This is a guest post by ADITYA SARKAR
JNU has entered an indefinite state of siege. Police have been swarming all over campus, raiding hostels, picking up students and interrogating them. The ABVP, predictably, have been directing them to the lairs of ‘anti-national elements’. When immense demonstrations of public solidarity with the accused students were organized, ABVP activists have attacked these, in one case mounting a violent physical assault on a visiting speaker. The JNU administration has gone to the extent of cutting off the power supply to the microphones used at a protest meeting. At Patiala House on Monday the 15th of February, the BJP’s MLAs and what appear to be a group of lawyers have assaulted JNU students, faculty and supporters in full view of the police, with what can only be regarded as smug impunity. More than one observer has remarked that this is the Emergency all over again.
It is clear that the arrayed forces of the central government are pitted against a campus which has long been an object of hatred for the Right. There’s no telling how matters will develop in the days and weeks to come. So it might be necessary to step back a bit and consider the sequence of events that led to the current situation.
In the past month, JNU students organized a protest meeting which raised the issue of Kashmiri rights, and drew attention – just as Rohith Vemula’s protest in Hyderabad had done – to the execution of Afzal Guru in 2013. Since the mainstream news outlets systematically censor any attempt to reopen that extremely murky case, it’s worth reminding ourselves of precisely why the execution was so controversial. The terrorist attack on Parliament in December 2001 produced a police investigation on which serious doubt was cast from the beginning. Afzal Guru’s laptop and mobile phone, key pieces of evidence, had not been sealed prior to investigation. One of the other accused in the case, a Delhi University lecturer (who was later emphatically acquitted) was viciously framed by Zee News, which used the police charge-sheet to make a documentary ‘establishing’ his guilt. The court proceedings were even more revealing. The Supreme Court admitted that there was no hard evidence to conclusively establish Afzal Guru’s involvement in criminal conspiracy. But these admissions were merely qualifications to what was perhaps the most extraordinary decision in the history of the judiciary in independent India. Afzal Guru was eventually hanged in 2013 on the basis that only this would appease ‘the collective conscience of the