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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 &amp; 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!

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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...:)