Witch hunt spree in Indian Universities

Stand With JU

While the mainstream corporate media has blackened out any serious coverage around the suspension and hounding of JNU students, the struggle of the students against the Modi government’s and its proxy, the university administration continues. Some of the JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) students have been on a hunger strike since April 27th, the day after the JNU administration issued out “punishments” to 17 students who were involved in the Febraury 9th event. While most students, including JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar, were awarded penalties and fines, Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya and Kashmiri student Mujeeb Gatoo have been suspended and banned from campus. In particular, Anirban has been rusticated for five years just as he nears the end of his PhD.

It is to be noted that Kanhaiya, Anirban and Umar are still going to be tried in court under India’s outdated sedition laws from which they have managed to obtain bail as temporary relief. The JNU administration has also submitted its probe panel report to the Delhi police. The High Court has refused to stay the student rustication and is asking for more documentation from the JNU VC for reasons of the suspension.

Almost every student who has been punished is involved in left-politics, and one of the students involved in the hunger strike, Rama Naga, has rightly labelled it as a “witch-hunt” and a “proxy-war” by the Modi government against student dissenters. The similarity of what is happening here with the events that led to Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula’s murder-by-suicide on Hyderabad Central University campus earlier this year should not be missed (a university administration enforcing the government’s agenda). In spite of massive outpouring of people’s support both nationally and internationally to the students in the past few months, and despite the whole episode turning out to be a huge embarrassment to the BJP government, it continues its political vendetta. As JNUSU (JNU Students’ Union) vice-president Shela Rashid points out, the protests are not only about the unfair punishments meted out to students, but also the “saffronisation of education” and “stifling of voices of dissent” in our country, especially among the student community.

While many of the students have been forced to withdraw from the indefinite hunger strike due to failing health, a relay hunger strike continues, with solidarity from their fellow students and teachers.On May 10th, the 13th day of the hunger strike, after a big (and some innovative) protest action by students and the teachers and cowed down by the pressure, the JNU VC has agreed to start “taking notice” of the students’ demands. In a funny incident that’s been dubbed “Bhaag Jaggu Bhaag” on social media and one that hopes will ring true of the Modi government in the 2019 elections, the JNU VC apparently ran away from the council meetings, followed behind by students raising slogans and singing protest songs.

However, the larger struggle is not yet over. While JNU still boils, an old battle-front has opened up in West Bengal in the last few days, with ABVP declaring a war on “anti-national” students of Jadavpur university. In a shameful and hateful statement, the WB secretary of ABVP has warned “leftists, students, teachers and a section of nonteaching staff” that he will “chop off their legs” for “participating in anti-national activities” or if they dare to venture out of the university. The situation turned tense when in a protest by students against the controversial screening of a movie on the so-called “NGO-Naxal-academia nexus”, students were manhandled and female students molested by BJP goons. In September 2014, Jadavpur University was in the news for sexual violence and police lathicharge against students who were protesting against the incident on campus and recently, its students had come out strongly in support of the recent protests at JNU and HCU.

The issues that triggered these events at the three universities were Muzaffarnagar riots, the national question on Kashmir and judicial killing of Afzal Guru, caste discrimination and sexual harassment, issues which cannot be digested by the right-wing groups. Therefore, it is the responsibility of everyone who stood behind JNU in the past few months and who recognizes the disastrous right-wing agenda of the Modi government to continue supporting all the students struggles even if the sensationalist mainstream media has withdrawn from the scenes. As the right-wing Modi government’s crackdown on workers’ rights and student activism continues, it is important to assert the unity of workers and students in the fight against communalism, capitalism, caste and continue the struggle for equality, social justice and freedom.

Solidarity with JNU! Solidarity with JU! Solidarity with HCU!

For the unity of workers and students!

For Azaadi! Lal Salaam!

Vinay Chandra