician. When Rajnath Singh tweets “If anyone shouts anti-India slogan & challenges nation’s sovereignty & integrity while living in India, they will not be tolerated or spared”, is he basically saying “Mother India” is a line in the stand where freedom of expression comes to a grinding halt? And even if that is so, the question is do we need to immediately roll out the heavy machinery aka the sedition charge? Is there nothing in the university rulebook to deal with what it thinks is unauthorized use of its premises? And does the buck stop with Kanhaiya Kumar just because he is the student union president?

    The government just made him (Kanhaiya Kumar) a national figure by choosing to make him the focus of everything it dislikes about the very idea of JNU.

    It’s no secret the BJP wants to breach the Left bastion of JNU. When the rumour went around that Dr Subramanian Swamy would be the next vice-chancellor, that caused much anticipatory glee that JNU would finally be brought to its knees. That rumor proved untrue. By going for the sedition charge right away, the government basically risks appearing as acting at the behest of the ABVP students union on campus. As the saying goes, it looks as if the tail is wagging the dog. In effect, it is allowing Kanhaiya Kumar to say “This is an excuse, I defeated the ABVP in student union elections. That is why this is happening.” It’s a prelude, he warns, to the installation of a Gajendra Chauhan figure at JNU as well.

    Kumar has already made no bones about his fight with the ABVP and RSS and the Sangh fraternity. In a speech (see below) he angrily rejects any certificate in patriotism from those who would take an airport named after Bhagat Singh and rename it in some “Sanghi’s name”. He says categorically to a cheering crowd that he believes in the Indian constitution, just not in the constitution that is taught in Nagpur.

    And as far “Bharat ki barbadi” goes, Kumar has his own barbaadi agenda. “Hum barbaad karna chaahtey hain shoshan ki sanskriti ko, jaativaad ki sanskriti ko, manuvaad ki sanskriti ko,” he is seen saying in the video. It’s a sharp speech, fired up and playing to the gallery, delivered without a single stumble. It has biting sarcasm and stock elements that any good politician, and in particular Narendra Modi, will recognize. It features Babasaheb Ambedkar, his own anganwaadi mother and the poor. He categorically denounces those who raised ‘Pakistan zindabad’ slogans and alleges instead that ABVP slogans call him and his supporters “Communist kutte (dogs), Jihadiyon ki bachhhe (children of jihadis)” and suchlike. The speech is stridently and pointedly against the ABVP, the RSS and “Madam Smriti Irani”. The question is, does that mean Kanhaiya Kumar is also de-facto “anti India”?

    This is about taming JNU and showing upstart students that Big Brother is not just watching, Big Brother can throw you into lock-up.

    The students may have provoked the national government with their sloganeering, whether or not Kumar was involved in it. They probably knowingly waved the red flag. The government has chosen to react to it like a bull in a china shop. But sedition is a big gun in its arsenal. It should be used with care. By pulling out the big gun in the face of what are ultimately hot-headed slogans, however ugly, now the government risks having jumped the gun. And now it must deal with the backfire. Till yesterday Kanhaiya Kumar was a student leader at JNU. The government just made him a national figure by choosing to make him the focus of everything it dislikes about the very idea of JNU.