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11

The following is a first person account by Md Hasanujjaman, M Phil in English, University of Hyderabad of the brutality unleashed by the police against the students and faculty of University of Hyderabad.

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VC Apparao resumes office at the face of the report of the two-member fact finding committee that stated the university should have handled the incident more “sensitively” -

I am one of the arrested students in connection with the protest against the VC of UoH. I belong to a minority community of West Bengal. My family is financially backward. Here I would like to narrate the police brutality on me and my fellowvictims in police van on the way from UoH to Miyapur Police Station on 22nd March. Before coming to UoH I was naive about the problems in the society. I had no idea of the pathetic and dehumanized condition of the dalits and the adivasis. I was hardly aware of the dangerous consequences of caste system in the Indian society. But coming to UoH I began to understand the real picture of the caste system which leads to utter discrimination and dehumanization of the dalits. I saw that this caste system makes the lives of the dalits extremely miserable. Realizing my responsibility as an independent and right thinking citizen of this country I found that the caste system is a tool of dehumanization and therefore it must be annihilated. I stood against this discrimination of the caste system and thus, I aligned with the movement which Rohith Vemula was part of.

Rohith Vemula being a dalit, was institutionally discriminated and forced to take his own life. The ‘Vice Chancellor prof Appa Rao Podile’ directly perpetrated in the institutional social boycott against the five dalit students including Rohith. Following the suicide of Rohith, the VC was booked under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act according to whose provision the accused must have been arrested within 24 hours from the lodging of FIR. However the FIR was lodged on 18th January, 2016 and till date he has not been arrested. This is a gross violation of the constitutional provision. Instead he returned to the university and attempted to illegally reclaim his ‘vice chancellorship’ on the 22nd March, early morning.

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Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and other security personnel unleashed brutal physical and sexual assault on students and teachers protesting against VC resuming office for Justice for Rohith

On the same day that is on 22nd March I went to attend a PreSubmission Seminar in the department of English, School of Humanities, at exactly around 2.00pm. Coming out of the department at around 3.00pm I saw that the peacefully protesting women and men teacher and students were being dragged and beaten up mercilessly by the police. The police were chasing and lathicharging on the protesters indiscriminately. It was obnoxious to see that the protesters are beaten up for raising voice against the injustice. It was a day of police violence on the democratic and peaceful protesters. I saw one student losing his sense and was rushed to a hospital. Many students got their clothes torn due to the brutal manhandle and lathicharge. But it was most painful to see that the women students and teachers being mercilessly beaten up by the police. They were thrashed on their private parts. I also witnessed female teachers being manhandled/molested by the police. It was a violation of women's rights as the women students and teachers were molested by the male police. Dr Tathagata Sengupta, an assistant professor of Mathematics was beaten up too.

It was a threatening moment in my life. I never saw such police violence in front of my eyes. I could not restrain myself from speaking against the police and as a result I was the next to be victimized. However, the police brutality actually began when one teacher, one film maker and the sixteen students including me were chased and dragged into a police van. I was standing near the ‘Goodwill canteen’ which is around 250 meter away from the VC`s lodge where the protests were happening. Standing there itself I could see students and teacher being dragged into the police van. But I never thought that I would also be a victim of the police brutality. Suddenly, one police chased me and caught the collar of my shirt. I pleaded not to apprehend me as I did not commit any crime except the fact that I stood for the Justice for Rohith and supported the students’ movement for justice. I feel that I was targeted because I questioned the police on their face that why Rohith did not get justice even after more than three months; why the accused for Rohith's murder has not been punished; on what ground the VC has come to take charge of the university. Instead I was beaten up and thrashed hard and pushed into the police van.

This inhuman and brutal torture continued on all of us for around 50 minutes on the way from UoH to the Miyapur Police Station. Dragging me into the van the police forcefully pushed me down into a corner seat. Before getting hit I quickly looked at a fellow victim Subhadeep Kumar and asked him what might happen to me as for the first time my life I got into a police van. He assured me that nothing will happen as I did not commit anything wrong. I could not turn my face to have a look at the rest of the victim in the van. Again the police hit me on shoulder. I pleaded not to hit me but the police pulled my hair and punched me hard on my back. Another police hurried at me snatched my mobile and spectacle. But when I pleaded to give me back the spectacle as I have serious eye problem, the police boxed on my right eye saying that why despite being visually challenged did I spoke against the police. Whenever I tried to look at my fellow companions who were beaten up black and blue, the police hit me and cowed me down not to raise my head again. I heard my fellow friends shrieking in pain as they were mercilessly thrashed and hit. Those who had beard and looked liked ‘Muslims’ were beaten up specifically as the police suspended them to ‘like’ terrorists. The sounds of slapping and hitting still haunt my mind and I feel the pain. Professor K Y Ratnam was also a victim of the police brutality. A filmmaker, Moses Abhilash too was unlucky to be a victim of the brutality. Abhilash was just shooting the videos of police lathicharge which the police did not want the public to see. The police beatings left wounds on my body. When I requested for water they gave me the water only to be ready to get beaten up again. The physical assault was extremely systematic and cruel. At that moment I doubted whether I was at all a human being. While beating up, the police also unleashed verbal abuse on all of us at extreme level. During the journey of police brutality from the UoH to Miyapur P. S., the police were continuously abusing us with the most vulgar and objectionable language. “M***d, b**d, chu**a, bho**ke” and etc were the common words they were throwing at us. They called us Pakistani ISI agents and alleged that we are spending Indian money and supporting Pakistan and threatened us to send us to Pakistan. They called us antinational alleging that we are conducting “beef festival”, “kiss of love” events on “Afzal Guru’, “Yakub Memon’. They said that they were taking revenge on us for their hard work on duty. They also assaulted our departed friend Rohith Vemula saying that he was a ‘bastard’, ‘spoiled child’ and people are unnecessarily paying attention to his death. They used extremely antiwomen, derogatory, and sexist comments. They said that they would rape our mothers and sisters and also they vowed to bring them here and take their naked videos. They also threatened to do the same with our women friends in the university. Hearing these comments I feel that the safety of the women is at great risk and I also feel that the posting of police poses direct threat to women teachers, students and workers in the campus. Their comments and attitudes were dangerous as far as the safety and security of women is concerned at large in the society. It is appalling to think what the police remarked against the women.

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The language police used against women protestors : "Tu kahaan ki rehne wali hai? Itti kaali hai! Aa tere ku sabak sikhata hoon! (Where are you from? You are so dark. Let me teach you a lesson)"

After brutal torture in the police van we were subjected to harassment in Miyapur P. S. After reaching there at Miyapur we all of us were made to sit on a dirty and spaceless corridor. The police humiliated us by making our respected teacher Prof K Y Ratnam sit on the same dirty floor. The police lectured us about moral and ethical correctness. They behaved with us very rudely while taking our detail information and pictures. On asking about our release the police told us that everything is in hand of their “BIG BOSSES” and they also said that the Gachibowli police have already decided our fate. We were kept awake throughout the night by putting light on in front of eyes and playing songs and videos. When we requested to let us sleep they laughed at us. The next day, a Subinspector of Miyapur P.S. called me for interrogation and he took all my information in detail including my family, relatives’ information. He also took the photos of my PAN, Aadhaar and university ID cards. He also took the phone numbers of my relatives checking my mobile. He abused me very badly and threatened me that in future if something happened in the university, I will be a target even if I do not commit any crime.

Thereafter we were secretly taken to Balanagar Police Station where we were again harassed both physically as well as mentally. The police made us sit in a dirty and suffocating room. Professor Ratnam was again humiliated by making him sit at the feet of the police who was sitting on a chair and giving us pedantic lecture on nationalism and education as to how we should develop our society. This is the same subinspector of Miyapur P.S. who abused me in vulgar language and giggled his teeth and lied to me when I asked him where we were taken to. He also mocked at me by calling me “team leader” and “mastermind”. I don't know his motive for calling such things. But I am apprehensive of my Muslim identity as he was targeting me. I was also not allowed to inform my worried family or friends about my whereabouts.
From Balanagar P.S. we were taken to ‘Government Area Hospital’ secretly. We were shocked to know that we were taken to a hospital. I had wounds and pain caused by the police brutality the previous day. But I had no reason to expect any medical treatment. In the hospital I was forced to stand in the queue for treatment. The doctor gave me “fit to be produced at court” certificate despite my critical health condition. I also saw Professor K Y Ratnam`s Blood Pressure reading to touch around 220 mark in the BP machine. After the “treatment” the Gachibowli CI J. Ramesh forced me to sign the arrest papers at around 9.00 pm on 23 March whereas actually I was arrested by the police at 5.30pm on 22 March. When I tried to raise objection the Gachibowli CI J.Ramesh threatened me that not signing the arrest papers would amount to additional cases against me. I was denied any interaction with any legal expert on these serious issues. When I politely asked him “Sir, my career would be shattered if my future is tarnished by filing cases against me”, he aggressively threatened me saying “shut your mouth up otherwise I will file more cases against you”. I do not know how to express the fear generated in me by J Ramesh. After medically certifying me “fit to be produced at court” I was again confined in the police van. It was suffocating and scorching hot. I requested the police to let me stand out of the van until it moves. But the police as usual again threatened us. I was very hungry as I did not get anything to eat throughout the day. The police did not bother to hear any of my problems. Then I was taken to the honourable Magistrate at around 11.40 pm. But the Gachibowli police Naveen and Bhupathi did not allow me to appear at the honourable Magistrate to narrate my suffering and wooes. At the Magistrate's order I was sent to Cherlapally Central Prison. Coming to the prison my health further deteriorated. I called a prison physician for treatment. He gave me a general painkiller injection and some medicine for the wounds and pain caused by the police on 22 March. But he did not give me any proper health treatment as I needed the most. It still pains me to remember that in prison the doctor was not allowed inside and therefore, I had to take an injection through the window. I also failed to have an eye check as 22 March as the police hit me on my right eye. The police action threatened my life and also the hopes of my family. I feel helpless, hopeless and unsafe. The police filed false cases against me and others with the deliberate intention to destroy our future and our lives. The police terrorized us throughout the first 33 hours to ensure that we do not again protest against the government and its agencies. They kept us saying that we should only study and not get involved in politics. They wanted to create a fear in us so that before protesting we will remember the trauma of the police brutality. This poignant memory will always be haunting my life.
Md Hasanujjaman
M Phil in English,
University of Hyderabad

1

This post began life as an attempt to boost the response to the latest wave of targeted violence and/or State-sponsored suppression of civil liberties in Chhattisgarh. Even as I typed away, trying to summarize the ever-mounting brutality in that state, the news breaking from the University of Hyderabad took centre-stage. Every day this past week I have been reflecting on the horrors unfolding in India. Whether Chhattisgarh, or Jharkhand, UP or Hyderabad there is only the sense that the various agencies of the central and state governments are brazen in their attempts in maintaining control of their narrative, either through commission or omission.

The War against Scholarship

The Central Government's Ministry of Human Resources & Development seems to be waging its own war against universities across the country. The earlier controversy at FTII was just the curtain raiser - the Ministry recanted on its decision to stop Non-NET Fellowships last year after massive protests from students across the country. But now it seems to be opening that can of worms all over again - with the current fire directed at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. However, over and beyond the critical question of supporting research is the amount of control being handed to the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

The massive blow-up of sloganeering at a student event at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (even if it was about the controversial hanging of Afzal Guru), now appears to have been kicked off by the ABVP inviting media teams to campus, possibly without permission from the necessary authorities. Even as student leaders from other campus bodies were arrested (and subsequently released on bail), no questions were asked of the ABVP's leadership, with them seeming to get implicit support even from the Central Cabinet. This has emboldened them to become the government's henchmen on various campuses.

Which brings us to the grim episode as yet unfolding at the Hyderabad Central University. This too, started last year, with the shocking apathy of university officials towards Dalit research scholars leading to the suicide of #RohithVemula. The central player in that episode, the Vice-Chancellor Appa Rao Podile, was suspended pending investigation into his abetment of Rohith's suicide. Strangely, he made an unannounced return to campus, in what appears to be a carefully orchestrated move. Again, it is important to note that on his return, Podile had the ABVP's support, as noted by many of the student protestors.

The other thread throughout this narrative is the inordinate, disproportionate amount of violence by the State. If Delhi witnessed scenes of lathicharge, water-cannoning, etc. during the UGC protests, the violence against the #HCU students seems to on a different scale altogether. It is almost shocking to think that this latter bout of violence has, up to the time of writing this, not received even one statement of censure from any state or central government official. Add to this the fact that the police detained and questioned protestors in Chennai (for attempting a hunger strike) and Mumbai as well.

As I write this, Pune's Fergusson College is becoming the latest theatre in ABVP's war for control of campuses India-wide. In this, the ABVP is only following the #BJP, whose gameplan to be India's politics new singular force was signaled by Amit Shah when he first took over as the BJP President. To be fair, there were some ABVP members who found the whole JNU fiasco, particularly the assault by the lawyers at Patiala House, revolting enough to step down.

Highlighting the Real Issues

The issue of student scholarship must be seen in the light of whom it affects most. The most-telling characteristic of the student politics at JNU and HCU is that they empower students from the most marginalized sections of society who would otherwise hardly get such an opportunity.  Their battle must therefore be seen against the backdrop of the various conflicts being fought in the remotest parts of India. As the journalist P Sainath said when speaking at JNU after the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, JNU was now fighting the criminalization of dissent that had long been fought by India's poorest and most disempowered.

In Chhattisgarh, the State has continuously waged war against the tribals in the quest to make mineral resources available to corporates - this war is older than the state of #Chhattisgarh itself. Much of the most critical reportage on the circumstances in the state are already beginning to look dated, although their relevance is as yet intact, with on-ground situation mostly remaining intact, until now. Commentators now see a "Mission 2016", particularly in #Bastar, wherein any and every agency that attempts to speak for the tribals is flushed out of the State - the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group has been forced out, likewise doctors and journalists. Those two bravest of local voices - Soni Sori and her nephew Lingaram Kodopi are being attacked more insidiously now, but continue to speak. As do other local activists and lawyers like Bela Bhatia and Shalini Gera continue to hold their ground, even as they too are targeted by the government.

In Maharashtra, the impact of the irrigation crisis has now been compounded by the crippling drought that affects a large swathe of the state. The famed Section 144 of the Criminal Penal Code, is now imposed in places like Latur prevent riots over water. Latur's MLA, meanwhile, has disappeared leaving even his party whip in the legislature clueless. On the other hand, the state's Attorney-General, Shreehari Aney, has resigned his office after the legislature found controversial his support for separate statehood for Vidarbha and Marathwada (Latur falls in Marathwada, btw). Mr. Aney is now planning to take his protest to Jantar Mantar. It is useful to remember that Devendra Fadnavis sought his mandate in Maharashtra on this very promise.

The list goes on - the state of Orissa now fights the very people it is supposed to represent to get mining rights for POSCO in Niyamgiri, while Jharkhand's cow vigilantism seems to find support at the highest echelons of government. There are famine-related horror stories coming in from Bundelkhand,

Response

The purpose of this article is to not to recount a litany of horrors,  but to highlight the urgent need for responses. The resignation of Mr. Aney, the Orissa government's lawsuit, the ABVP members' resignations can all be seen as alarm bells of one kind or another. The journalist Prem Shankhar Jha also highlighted the worsening situation of India's Muslims vis-a-vis education and unemployment.

The students of various institutions have also shown the way, by becoming a credible opposition to the whip being wielded by government.

It is now essential that empathetic citizens also raise their voices. In Bastar, when journalists found no one to carry their stories, they went online, posting stories on Facebook. Suresh Ediga and Bhavana Nissima are now using social media to leverage public support for the initiatives of Soni Sori, through their  #OneMillionPostCardCampaign for #Bastar. Similarly, most of the news from Hyderabad has come out through Facebook, with the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice -UoH carrying content on its page.

The violence highlighted here runs across caste, class and (religious) community lines, especially in the run-up to elections. There is a visible attempt to communalize violence that isn't communal to begin with. Ultimately, these issues, along with those of land and water, will affect each and every one of us. I ask, beg, request, that readers at least broadcast any and every effort at combating these issues, if not supporting them in every way possible. Good night and good luck!

28

Harshit Agarwal, student of JNU for 2.5 years and eyewitness to the events that unfolded after the protest by DSU on the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus.

Harshit Agarwal, student of JNU and eyewitness to the events that unfolded after the protest by DSU on the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus. Originally posted on Quora.

A lot of answers are here. The only weird thing is not one of them is from a JNU student or who witnessed what happened on that controversial day and yet everyone has such strong opinions about the whole incident from people calling everyone studying in JNU as terrorists, jihadis and naxals to asking for the university to be completely shutdown!

I am a JNU student studying right now and also happen to be a witness from distance for some events that happened on that controversial date - 9th February 2016. So, that kinda renders me more legitimate to answer this question than people who only know about it through Zee News and Times Now.

On 9th February 2016, ex-members of a student organization DSU, short for 'Democratic Students Union' had called for a cultural meeting of a protest against what they called 'the judicial killing of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat' and in solidarity with 'the struggle of Kashmiri people for their democratic right to self-determination.' A lot of Kashmiri students from inside and outside the campus were to attend the event.

'Democratic Students Union(DSU)' is an ultra-leftist group in the campus that believes in the ideology of Maoism. It's a very small group of very well read students. They are not terrorists or naxals by any means. I have been in the campus for more than 2 years and never have I witnessed or heard of them committing a terror activity as much as of throwing a stone, let alone overthrowing the state!

Now, first things first.

Did they do something wrong in organizing a meeting over the issue of Kashmir? Is the issue of Kashmir so sacred to us and our brains so brainwashed with the idea of nazi-like nationalism that we are not even ready to hear about the issue of Kashmir from Kashmiris themselves?

Do I support the secession of Kashmir from India? No.

I am not even aware of the exact nuances of the political matter, but I am ready to hear, learn and debate all sorts of opinions, especially from the inhabitants themselves.

Now, did the organizers of the meeting do something wrong in calling Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat's execution 'judicial murder'? And was it the first time somebody raised an objection on capital punishment and the judgement of a court?

After Afzal Guru was hanged, a lot of human rights group condemned the hanging. The political party PDP with whom BJP has formed a government in Jammu and Kashmir itself called Afzal's hanging 'travesty of justice'. Arundhati Roy condemned it. Shashi Tharoor called it wrong. Markandey Katju has severely criticized it.

Praveen Swami, Indian journalist, analyst and author specialising on international strategic and security issues wrote in The Hindu,

"The Supreme Court’s word is not, and ought not to be, the final word. Indeed, the deep ambiguities that surround Guru’s case are in themselves compelling argument to rethink the death penalty."

Former Delhi High Court chief justice, Justice AP Shah, said that the hanging of Afzal Guru and Yakub Memon were politically motivated.

Now were all these people anti-nationals, terrorists, jihadis?

I have faith in your wisdom to answer that.

Now coming to next issue - the shouting of 'anti-national slogans'.

Now 20 minutes before the meeting was going to start, ABVP, who consider themselves to be the sole harbingers of nationalism, wrote to the administration asking it to withdraw the permission of organizing the meeting as it was 'harmful for campus' atmosphere'. The administration, feeling afraid of clashes, denied the permission. Now, for those who do not know, JNU is a beautiful democratic space where all voices are heard, all opinions however radical, respected. And ABVP was scuttling that space.

DSU asked for help from JNUSU (Jawaharlal Nehru Students' Union) and other left student organizations like SFI(Students Federation of India), and AISA(All India Students Association) to gather in support of their right to democratically and peacefully hold meeting and mind you, NOT in support of their ideology or their stand on Kashmir. DSU, JNUSU, and other student organizations decided they would not let the administration and the ABVP scuttle their hard-earned democratic space to debate and discuss, and decided to go ahead with the meeting.

The administration sent security guards to cover the badminton court where the meeting was supposed to happen, and denied the permission to use mics. The organizers agreed.

They decided they would continue the meeting around the dhaba itself and without the mics. However, the ABVP mobilized its cadres and started threatening and intimidating the students and organizers. They started shouting cliched slogans like

'Ye Kashmir Hamara hai, saara ka saara hai.'

The organizers as a response to them, and to create solidarity among the students attending the meeting started shouting,

"Hum kya chaahte? Azaadi!"

Do you think there was something highly inflammatory  and dangerous in this statement? Think about it. Nations break all the time. We were chanting the same slogan under Britishers. Soviet Union disintegrated. Secession is neither good nor bad. It depends on the precise circumstances of the region. And mind you, I don't support the secession of Kashmir. I claim to have insufficient knowledge of the situation and conditions of the people residing in that region. Hence, I am neither for nor against it. Hence, I have no problems with a group of students simply shouting slogans in support of a particular region's freedom. They were not planning a conspiracy to overthrow the government and seize Kashmir from India. They were simple students who read, travel and learn about socio-political issues and have a stand about it.

Next slogan -

"Tum kitne Afzal maaroge, har ghar se Afzal niklega!"

Now, I did not study the case closely, and hence, would believe in the courts of India and therefore, I believe Afzal Guru was a terrorist. Though principally I am against capital punishment.

However, this group of students believed that he did not deserve capital punishment and also have their skepticism about his involvement in the parliamentary attack. I am picking up this from wikipedia -

"It has to be noted, that in its judgement of 5 August 2005, the supreme court admitted that the evidence against Guru was only circumstantial, and that there was no evidence that he belonged to any terrorist group or organisation."

And this directly from the Supreme Court judgement:

"The incident, which resulted in heavy casualties, had shaken the entire nation and the collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if the capital punishment is awarded to the offender."

So, a group of students believe that Afzal Guru was framed, had no role in the attack on the parliament and his capital punishment was wrong. Big deal?

And were therefore shouting, "Har ghar se Afzal niklega!"

And mind you, these people are not carrying any arms, all they are carrying are ideas.

So, in such a case, what should the state do? Charge them for conspiracy against the state? Or maybe merely try to engage with them, debate with them about a difference of opinion?

And was this some secretly organized meeting about overthrowing the government smuggling in bombs and grenades? No, this was a public meeting. Everyone was invited. You were free to disagree with them. They are not doing it in hiding. If they were terrorists they would not come out in public! But didn't you see them all at your TV channels courageously defending themselves and their right to have a difference of opinion? Tell me, which traits of terrorists do you find in them?

Now, I'll come to the most controversial part - the slogans against India.

In the meeting, there was a whole group of Kashmiri students which had come from outside JNU to attend the meeting. If you would even look closely at the video that is being circulated, you will only see these students who had formed a circle in the center of the gathering. And trust me ,not one of whom was from JNU! I was present during the event for some time, and I could not recognize a single face from that group as being from JNU.

This group of students, who belonged to Kashmir, and had faced the wrath of the AFSPA for decades, were angered to see ABVP disrupt their meeting, and started shouting the slogans against India, like:

"Bharat ki barbaadi tak, jung rahegi, jung rahegi!"
"India, Go Back"

In my almost 2.5 years of stay in JNU, I have never heard these slogans shouted anywhere. These are nowhere even close to the ideology of any left parties, let alone DSU.

To make things clearer, here is what a Kashmiri student who is not a JNU student and who was not present in the meeting, has written about the slogans on his facebook wall, after hearing them on youtube:

"Let me do the “DECONSTRUCTION” not Derridian but ‘Kashmiri deconstruction’ of the slogans that have become so controversial.

1. BHARAT KEE BARBADI TAK JANG RAHEY GEE

Bharat for a Kashmiri young men and women who were born in 1990s and after means Indian Military Establishment. The representative image of Indian state is always, Men-in-uniform-with-weapons.

BARBADI is used in the same lexicon as it’s used by different organizations in India. It means end to the military occupation of Kashmir.

JANG means struggle, whether peaceful, Gandhian, Marxian, Gramscian or violent depends on your interpretation of the word.

I hope it leads to some clarity. Anyways it might be a ‘fringe’ slogan in spaces like JNU but it’s a ‘mass’ slogan in Kashmir.

2. AZADI: The word AZADI, which is the most confusing word for ‘Indians’. Let me simplify it for you. It’s not a seditious slogan nor is it secessionist. AZADI as a slogan is historically, socially, culturally, conceptually and principally rooted in the principle of Right to Self Determination of people belonging to a region occupied by two nation-states identified as Kashmir.

Let me add more, Azadi is a synonym of Resistance and has a very deep aspirational value attached to it."

About the slogans of 'Pakistan Zindabad', it is disputed. I did not hear any such slogan while I was present there. There is a slogan in a video, but it's not clear as to who shouted it - the Kashmiri students or the ABVP as a conspiracy, as this video below explains:

Now, that it's been clear that no JNU student was involved in shouting anti-India slogans, let's come to the way the government responded to this:

The police on the orders of Home Minister Rajnath Singh raid our univeristy and then hostels. They pick up the JNUSU President from within the campus with no substantial evidence and the court remands him for a 3 day police custody. He did not shout the slogans. He is a member of the All India Students Federation(AISF) which is the student wing of the Communist Party of India(CPI) which has no Maoist or secessionist ideology and is the mildest of all left parties.

Yesterday too, seven more students were picked up by the police from the campus.

I say, if you are hell bent on arresting, arrest those Kashmiri students at the most. But ruthlessly witch-hunting students is outrageous and clearly not what you would expect from a democratic government!

And finally, I am going to touch a raw nerve here, but I think it's become important that someone does -

"Why are we so volatile regarding our ideas of nationalism? Why do we treat it like religion? Somebody shouts few slogans and it becomes absolute blasphemy! A university is a place for debate, discussion and dissent! Slogans should be answered by slogans, and not by sedition charges!"

Elaborating on this, I would like to quote the first prime minister of India 'Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, whose name the university bears:

A University stands for humanism. For tolerance, for reason, for the adventure of ideas and for the search of truth. It stands for the onward march of the human race towards ever higher objectives. If the Universities discharge their duties adequately, then it is well with the Nation and the People."

At such a crucial time, when JNU is facing all kinds of fabricated lies and flak from media, I would urge all of you to stand with JNU. It is one of a kind of university and it's absolutely beautiful, both in it's spirit and geography.

I urge you all to visit my university sometime. It welcomes everyone, accommodates everyone...:)

4

So was finally hanged this morning. The did a dramatic early morning hearing to hear the challenge to the President's rejection of Yakub Memon's mercy petition, and Yakub lost the case.

Even if he had won it, it would have won him at best 14 more days to live. Perhaps some new trick could be pulled out of some hat and he would live for the rest of his life in jail was the hope.

He lost the petition.

There are many arguments in his favor, many against him. I myself was of the view that is an irreversible thing. While there is any redeeming factor, a death penalty seems obscene. I am no legal eagle. If someone seems polite and constructive in , that is redeeming enough for me. I hold no eagerness for the life and death of another to rest on my conscience - however evil. I have no revenge gene. That he could not do more harm was good enough for me.

Regardless of my views, it is the Supreme Court that decided and whether it was a melodramatic thing that could have been avoided with a stay and more leisurely process or not, is all a postmortem of a dead thing. So are other arguments. They will not bring him back. They will certainly feed a justified, but toxic sense of persecution among Muslims.

And they achieve nothing constructive. While the death penalty exists, it will be awarded. How often or not is immaterial. If our whole system is prejudiced against Muslims, it will reflect in the sentences and executions as well. The defeat of the death penalty itself was a goal beyond the scope of this case - or indeed every case when we suddenly wake up. It needs to be an independent war.

I am no fan of the . I think it is closet fascist - both in terms of as well as economic view. It is a toxic bunch of opportunists there whose worst sin is not even against those they persecute, but those who repose the most faith in them with expectations they have been led to believe, which are little more than carrots.

I agree that the judiciary itself is swayed by public opinion and has several and severe problems with quality (like every aspect of ). I agree socio-economic conditions are their own bias of availability of opportunities of , and prejudice in who is perceived as innocent or guilty by default more easily than another - which is possibly something that can never be proved without serious behavioral research.

Yet, flawed as it is, there is a need to stop where the system stops. There is a need to pick and choose battles when it comes to . A dead person cannot be brought back, and harping on about the injustice to him serves no purpose beyond creating distress, resentment and potentially rebellion among those who experience themselves as persecuted by association.

This will be more harmful to the vulnerable sections of society than the powerful ones - whether financially, communally or politically. Frustration and anger can take over ones life and set people on paths they would not otherwise choose. Yakub Memon himself would not be hanged if it were not for frustrations over another evil incident leading an entire group of people down a path that ruined their own lives irrevocably as well, beyond the unsuspecting others they killed. Even a big don like , who lived and breathed  can never return to his beloved place of birth again. Uprooted forever. Being a gangster is one thing, being accused of mass slaughter is another. Mumbai is no longer safe for him. He must watch over his shoulder all his life. Know that the people of the city he loves want his head for his actions. There is no coming back. For victims or criminals.

A supremacist majority WANTS minorities to do crimes they can hang them for and counts on prejudices they seed to create an acceptance for their retaliatory crimes as victimhood. We have seen this over and over. There is no fear in bloodlust even though talk of dangers is used to create an aura of threat. Nor do they feel any desperation to avoid loss of life of nameless others on their side beyond their advertizing potential in shaping social prejudices - you need victims for victimhood. It is no coincidence that the second attempt to fell the Babri Masjid succeeded when leaders of the movement killed their own to fuel a frenzy of outraged victimhood. While we still have a modicum of functioning judiciary, fair or not, prejudiced by circumstances or not, it continues to be the best bet of a vulnerable minority.

I do not mean that people who are wronged should shut up and suck it up. I most certainly do not endorse communal domination of any sort.

All I say is that Yakub Memon is dead. I appreciate that he was not killed in secret like Ajmal Kasab or and he and those trying to save his life had the opportunity to fight for it till the end. It is time to take a pause and reorient and seek justice in ways that enrich and empower everyone.

Even if you look at Yakub Memon's case, there is so much hindsight on what was not done adequately to defend him, that now leads to a perception of him not getting a proper chance. Well, there are many Yakub Memons still in prison. Illiterate, poor people from various castes, classes, religions. People condemned to crimes so horrid that they have no choice but to accept whoever the court forces to help them because even with money no one may take their cases. Perhaps the learnings of this defeat can help them. That would help the process of justice as well, if good legal help were available to those who did not have it.

A robustly defended accused makes for a clearer conscience in whatever his end fate is, leaving no doubt that the is understood and argued fully resulting to a punishment as per law. It is in national interest. It is in the interest of god knows how many who end up serving sentences because they have no idea how to defend themselves.

And it need not be for the death penalty alone. Just yesterday, as I was contemplating Yakub Memon's case, I found myself preferring the death penalty over a long drawn imprisonment (I know Yakub got both). How many in India serve entire terms in jail before seeing the inside of a court?

I am aware, that this is easy for me to say, not knowing Yakub Memon in any way or having fought to save him or suffered similar or even experiencing first hand what it means to be a Muslim and have a default perception of guilt when accused. All I am saying is that I do care and I respect a battle well and passionately fought and I believe that it is important for everyone that the Supreme Court word remain final - particularly given that it can no longer be changed.

I think the moment of high drama is when emotions cause extreme stands. To save an accused in a horrendous crime and see the end of justice in it as though we aren't killing innocents daily. To stand outside a jail baying for blood of one who spilled ours, while the ones who planted the bombs got their sentences without a fuss, and they live. A moment of climax focuses everything we feel about a subject on a single outcome.

But sometimes, it is time to step back, breathe and look at the living.

The Caravan has published yet another of its very excellent mini-novel grade stories. This time around the Operation Blue star by Hartosh Singh Bal. For someone who was but a child in the times covered by this story, this was an enlightening read and I recommend you read it, since I'm not going to be summarizing the story here at all. I am no authority on the history or politics of Punjab. This post is about linkages and patterns I see beyond the story - which are also more perceptions than referenced fact.

Several things struck me about the story that I think have a deep insight for India's politics as well.

The first was the role of the Congress government in the build up of religious extremism to the point of instability and largely for reasons of political gain for the party rather than the well being of citizens. It isn't unlike what is going on with the rise of the Hindu right wing in India, with the Congress making vague comments about alarm or criticism, but never really doing anything to strike a solid blow, to the point its leaders could be publicly humiliated and party decimated this elections.

That tendency to cater to the most violent representatives of a religion (Muslim zealots included) rather than defuse aggression and uplift the masses at large seems to be alive and well to the point where the claims of secularism fell flat. This time, it seems few bought the idea that tolerating zealots of all hues is secularism and a rogue right wing ran away with the narrative. Not unlike what it sounds like from the Punjab of those days, except perhaps the violence is now uniformly perpetrated against the unarmed.

The massive following of Bhindranwale in the face of criminal acts, impotence of the state machinery to deliver justice or regain control and more too sounds like a recurring theme for India.

Short sighted strategies for political gain with little view for the impact on the larger picture? Yep.

The inability of the state to control rogues within the security establishment as well continues with encounter killings being covered up rather than brought to justice.

Bad advisers, bloodthirsty youth leaders and a leadership unable to see beyond what was presented? Yep. Leadership regretted? Yes. Leadership paid heavy price? Yes. Bad over reactions to a long nurtured problem created martyrs opposing state?

In some ways the cult like following of Bhindranwale reminds me of Bal Thackeray. The man who got a state funeral after a life of taking the law in his hands at whim. In our area, the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi rules. This party is unheard of in most of India. Founded by a local don with a murder to his name, and sporting an MLA who thrashed a cop in the Assembly, the bling of the Lok Sabha Election campaigning didn't touch our area. No posters, no mega rallies, no vans blaring messages. Perhaps they may have happened nearer the station, but not here. Our area was completely Modi free, even when the BJP candidate won - some celebrations probably happened in more central areas, but I didn't hear any fireworks sitting at home. Yet when Bal Thackeray died, his posters were splashed all over and again for the anniversary. They remained up long after the date had passed.

When it comes to love of the masses, clearly sentiment trumps law - something a state insensitive to people is ill equipped to deal with.

What was the charisma of the law breaker? Identity. Bal Thackeray may have done little to improve the lot of Maharashtrians, but in a state where the natives feel increasingly marginalized, he gave their frustrations voice, even if he did nothing very useful with it. His political affiliations too were courted, not unlike Bhindranwale.

Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and Sant Harcharan Singh Longowal
Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and Sant Harcharan Singh Longowal

And in Punjab, it seems every other car sports stickers in honor of the "dreaded separatist terrorist" and the BJP that is normally vociferous against terrorists and had indeed supported his killing meekly falls in line, just like Bal Thackeray's political opponents respectfully attended his funeral, even as they worried whether his party will continue to squat over the Shivaji Park and demand a memorial there.

In hindsight. I wonder if Bhindranwale's "evil" was not the violence, but the Anandpur Resolution. After all, India is a country with a rich history of might not only being right, but being rewarded with more might. On the other hand, all calls for decentralization and redistribution of power would hardly have induced cheer in the hearts of those wanting to use him as a puppet for political profit.

In many ways, the story of Operation Bluestar is still a story of India without the outright "Gangs of Waseypur" effects. What has the state learned? It is unclear.

The Bhindranwale legend continues to grow even though Bhai Mokham Singh has renounced the gun. It is clearly about identity more than legality or lack thereof. The mistrust of the central government continues to manifest in many ways, even when there remains no serious militancy anymore. In a Punjab reeling under the toll of drugs, "restoration" of many youth from alcohol and drugs takes on significance of its own. In 2003, at a function arranged by the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, Joginder Singh Vedanti, former jathedar of the Akal Takht made a formal declaration that Bhindranwale was a "martyr" and awarded his son, Ishar Singh, a robe of honour.

But perhaps the most fascinating for me was the last page. After losing a generation to the militancy and on the verge of losing another to drugs (or is it already lost?), what resonated in my mind was that the extent of political marginalization of the Sikhs could be expressed with one mind boggling fact.

The United Sikh Movement led by Bhai Mohkam Singh of Damdami Taksal announced to support the Aam Aadmi Party this January - partly due to the Aam Aadmi Party constituting a SIT to finally probe the 30 year old anti-Sikh riots. The only four seats Aam Aadmi Party got out of over 400 seats nationwide are from Punjab.

And the magnitude of support that this had among the people can only be measured by the fact that the BJP, usually happy to accuse AAP of supporting terrorists did not so much as whisper about the support of United Sikh Movement to AAP. They simply cannot afford to go against the legend when BJP supporters claiming Sikhs to be Hindu in a recent Twitter spat were asked by a Sikh to ask Akali Dal to repeat it in Punjab if they dare.

And I am left wondering about how history gets written. What becomes about religion, when religion becomes a tool for harvesting power, what transcends that purpose to become about survival of identity, when religion serves as an umbrella for deeper rifts in trust and how we, as a remarkably diverse country can hope to bridge differences if we don't learn from our past.

Is it possible to divorce politics from religion in a country where religion is not only interwoven with people's lives, but the traditions have roots in governing people? What is an acceptable line? What cannot be compromised for religion? Are the lines the same for all religions, or different? How can the parts that must not bend to religion be enacted without alienating people? Is it really such a big problem, or is it a problem created by a style of politics long used to exploiting religion as an easy means of harvesting support of people?

Strangely, it reminds me of Kashmir's anger over Afzal Guru, who at best was a flunky in the attack on the Indian Parliament. He had evidently quit the separatist movement as well and by no means was any hotshot hero for Kashmiris before his arrest - quite different from the already iconic SANT Bhindranwale, but managed to become the symbol of irreconcilable differences for the identity at large, way beyond the issue that put him on the wrong side of the state.

It keeps coming back to fault lines of razor wire that those in power nurture and each time, the reason appears to be political opportunism.

It is strange that our history of diversity and numerous experiences with communal fault lines has not yet led us to attempt responses that are measured and in the interests of people. Cater to exploit, crush to conquer. How long can we go on like this? When do we start healing?

In a speech at the Kanadi Sahitya Academy on the occasion of his works being translated to Kannada, Marathi playwright, author and polymath Pu La Deshpande had said that Maharashtra and Karnataka share a border, but Maharashtrians and Kannadigas share a confluence. Decades later, India is desperately in need of minds that see more confluences than borders.