Who’s Afraid of JNU? Or, The Sedition That Wasn’t: Sania Hashmi

This is a guest post by SANIA HASHMI

JNU Sedition

Over the past couple of days, Zee News has been declaring to the world that Lance Naik Hanumanthappa died because he’d rather not breathe the same air as we at JNU do. That this statement is the worst possible trivialisation of a martyr’s death which is being exploited for petty sensationalism by our own version of the fourth estate is a separate issue, too nerve-wracking to be given precedence over the tragedy that unfolded in our campus yesterday with the arrest of our democratically-elected President Kanhaiya Kumar. A Zee News screen grab showed the word ‘Deshdrohi’ in 72-pt screeching yellow font pasted across Kanhaiya’s unsuspecting face. What was his fault? As an eyewitness from ground zero who was present at Sabarmati at the time of the protest, let me begin by answering the obvious questions that despite the numerous clarifications on part of the students and the JNUSU on social media and elsewhere are meeting deaf ears. It is interesting how despite being told that the Students Union and the student body in general had nothing to do with it and have in no uncertain terms condemned any alleged slogan against our country, the trolls are still putting decibels to shame with the very same questions. And no, I am not just talking about Nupur Sharma. So yes, let me begin by putting a few things on record in respect of Kanhaiya’s arrest. Did Kanhaiya organise the event? NO. Did he raise anti-India slogans? NO. Did he hail Pakistan? NO. Did he intervene to prevent ABVP-instigated violence in his capacity as the President? YES. Has he been vocal against the brahmanical tyranny of the RSS? YES. Has he been tirelessly fighting for the Rohith Vemulas of this world? YES. Has he been a torchbearer for students’ rights across the country? YES. Is this why you have arrested him? Is this your justice? If this struggle for a just society is anti-national in your eyes, we all plead guilty! If this is your witch-hunt for people who cannot conform to your ideological blinkers, we all plead guilty! If we must be party to the violent hooliganism of the ABVP in order to be called patriotic, rest assured, we all plead guilty!

WATCH KANHAIYA KUMAR’S SPEECH HOURS BEFORE HIS ARREST TO SEE WHAT THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA CONSIDERS ANTI-NATIONAL. Clearly, Kumar’s fault was that he said in this speech that he doesn’t need the RSS’s certificate to be called a nationalist.

            An important distinction also needs to be drawn between the two terms that are unfortunately being used synonymously today: anti-government and anti-national. As Romila Thapar has brilliantly argued in her recent book, the problem with our politics is the fact that the government sees itself as the state. If voices of dissent are crushed against a government, where is our democracy? The ability to move against the tide, to question, and to critique is the very essence of a democratic society. There was nothing democratic about what happened in JNU yesterday. As someone who was present at Sabarmati Dhaba on the 9th of February when the alleged incident took place, let me assure you that not one student from JNU was part of the anti-India sloganeering. If you would even look closely at the video that is being circulated, you will only see a group of Kashmiri students from across Delhi who had formed a circle in the centre of the gathering, not one of whom was from JNU. If would believe me even for a second, would you not consider it a legitimate concern as to what this crackdown on JNU’s famously democratic space is all about? Would you not think that it may have something to do with finally getting an opportunity to crush and discredit a place like JNU which has since its very inception fought for the rights of the oppressed? Would you not think that this is the price we are having to pay for not conforming to a certain ideology? Would it not shake your faith in the very concept of justice in a democratic society? Would you not think that Kanhaiya’s caste made him an easy target? Would your heart not go out to his paralysed bedridden father who has no one but our better judgement to fall back on? Would you not spare a thought for his mother who runs the house on 4000 rupees a month? Would you not find this to be a helpless case of violent state oppression? Would you not consider the possibility that this all but a follow-up to the RSS mandate against JNU as expressed months ago in its mouthpiece Panchajanya? All I ask of you is to think about it.

While I am not personally a fan of making these binaries, I suppose desperate times call for desperate dumbed-down measures. A true nationalist is someone who sees what’s amiss in the system and strives to rectify it. A true nationalist is someone who has the courage to speak for a fellow citizen when she is being unjustly dealt with. A true nationalist is someone who fights for a classless egalitarian society with equal opportunities for all its members. A true nationalist fights to make her country better. This is what Kanhaiya stands for. This is what I stand for. This is what JNU stands for. And no police action can stop us from working for the betterment of our country, for the secular ethos of our country, for the poor of this country.

Sania Hashmi is an MPhil Scholar at the Centre for English Studies, JNU.

14 thoughts on “Who’s Afraid of JNU? Or, The Sedition That Wasn’t: Sania Hashmi”

  1. True that the Hindu Right automatically describe as “anti-national” those who oppose the government.


  2. Sensation together with ‘bootlicking’ of government policies has been a part of the upper-caste controlled partisan media. The eagerness to brand any leftist oriented student or a writer can be observed at every incident involving discrimination, communal tension or naxalite encounter as an ‘anti-national’. What happened to the same media when fanatics cried hoarse to the minorities ‘to go to Pakistan’ ? Is that not ‘anti-national’? Why was not yhe same placard (or even a bigger one) was not displayed on those persons who provocatively pushed their statements in media ? Why should not Kashmiris talk about the injustice done to their state when other states air their views? Why should not one hold an opinion that Kashmir was never a part of India, as Arundhati Roy explained? Was not L. K. Advani ‘anti-national’ when he praised Jinnah in his visit to Pakistan? Why did not media remind all such incidents?
    Nationalism is just a notion to show that the pseudo-patriots are serving the people. A great poet said,’I will be a citizen of the world instead of being a citizen of one country’.
    Shameless media should use some discretion in presenting information…


  3. It is appalling when responsible, reasoned and sincere students from institutions like JNU are labeled seditious and anti – national. Universities are the bastions of knowledge, which open the mind to infinite possibilities. How can the RSS and their hooligans presume to interfere with our very minds and thoughts? The question in not just about the freedom of speech, it is also about the freedom of thought, actions and even beliefs. I fully support the students of JNU, it is a disturbing trend when democratically elected student leaders like Kanhaiya Kumar are arrested under trumped-up charges.


  4. What is said is right. But what was done on that day is also a truth. Please help identify the persons responsible irrespective of their party connections. That would be more constructive. Other things will be automatically taken care off.


    1. Sania, your mistake was certainly not as bad as that of the radio announcer who kept speaking of “Hanuman Thapa”.


  5. I appreciate the article and I agree that sedition charge is an overreaction.. However there still are a few unanswered questions ..
    Why has anyone from the university ( student or staff ) not yet come out and identified the people who are raising the slogans?
    If they are not students of the University then how did they join the event or even enter the University? Surely they must be friends of other students in the Univ.
    The best way to prove innocence is to find the guilty and bring them to Justice. IF this be just a camouflage then all those” innocent “present during the function risk being assumed ” guilty”.


    1. For one thing, a university campus is not like a military installation from which outsiders are strictly kept out. For another, there are photos on this very site in which ABVP people have been circled and identified as those who shouted the objectionable slogans. Finally, outsiders could well have entered as friends of students who were of the Hindu Right.


  6. It is very shameful that our government, the one we elected, has taken this path to curb dissent, A brilliant piece that everyone must read.


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