DELHI,MEHBOOB JEELANI: As the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, a 28-year-old student leader at Jawaharlal Nehru University, mobilised a massive crowd of demonstrators on the streets of Delhi on Wednesday, the left parties construed it as a victory against the BJP government. But back in the campus, there is a sense of resentment brewing against the leaders of left-leaning politics. Several teachers and students at JNU feel the right-wing political forces have “bullied” the left front to accept its narrative of nationalism.
A significant number of students and teachers feel that instead of resisting Kumar’s arrest, the left-parties should have challenged the BJP government over the root of the controversy — the anti-India sloganeering chanted at a commemorative meeting to protest the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru that became the basis of the police crackdown on the campus.
Ever since Guru was executed in 2013, the students said that the left-leaning groups have hosted several events to debate legal, political and sociological grounds of his hanging. “A large section of the left-leaning students still doubts his guilt in the parliament attack. Their views are quite similar to Arundhati Roy’s and Nandita Haksar’s who have publicly questioned the hanging,” said a student.
“There has been radical slogan chanting in the past as well, but the university administration never intervened because they knew that it’s nothing more than a campus idealism, a JNU utopia, where everyone dreams about the revolution,” the student added.
The student community is troubled to see All India Students Federation (AISF) having put up posters across the campus with a message —“Kanhaiya Kumar who stood up against anti-nationals has been arrested for sedition while real anti-national elements are scot free.”
Does that mean, says a history professor at JNU, that the other accused in the controversy, including Umar Khalid, against whom the media ran a malicious campaign, are the ones who should be arrested?
“It was a crowd,” said the professor. “The crowd doesn’t have any authority. If you ask me who had the authority in that situation, I would say Kanhaiya had the authority to tell the cops to arrest the slogan chanting people right there. But he did not do that because it was JNU as usual. He, in fact, used the same platform and gave a strong speech against the Modi government.”
The professor said that it’s a “flawed reasoning” to demand Kumar’s release and approve the arrests of whoever the State finds guilty in the same breath. Instead, he said, the left-leaning and all the “sane people” should pressure the government to drop sedition charges against all the six students, who have been “forced” to be on the run.
“Unless we speak on behalf all the students, it’s a moral victory for the rightwing ideologues,” the professor said. “Otherwise, the BJP government is going to frame our bright students to shove its version of nationalism down our throats.”
The government and a dominant section of news channels may have mobilised a negative opinion against Jawaharlal Nehru University, its student leader Kanhaiya Kumar and his companions, particularly, Umar Khalid, against whom source-based news reports keep pouring in, either accusing him of having links with Jaish-e-Muhammad or establishing his contact with Kashmiris by digging up the phone calls he has made to the valley and make him suspicious, but inside the JNU, students are well aware about the back story that has brought the campus in loggerheads with the State.
Since they are aware of the context, they feel the left parties have led them down.
For them, the anti-India sloganeering was a “knee jerk” reaction to the “life threatening” slogans that were chanted by the students of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).
As per several students who’d witnessed the controversial event for Guru, the trouble began when ABVP activists encircled the members of the meeting and chanted slogans such as — “Maa khoon sey tilak karo, gooliyon sey aarti.”
On the other end, a student said, the meeting went on with its members displaying artwork and reading the poetic verses of Agha Shahid Ali, a Kashmiri-American poet whose work is largely inspired by the events of the 1990s, when armed insurgency was at its peak in the valley. “One performance artist walked in circles with a black shawl wrapped around his body to suggest Guru’s hanging was a travesty of justice,” the student said. “It was unsettling but I guess art does that you. I don’t know why people should go to jail for that.”