A Tale of Two and a Half Marches – Two for Azadi and a Half for Ghulami.

[Videos of song by Shehla Rashid and of speeches by Nivedita Menon, Kavita Krishnan, Umar Khalid and Jignesh Mevani, courtesy, Samim Asgor Ali]

February gives way to March and spring returns to Delhi. And what a spring it is. The right wing thugs of the ABVP choose the wrong time to attack, once again. They must really get themselves a better astrologer, or at least a better class of charlatan who can tell them if there ever is a right time to stage their goon show. I suspect there isn’t.

Spring in DU - Fight Back DU
Spring in DU – Fight Back DU

Continue reading “A Tale of Two and a Half Marches – Two for Azadi and a Half for Ghulami.”

Students Protest in JNU Over Rising Civilian Casualties in Kashmir

The number of unarmed civilians killed in instances of firing by the armed forces, police and paramilitaries enforcing the occupation of Kashmir by the Indian state in the latest wave of violence has crossed fifty. Many more have been blinded by pellet guns. Hundreds have been injured and hospitalized. Reports of protests are coming not only from the Kashmir valley, Kargil, Drass and Jammu, but also from many cities in India. From Delhi (where there has been a public protest at Jantar Mantar, a press conference at Gandhi Peace Foundation and a student protest at Jawaharlal Nehru University), from Kolkata, which saw a massive turn out in a public march, from Chennai, from Patna, and from Kochi and Tricky in Kerala.

On Friday 22nd July, I went to a night protest march and public gathering by students at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. The march was called by Shehla Rashid, Vice President, JNUSU and Rama Naga, General Secretary, JNUSU (Both AISA activists) There were perhaps two hundred students gathered peacefully. The march began around 10:00 pm, made its way around the university campus and the protest continued well past midnight. Several student organizations, AISA, BASO, Hundred Flowers, Collective, DSU and individual students participated in the march. Shehla Rashid, Vice President, JNUSU and an AISA student activist, addressed the gathering before the march began, stating clearly, that this was going to be a peaceful expression of the democratic right to protest against the atrocities being enacted by the Indian state on the people of the part of Kashmir that is under Indian occupation. She asked the students to be vigilant in case any disruptive slogans were raised by planted agent-provocateurs. The entire march, and the protest meeting was documented by the students, so as to ensure that no ‘doctored videos’ would raise their ugly digital heads in the days to come. The students raised the demand for freedom for the people of Kashmir, and for people in all parts of South Asia. The slogans connected the realties of the people of Kashmir, the North East, Bastar, Jharkhand, with the experiences of Dalits, Workers, Peasants, Women, Students and Minorities. Slogans were raised against the killings and blindings by pellet guns in Kashmir. against torture, again rape, against draconian acts like AFSPA and PSA. The march made its way through the entire campus and culminated outside Chandrabhaga Hostel, where a meeting was held on the steps. The meeting lasted over two hours, was completely peaceful,and more than two hundred students listened to the speakers with close attention.

Police officers and campus security guards were present, and recorded everything. The students also recorded everything. And the indefatigable Shamim Asghor Ali made video recordings of several speeches, and uploaded them on to youtube, which we are lucky to be able to share here. We are also grateful for the still images uploaded by V. Arun, several others also took pictures and videos, which are now being shared on Facebook. Continue reading “Students Protest in JNU Over Rising Civilian Casualties in Kashmir”

Choice, Agency and the Naming of Names – The Trap of ‘Immediate Identities’ and the Vision of a Democratic Revolution: Chintu Kumari & Umar Khalid

Paired Guest Posts by CHINTU KUMARI and UMAR KHALID

[ Every struggle goes through highs and lows. The students who are part of the  movements that are spreading out of universities in India – Hyderabad Central University, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jadavpur University have had their share of internal debates and disagreements, even as they have found moments of significant victory. and solidarity

Students at JNU who have recently concluded their hunger strike to give time to the university authorities to respond reasonably to the High Court directives on the HLEC punishments are now being criticized for having ‘abandoned the struggle’ by some sections who claim to play a role within the broader students movement, when, in fact, nothing of that sort has actually happened.

The majority of the students who were on hunger strike (including several JNUSU office bearers, and others) have said that they have given up the hunger strike against the HLEC recommendations in keeping with the court order.  In doing so, they have never said that they are suspending the agitation against the attempts by the JNU administration to weaken OBC reservation in admissions, hostel seats and deprivation points for women and oppressed sections of society.

In fact it is not as if the HLEC punishments issue has taken precedence over the other issues. It is actually the other way round. The students have decided to give priority to the struggle for ’social justice’ within the campus, while simultaneously giving time to the university authorities to respond adequately to the court directive on the HLEC punishment question.The call for a demonstration against the University Authorities by the JNUSU to continue the struggle on the social justice issues on the 16th of May is indicative of this fact.

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The attacks and insinuations against the majority of the students at JNU who were on hunger strike have also featured a deliberate attempt to create divisions within the unified ‘Red-Blue’ / ‘Jai Bhim-Lal Salaam’ dynamics of the movement on the grounds of identity. Activists, such as Umar Khalid, on the left have been singled out for being ‘Savarna-Syed’, if they happen to bear a Muslim name, and for being ‘sold out to the Savarna left’ if they are Dalit, as happened with Chintu Kumari and Rama Naga. This attack has come primarily from individuals representing organizations like BAPSA that claim to speak from a ‘Dalit’ position, and it is given traction by several other individuals eager to flaunt their disdain for the ‘left’ students on Facebook and social media.  Continue reading “Choice, Agency and the Naming of Names – The Trap of ‘Immediate Identities’ and the Vision of a Democratic Revolution: Chintu Kumari & Umar Khalid”

Responding to the Challenges of Blue and Red – Reminiscences of a JNU-HCU Alumna: Shipra Nigam

This is a guest post by SHIPRA NIGAM

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”

Who will take responsibility if the threat to “storm JNU” and kill students is carried out?

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.

Rise in Rage – Message of Solidarity for HCU Students: Anirban Bhattacharya and Umar Khalid

Guest Post by Anirban Bhattacharya & Umar Khalid

“We dissent, therefore we are”
The times we are living in are audacious. As the brahmanical Hindutva fascist forces in collaboration with big corporates are attempting to browbeat (or even just beat) us into silence, what better time than today to be audacious, to show our audacity. And that is precisely what Rohith Vemula did, both in his life as well as in his death. He dared to dissent against the brahmanical and communal structures of discrimination and oppression. He posed a graver “national security threat” because he was not just speaking up against the oppression against the Dalits, but also tried to build solidarities with other oppressed communities – the Muslims and other minorities. 
Of course, this invited the wrath of the powers that be – of Manu-Smriti Irani, of Bandaru Dattatreya, of the puppet VC Appa Rao and the puppeteer – the RSS. This earned him the epithet of “anti-national” as he was murdered institutionally by the communal-casteist apparatus of the state. The motive of the state was to “teach him a lesson” and “teach a lesson” to all those voices who dared to be audacious. But in vain. Rohith’s murder sparked a fire that spread across the country – across universities – demanding justice for Rohith. The need was felt by the RSS/BJP to “teach a lesson” yet again. In JNU the attack came in the form of the facile “national/anti-national” debate. When this was thwarted, in HCU it came in the form of the re-installation of the puppet VC Appa Rao.

This, of course, was an insult to the cause of justice for Rohith. It was an affront to the very idea of social justice. And it was a direct challenge to all democratic voices in the country. This outrage, this indignation could not have been taken lying low. The students in HCU yet again showed their audacity as they rose in rage against the re-installation of a killer VC. And this was met with a brutal lathi-charge by the Telangana Police, a fascist witch-hunt of student activists and teachers, their arrest on bogus charges, suspension of mess-water-electricity-internet and other facilities. The university has been turned into a war-zone.

Today universities and educational institutions across the country are being turned into war-zones and prison houses. It’s a shame today that heads of institutions and VCs – whether in FTII or HCU – are being escorted into their own campuses under police protection. On the one hand the institutionalized discrimination against Dalits and other oppressed castes is either forcing students to drop-out or hang themselves thereby necessitating the incessant demand for a Rohith Act. While on the other hand, through a concerted effort the state is imposing the brahmanical Hindutva fascist agenda of the RSS in course-curriculum. On the one hand, the state is pursuing a policy of massive fund cuts, fee-hikes or privatization so as to make higher education unaffordable for a large section – particularly the oppressed caste/class. On the other hand, to achieve the same, the ruling classes have been preparing to quell all possible resistance to the above through depoliticizing campus-spaces and curbing any and every voices of dissent. Such are the diktats, the exigencies of the insatiable thirst of global capital for profit in its bid to overcome the inherent crisis. While such anti-student pro-privatization policies were set in motion by the erstwhile Congress governments with all earnest, under the present regime, further velocity and teeth has been added to the same. The tightening tentacles of fascism in the country with RSS at its helm has only meant further witch-hunt, increasing militarization, casteist targeting, and shrinking of democratic space for debate and dissent in campuses.  

But, much to the irritation of those in Nagpur, the more vicious has been the assault, the more spectacular has been the resistance. From being against the bogey of Love Jihad to being for Kiss of Love, from being against Ghar Wapsi to calling the bluff on Swacch Bharat, from being against Dadri killing to exposing the farce of Make in India, from Hokkolorob to Pinjatod, from FTII to IIT-Madras, from Allahabad to Calicut, from Occupy UGC to Justice for Rohith, from Stand with JNU to Stand with HCU – there is a students’ spring today that swells across the country. We the students, today, are the opposition. And it is this strength that was exhibited in the streets of Delhi when Justice for Rohith and Stand with JNU merged into a sea of resistance.

If we look back in history, at times when the ruling classes has intensified its assault upon the people across the world, it is the students who have taken up a vital share of responsibility to speak up, to dissent. And more often than not we have seen various such youth and student movements talking to each other, drawing from each other, inspiring each other and thereby strengthening each other. The Black Panther movement influenced the Dalit Panthers. The struggle in Vietnam triggered massive anti-war demonstrations across the universities in America. The students of France 68 inspired millions of students across Europe and the world. The Cultural Revolution led by students in Maoist China inspired millions including the students during the Naxalbari movement which in turn inspired thousands across the subcontinent. Similarly it is important today that the movements whether of the Dalits, the women, the minorities, the LGBTIQ community, the workers, the peasants – should all speak to each other and gain strength from each other. At a time of ascendant fascism, it is imperative that we build solidarities forged in struggles. Because, even today if we remain divided into red, blue and green and so on, even if today we remain divided in HCU and JNU – fascism will ensure that tomorrow none survives. Maintaining our ideological differences – our colours, sharpening our tools of criticism and self-criticism, we must shun the path of sectarianism and build genuine unity of the oppressed against the combined assault of the brahmanical Hindutva fascist forces and the forces of big capital. 

The attack today is relentless. So has to be the resistance. The bail orders for a few individuals in a campus can be a small battle won, but the war is far from over and there can be no respite today. We are confronting fascism today; it is a difficult fight, and no one ever said it would be easy. Let us fight for the release of the students and teachers put behind bars in Hyderabad and in the process let us intensify the struggle to oust Appa Rao, to seek justice for Rohith, to challenge the brahmanical fascist forces and their tightening noose.

Rise in Rage against the reinstallation of Appa Rao, the killer of Rohith Vemula as VC in HCU.

Condemn the brutal crackdown and arrests of students and teachers by Telangana Police.
Anirban Bhattacharya & Umar Khalid are both students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Delhi

Mera Piya Ghar Aaya: Umar Khalid and Anirban Return to JNU and the Students’ Struggle

I have come home a little while ago from Jawaharlal Nehru University after listening to Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya take back the night. As I drove home  through the quiet streets of Delhi after midnight it occurred to me that somebody should whisper into Narendra Modi’s ear that he should now start stocking up on sleeping pills. (Maybe Baba Ramdev’s enterprise makes some that he could prescribe to the Prime Minister, unadulterated). With young people like Umar and Anirban as his adversaries, the Prime Minister can only have sleepless nights ahead of him. It is perhaps fortunate for him that the team from Madame Tussaud’s came by and did their job yesterday. Because from now on, his real skin tone will only envy the lustre of his wax work. Umar and Anirban, and their friends, took away the little remaining shine that Modi had left at midnight.

Continue reading “Mera Piya Ghar Aaya: Umar Khalid and Anirban Return to JNU and the Students’ Struggle”