JAMMU: Separatist leaders in the Valley on Friday reacted sharply to the police action on…
New Delhi: Former and current ABVP leaders and a section of other students in JNU read out on Women’s Day verses from the Manusmriti and then set on fire sheets that advocate the oppression of women, drawing the Sangh’s outfit into a fresh stand-off on campus.
“Chapter 2, verse 213: It is the nature of women to seduce men in this world….
“Chapter 9, verse 3: Her father protects her in childhood, her husband protects her in youth, and her sons protect her in old age; a woman is never fit for independence,” read out former ABVP joint secretary Pradeep Narwal.
Narwal rolled four A4 sheets with 40 verses from the two-millennia-old Manusmriti, which codified the laws upholding the caste system. Lenin Kumar, a former JNUSU president who now belongs to the Democratic Students Federation that splintered from the SFI, asked around for a matchbox.
Lenin set ablaze the papers being held by him and Narwal. Others joined in with slogans such as ” JNU ki lal maati pe Manusmriti jali hai, jalegi! (the Manusmriti has burned and will burn on the red soil of JNU).”
In the afternoon, the JNU administration had denied permission for the event.
“If burning such a text is a crime, I accept the punishment for it. If asking for freedom fromManuvad is sedition, we plead guilty. Asking freedom from a government is not wrong. A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against a government. Even (Narendra) Modi-ji demanded azadi from the previous government,” he added.
The loudest slogan – ” Manuvad se Brahmanvad se takkar hai, Jai Bhim hamara nara hai!(our fight is against Manu’s thought and Brahminism, our slogan is Hail Bhim (Ambedkar)” – was raised by Jatin Goraya, the vice-president of JNU’s ABVP unit.
“I want to force the ABVP to take a stand on the Manusmriti. I have not resigned from my post yet. They don’t want to talk about caste but there are ABVP members who do and I want them to come upfront,” Goraya told this paper.
Three ABVP members, including Narwal, had quit the organisation over the sedition row and the Manusmriti last month. The debate over the ancient text had gathered momentum after the government’s response to Rohith Vemula’s suicide in the University of Hyderabad in January.
On Tuesday, Goraya and three other ABVP members burned the Manusmriti. The ABVP has more than 20 active members on campus.
“I have two sisters. My parents are constantly worried about our safety, about our dowry and marriage,” said Upasna Vashisht, a co-organiser of the event and a student of Russian. “The Manusmriti may be old but its ideology continues to harass us even today. We want an end to this idea of women that has been perpetuated for so long.”
Narwal said that although there was no convention of seeking permission for burning effigies – a regular feature in JNU – he did so to be transparent. “I was told by security officer D.P. Yadav that vice-chancellor M. Jagadesh Kumar has said it is a sensitive issue and there is media presence, so he can’t allow any action that can cause trouble. Dr Ambedkar burnt this book in 1927. The VC must decide what path this varsity must choose – Manu or the Constitution,” Narwal added.
The event, which was attended by around 60 students across ideological lines, was videographed by Yadav and other officials of a private security firm.
A senior administrative official confirmed that permission was denied and action against alleged violation of the varsity’s regulations would be decided in the near future.
“It’s Women’s Day. Instead of just repeating platitudes, we want this feeling of fear and societal pressure on women and Dalits to end. This burning is a symbolical beginning… that we are discarding our unconstitutional traditions so citizens can live with respect…. Caste discrimination in India can be traced to 500 AD after the laws of Manu were enforced widely,” Narwal said.
ABVP leader and JNUSU vice-president Saurabh Sharma condemned the event. “Anti-national acts like the February 9 event (when slogans against India were allegedly shouted) and the desecration of Durga Devi happened without permission on this campus. We condemn what they have done without permission. The ABVP is a democratic organisation and I have nothing to say on the personal views of some members. We have not taken any action against them nor have we received any resignation.”
Goraya, who was considered an upcoming star in ABVP politics, told this paper that two years in JNU had made him question his own beliefs.
-The Telegraph Calcutta