That the past few months have been cataclysmic is an understatement. Personal tragedies and political catastrophes have exploded within our most cherished spaces, and brought a churning in them. What was truly transformative was the experience of both the emergence of broad solidarities against right-wing fascism, and of the reminders of multiple registers and contexts within them. These underline the need for multiple conversations to understand both our common struggles, as well as the contradictions within, and to renew a resolve for introspection through them as we move towards real ‘azaadi’.
There is of course an ongoing debate on this, and here I felt that some binaries being invoked in it are not very convincing, while others brought home stark truths that pose challenges to a patriarchal, majoritarian caste hindu ordering of society, within which we are all located at different levels of hierarchy, complicity, and engagement.
I have been part of both public universities under fire right now, and the present brings home the urgency of the dual task of defending the public university as a space for pushing the boundaries of critical thought, and confronting the very hierarchies and complicities with power that shape it. This is necessary even as processes of democratisation and affirmative action take root in public institutions . So these are some reminiscences from an alumna of both these public universities who has been wrestling with articulations and complexities which lie beyond institutional labels or binaries. Continue reading Responding to the Challenges of Blue and Red – Reminiscences of a JNU-HCU Alumna: Shipra Nigam→
One Amit Jani has received considerable media attention with his threats to JNU students, promising a ‘shoot-out’ if JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid, do not meet the ‘deadline’ he has given for them to leave campus.
Almost immediately as this came to the attention of the JNU community, students and teachers took steps to bring this threat to the attention of Facebook, where the threat was initially posted; of Delhi Police and of JNU Administration.
These steps are listed below, so that later, nobody should be able to say We Did Not Know. The media, which covers every petty letter written to the police by ABVP with great alacrity, has not seen fit to recognize the steps being taken by an increasingly anxious JNU community over clear and specific threats to the life of our students, and indeed to everyone on JNU campus.
1. JNUSU wrote to the VC, bringing this time-bound threat to his attention. JNUSU also filed a complaint at the Vasant Kunj North Police Station to take appropriate action against those indulging in intimidation and threat to students. Students also met the SHO personally and requested him to take the issue seriously and file an FIR. A Complaint has also been sent to Commissioner of Police by JNUSU, with a copy of the complaint to LG and CM.
There has been no response from the police so far.
Eighty five years ago, on 23 March 1931, Bhagat Singh walked bravely, proudly to the gallows, his two young colleagues Rajguru and Sukhdev by his side. His lustre continues undimmed as an icon for succeeding generations, so that it is easy to forget he was only 23 years old. Subhash Bose spoke then of Bhagat Singh as a ‘symbol of the new awakening among youth’. Nehru saw in him ‘a spark that became a flame in a short time and spread from one end of the country to another dispelling the prevailing darkness everywhere’. His popularity rivalled that of Mahatma Gandhi.
In the decades after his passing, in times of public ferment, despair, confusion and anger, successive generations in India have found their own inheritors of young Bhagat Singh’s mantle, men and women embodying defiant youthful idealism and dissent, young people battling for social and economic equality, for true freedom, sparks that once again set aflame a beleaguered wearied country battling the darkness of the times.
Violent thoughts and deeds are increasingly getting justified in the name of Indian nation. A mob of lawyers has attacked students, teachers and journalists, right in the middle of a court complex in the national capital. Leaders of these patriotic lawyers were later caught bragging on camera about how they will next time throw bombs on anti-nationals. A young woman in Delhi has received emails and face book posts threatening her with acid attack and sexual assault, because she happens to be a sister of Umar Khalid, one of the organisers of the JNU programme, during which according to police anti-India slogans were raised. The mere being of this woman, and her defence of her brother, is enough of a provocation for many men and women of the country to justify the threat of ultimate male violence against women. Another man, Mr Adarsh Sharma put posters in the central district of the capital announcing an award of Rs 11 lakh for anyone who kills Mr Kanhaiya Kumar, the president of the JNUSU, charged with sedition. Mr Sharma claims that his ‘blood boiled’ when he saw Mr Kumar’s much publicised speech after his release on bail. The popular movie Pyasa (1957) of Gurudutt had a song ‘Jinhen Naz hai Hind par vo kahaan hain’, which used the reality of social degradation to question celebrations of the nation. Sahir’s poem worked because it asked Indians to look at themselves in the mirror of public morality of the recently independent India. That mirror has been cracked for long. With the brazenly violent now claiming that their violence and threat to violence should really be the pride of the nation, we are now witnessing the final shattering of that mirror. Continue reading Nation and its Violences: Sanjay Kumar→
For the fourth time since the early February, students, faculty and their friends marched in Delhi. Once again, there were thousands of people, walking from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar. This time, there was focused attention on the demand for the release of the detained JNU students – Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, the DU Professor S.A.R Geelani, solidarity with JNU Prof. Nivedita Menon and the poet-scientist Gauhar Raza against their media trials, and a direct attack on the creeping fascism of the Modi regime. Here are some moments from this march.
(Thanks to Aniket Prantdarshi, Kavita Krishnan, Samim Asgor Ali and Anish Ahluwalia, ‘We are JNU’ for their photos and videos, which I have taken from their Facebook pages and Youtube Channels)
Manu Joseph’s latest commentary regarding the ongoing crisis in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and the larger debate on Indian ‘nationalism’ smacks of crass elitism, as a journalist pithily pointed out online. If one were to use a ‘different term’, as Joseph himself keeps venturing to do in his writing, it is simply nauseating. This is for several reasons. To begin with, he harbours a convoluted understanding of what research in higher educational institutes entails, the nature of student politics, the lasting dangers of right wing assaults, and the pathetic misrepresentation carried out by the media, including himself, of the pressing issues in this country. Continue reading Of False Binaries and ‘Dirty’ Politics: Divya Kannan→
In response to JNUSU’s call for observing 2nd March as International Day of Protest and to demand justice for Rohith Vemula and the release of the then three arrested students, numerous organisations decided to gather outside Dadar station (E) and carry out a peaceful protest. Among them were All India Students’ Association (AISA), All India Students’ Federation (AISF), Students’ Federation of India (SFI), Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), All India Youth Federation (AIYF), University Committee for Democracy and Equality (UCDE) and others. The protest was supposed to begin at 5pm. Continue reading Encounters With the State and Other Comedies: Asmit Pathare→
Kanhaiya Kumar, the president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union (JNUSU) in New Delhi, India, was arrested on Feb 10 on charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy. Kanhaiya was present at a meeting on the evening of Feb 9, where incendiary slogans were allegedly raised. Seven other students were also charged. Mr. Kumar is not accused of raising the slogans; indeed the identity of the person(s) who raised the slogans remains a mystery. Charging a student leader for sedition for another’s mere sloganeering is prima facie absurd. Further, the assault of Mr. Kumar, other students and faculty, and even journalists, in court premises by lawyers and others sympathetic to the government, do not inspire confidence in a fair judicial process. Continue reading St Louis Universities Stand With JNU: A Statement→
For the third time within a span of two weeks since the middle of February, thousands of people came out on the streets of Delhi to express their solidarity with the detained students of JNU (Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban) and to voice their anger with the venal Modi regime.
Protest demonstrations (at least in northern India) tend to have something of the monotonous in them, the same cadence, the same rhythm and the same wailing, complaining tone. They tend to have an air of events staged by the defeated, for the defeated. But if we take the last three big protests in the city, and the many gatherings in JNU in the last two weeks or so, as any indicator of what the pulse of our time is, we will have to agree that there has been a qualitative transformation in the language, vocabulary and affect of protests. This afternoon, like the afternoon of the 18th (the first big JNU solidarity march), and of the 23rd of February (the Justice for Rohith Vemula March), was as much about the joy of togetherness and friendship as it was about rage and anger.
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.
In a shockingly partisan statement that blatantly misrepresents events, the Bar Council of India has issued a report that justifies the well documented attacks by a mob of lawyers on JNU students, teachers and media at Patiala House Courts over two days (February 15 and 17, 2016) as ‘a reaction to the incidents, which are grave in nature and very dangerous for the country’. BCI Joint Secretary Ashok Kumar Pandey claimed that a large number of JNU teachers and students and others had arrived at the court in three to four buses and raised slogans and used ‘provocative words’. This led to the untoward incident in which ‘both the sides took part,’ said the report, adding that ‘any true citizen or a lawyer of India’ was supposed to react strongly to the ‘anti-India’ slogans.
We, the undersigned faculty members of Jawaharlal Nehru University, wish to set the record straight. Nine of us reached Patiala House Court No 4 between 1 and 1.15 pm on 15th February 2016 to attend the hearing on Kanhaiya Kumar’s bail plea. The sole objective of our presence there was that when Kanhaiya Kumar was produced he would see the faces of his teachers in the courtroom. At that time, a few students and other teachers of JNU, and some members of CPI, the parent organization of Kanhaiya’s student group, were already waiting silently outside, similarly wanting him to see friendly and familiar faces when he was produced. There were about 15 to 20 of them, hardly enough to fill 4 cars, let alone one bus.
Earlier this week, I tried to join the many dots of violence at universities into a coherent pattern. My central contention is:
Spirited resistance in campuses across the country suggests the politics of India’s youth are more fluid and assertive than expected. The mid-1990s empowerment of historically oppressed castes, narratives of economic aspiration from the 2000s and an instinctive suspicion of authoritarianism have come together to forge a bold poetic new politics of desire that has befuddled even ruthless and astute politicians like the prime minister.
Modi’s government uses outdated laws, a pliant police force and Hindu student organizations as a battering ram to crush this awakening, exacerbating the discord between a prime minister determined to stamp his authority on an unruly nation and students enraptured by a thrilling moment of unlikely solidarities that could define their generation.
In 1894, a case of espionage broke out in France. Alfred Dreyfus, a young officer was arrested in connection with a letter suggesting a transfer of sensitive documents to the German attaché in Paris. Dreyfus was arrested for the crime, his family was intimidated and he was swiftly convicted despite weak evidence. After being publicly shamed as a traitor in a court-martial, he was sent to ‘Devil’s Island’ in French Guinea, a notorious penal colony. Within a couple of years of his conviction, a movement emerged to re-examine the facts of the case. Dreyfus would be eventually re-tried and re-convicted despite overwhelming evidence in his favour.
Dreyfus was Alsatian, Jewish, and a graduate of the elite École Polytechnique, one of the most competitive institutes in the country. Alsace had been lost by France following the Franco-Prussian war, the French were bitter about this, and Alsatians were often seen as a suspicious regional minority. The case that came to be known as the “Dreyfus Affair” in time became a landmark in modern French history because of the multilayered schisms in French society that it threw open.
(Written by Bodhisattva Kar in Bengali, First published in on 18 February 2016 by the Ei Samay newspaper.Translated into English by Ahona Panda)
“To you I confess today—what you all call a patriot, I am not of that kind.” After this confession of sparkling clarity, should we not catch hold of that man as an anti-national? So what if he is dead? If the dead can be rewarded with the Bharat Ratna, why can’t we frame the dead with a few charges of sedition? For God’s sake, all you good people, how did you make a song written by this man the national anthem? The man who—without any obfuscation—speaks through the mouth of the protagonist of Char Adhyaya—“They who do not take cognizance of that which is greater than patriotism, their patriotism is like crossing on a crocodile’s back.” Where did he get the audacity to dream of something greater than patriotism? And, he did not even study at JNU. “By killing the very soul of the country, the country’s life can be resuscitated: this terrible untruth is being announced in beastly roars by nationalists around the world and it makes my heart revolt with intolerable intensity.” How can you not burn the books produced by such a treacherous son of Mother India, who said such terribly instigatory things? Why do you worship him instead? Can anyone put their hand on their hearts and say that he wasn’t a Pakistani spy, just because of the niggling detail that Pakistan did not exist at the time he was writing? Did we not shoot Dabholkar or Pansare for agonizing quite a bit less than he did? Continue reading Come on man, be clear, what comes first—Nation, or Democracy? Bodhisattva Kar translated by Ahona Panda→
We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with the students, faculty and staff of Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India in their ongoing struggle against the anti-democratic incursions of the Indian state. We appeal to the elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi to uphold the Indian constitution, cease the repression of democratic protest across university campuses in India, and withdraw the spurious charges of ‘sedition’ against JNU Students’ Union President Kanhaiya Kumar. Continue reading Statement of Solidarity with JNU: University of Exeter (UK)→
We, the undersigned students, staff and faculty members at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam in The Hague, support the right of students and teachers everywhere to a learning environment that is critical, engaging and respectful. In light of recent events and the slander campaign against the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), we are disheartened and embarrassed that this is not the vision of the current Government of India, that they would rather create spaces of fear and control, by labelling all those that criticise their policies as anti-national and unpatriotic. Continue reading Solidarity Statement from The International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam in The Hague→
We, the undersigned, students, faculty, alumni, and staff at the New School University, New York, stand in solidarity with the students, staff, and faculty at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, in their protests against the militarization of the campus and suppression of dissent by anti-democratic and divisive Hindu nationalist groups allied with the Modi government. Continue reading The New School in Solidarity with JNU→
We, the undersigned, students, scholars, and faculty of the University of Texas at Austin, stand in solidarity with the students, faculty, and staff at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi against the illegal and unconscionable crackdown by police. We demand an immediate end to all police action on campus, a withdrawal of all frivolous charges against the President of JNU Students’ Union, Kanhaiya Kumar, and other students, as well as an end to the campaign of harassment and intimidation against students at the university. With them, we affirm the autonomy of the university as a non-militarized space for freedom of thought and expression. Accordingly, we condemn police presence on campus and the harassment of students on the basis of their political beliefs. Continue reading University of Texas Students and Faculty stand with JNU→