Guest Post by Shehla (Vice-President, JNUSU) and Rama Naga (General Secretary, JNUSU)
To all Friends (in Delhi, India and the World) who have Supported the Struggle of JNU students and students elsewhere in India in the past few weeks.
Thank you for your message of solidarity. In this hour of unprecedented attack on us, what has been a source of great strength are messages like these, which we have pasted all over the Administration Building. We have not been able to respond to each message because of being extremely overburdened. However, we are writing back today, in order to update you regarding the status of the struggle, and with a call to action on the 2nd of March, 2016 in your city.
The struggle as of now, continues on two fronts:
First is the political battle to get the sedition and other charges removed from all JNU students. As you know, on the 9th of Feb, 2016, after the event in question, there had been a rally by the organisers and participants of the event inside the campus. The right-wing group, ABVP, which represents the current ruling party in India, blocked the road, leading to a scuffle. There were FIRs and counter FIRs lodged by both sides against one another. The FIRs were that of manhandling, etc. However, an MP of the ruling party, Mahesh Giri, pressured the police to file cases of “Sedition” against activists representing the Left-progressive sections. Next thing we know, the police were doing rounds of the campus, raiding hostels and hounding student leaders. It was a painful attack on the University’s autonomy- finding precedent only in the state-declared Emergency (suspension of Constitution) several decades back. JNUSU President, arrested on that day, continues to be in jail. Those who assaulted him repeatedly, not just in the court premises, but in the courtroom as well, continue to roam about freely! Repeated acts of violence by ABVP in the campus since 9th of February have gone unpunished. The application of sedition and other charges is, therefore, politically determined. Civil rights activists have questioned the continued existence of the provision of sedition on the law book. It has been routinely abused to silence dissenters. In India’s Koodankulam, 8,000 civilians who were opposing the building of a nuclear plant in their area were charged with sedition! India’s Parliament is in session right now and we have appealed to various MPs to raise the issue in the Parliament. Since the application of the sedition law is politically determined, we need to build political pressure to get the criminal charges from all JNU students removed. On the 2nd of March, 2016, therefore, the JNU Students’ Union has called for a March to Parliament and International Protest Day with three main demands:
– Removal of sedition and other charges from all JNU students and release the arrested students.
– Scrapping of sedition law (Sec 124A IPC).
– Enactment of a “Rohith Act” for ending caste-based discrimination in educational institutions. (Rohith was the name of a Dalit student in HCU who was forced to commit suicide after being hounded by the University administration at the behest of, again the ABVP, the MHRD and one of the BJP MPs who is also the Union Labour Minister. Rohith and his friends were partially suspended from the university, resulting in a virtual social boycott, as they couldn’t access public spaces. What is happening in JNU is very similar. In HCU, the attack was on Ambedkarite activists, whereas in JNU, the attack is on Left activists, a majority of them belonging to deprived backgrounds. The enactment of a “Rohith Act” seeks to provide institutional mechanisms to end caste-based discrimination in universities and other educational institutions.)
JNUSU appeals you to join the March to Parliament on 2nd March, 2016 from Mandi House to Parliament at 12 noon, if you are in Delhi. If not in Delhi, we appeal to you to hold parallel events in your city/country in support of our demands. We also appeal to everyone to use the hash tag #StandWithJNU to post live updates and support. Let’s try to trend #StandWithJNU globally. You may consider presenting a memorandum of demands to the local authorities as well or holding a press conference in order to publicize the demands of this movement.
The second challenge, as of now, is to ensure that the academic suspension of eight activists is unconditionally revoked.After the 9th February incident, the University administration, after a delay of about 48 hours, constituted an enquiry committee but the committee seems keener in vendetta rather than enquiry. As a norm, matters relating to the students are dealt with at the level of Proctor office. However, the administration, bypassing the Proctorial board, constituted a three-member High Level Committee which did not even bother to inform the students as to what they are actually being accused of. If the University is not clear about the exact accusation, how did they arrive at the eight names, named in the enquiry? The answer is clear- these are leading student activists of the campus, including the President and General Secretary of the Students’ Union. Also, without pointing out the exact charges against each student and without even starting the enquiry process, the Committee “prime facie” found them guilty and debarred them from academic activities! What did the committee find them “guilty” of, when the administration has not even been able to zero in on the exact charge against them? The JNU Students’ Union and the JNU Teachers’ Association have both expressed their grave concerns regarding the composition, scope and intentions of the committee. After a total boycott of the committee by the students, the administration has now added two more members to it, after all the depositions have been made. This pattern is similar to what happened in HCU- the committee that punished Rohith Vemula and his friends had a Dalit member added to it at the very last stage. We have serious concerns about the intentions of the committee and we believe that no enquiry can take place in the atmosphere of fear and insecurity that has been created for the students. When the students are already debarred, an enquiry works as a tool of blackmail against valiant student activists, seeking to tame them into submission or compromise. The stakes for the students under enquiry are very high, as most of them belong to marginalised backgrounds- there are two Dalit students, two students from backward communities, minority students as well as women. Academic suspension for these students creates a distress of unimaginable levels for them and makes them vulnerable. Expecting these students to cooperate with the enquiry committee is unreasonable.
On the 29th of February, 2016 (that is, Monday) the JNU Administration has called for an emergency meeting of the Executive Council- the governing body of the University. The JNU Students’ Union has called for a Daylong Dharna (sit-in) outside the Administration Block building demanding:
– Immediate revocation of suspension of the 8 student activists: Kanhaiya (JNUSU President), Rama (JNUSU Gen Sec), Ashutosh (Former JNUSU President), Anant (Former JNUSU Vice-President), Shweta Raj (Elected Convenor, JNUSU), Aishwarya (Elected student representative to GSCASH), Umar and Anirban (both research scholars in History).
– Removal of the University Registrar, Prof. Bhupinder Zutshi, for mishandling the situation
We will stand outside the Ad Block from 10 am onwards, voluntarily boycotting classes and presenting memorandums covered in black ribbons to the EC members.
Today (Sunday, 28 Feb), JNUSU has called for an Open House meeting to seek suggestions from the students, as to how the movement should be taken forward.
Thanking you once again for the solidarity, we reiterate the appeal to observe International Protest Day on the 2nd of March, 2016 in support of JNU. Let’s trend the hashtag #StandWithJNU worldwide on 2nd of March, 2016.
Shehla (Vice-President, JNUSU)
Rama Naga (Gen Sec, JNUSU)