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By Bureau Chief, Vijaylakshmi Nadar, Copy Edited By Adam Rizvi, TIO: Masked men entered the campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in February 2016, and raised objectionable slogans at a campus event, against the country. Though their photographs were identified, they were never arrested. Those who were caught instead were the left-leaning students of JNU, Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban, all part of the JNU student’s union (JNUSU).
They were arrested, jailed and charged with serious charges of sedition. No attempts were made to find the real culprits, neither was a charge-sheet filed by the police for almost three years, despite claiming damning evidence against those who were dubiously arrested.
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The ‘evidence’ was tampered videos and audios, which did not pass the forensic testing. Yet no charges were made out against the news channels, which had launched a witch hunt against these students, putting their lives at grave risk, besides poisoning the minds of thousands of Indians, not just against the students, but against JNU too, the internationally recognized premier university, certifying it as a den of terror activities. The key part played in this intense campus drama was by the representatives of the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the virulent student wing of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), who joined the administration in attempts to stigmatize the JNUSU activists.
As if lessons from that shameful episode, which had outraged even international student bodies and teaching community, an identical deadly drama was played on Sunday evening. 60-70 masked men and women entered the JNU campus, armed with iron rods, sticks, stones, bricks, bottles. The police were reduced to mute spectators, watching the goons went on a rampage, after switching off the electricity, They moved in the cover of darkness from one hostel to another for more than two hours, inflicting severe injuries on students, also injuring an internationally renowned professor/scientist Sucharita Sen, leaving them all bloodied and badly injured.
Police remained at the gates, not allowing anyone, especially the media and members of the opposition, and concerned citizens like Yogendra Yadav to enter the campus. Within a couple of hours, these masked men and women were identified as members of ABVP. They have been photographed and video-graphed, holding sticks and stones, besides other weapons and seen marching towards the campuses.
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In an identical play of events, the media repeated what it did in 2016, calling it a ‘clash’ between the students of the right and left ideologies. They, however, failed to raise some pertinent questions like if the perpetrators were students of JNU, why did they have to be masked, why were they allowed to carry weapons, how were they not stopped at the gate? It is then a matter of simple logical reasoning that an attack on this large scale cannot be carried out with impunity, without the blessings of the government of the day and the administration.
Instead of ordering a crackdown on culprits, even if they believed that it was the leftists who grievously injured themselves, just to give Modi a bad name, the government behaved like hapless victims, blaming the opposition, terming everyone asking questions as anti-nationals. instead of identifying the culprits, finding non-refutable evidence against them, and then proving it in court, they are turning students into liars, and criminals, playing with their futures, for a grand coverup.
The students were already agitating against the sudden fee hike, for more than two months now. Since 46% of the JNU students come from very poor backgrounds, the sudden fee hike was unacceptable to them. The fee hike also affected ABVP members, who then joined their contentious colleagues, to agitate against the government. A difference of opinion, however, seems to have broken out between the two groups, regarding admissions to a fresh semester.
The attack on JNU students was preceded by a speech by home minister Amit Shah, asking those present if they would like to be ruled by a party in Delhi which indulges in riots. As if on cue, the same evening, ABVP students went on the rampage, sending shock waves nationally and internationally.
The very next day, the election commission, announced dates for elections in Delhi, amidst rumors that the BJP might postpone elections in Delhi. The BJP’s internal surveys indicate that it will barely win ten seats in Delhi. BJP has lost Jharkhand, close on the heels of Maharashtra, with a less than honorable win in Haryana. BJP’s footprint in various states is shrinking, despite home minister Amit Shah announcing that they want to rule for the next fifty years. In Delhi, they are therefore like wounded animals, not only eager to gain lost ground but also reducing the rising stature of the present chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.
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Attempts to polarize the majority votes, by triggering violence/riots of some sort, has been a USP of the BJP in practically every election. And therefore, the possibility of JNU students being reduced to sitting ducks, while the target of the attack was Kejriwal, cannot be ruled out. The unprecedented attack seems to have been just another ploy to smoke Kejriwal out, who is letting his work speak for his government. He has learned over the years that being drawn into the national narrative, will not only harm his party’s prospects, by taking the focus off his good work but also make matters even more ugly in JNU and Delhi. He instead focused on maintaining calm in the capital and in campus, during the agitations against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) last month and now, ensuring that the students got the best possible, timely medical help.
The BJP’s attempts to draw the attention of Delhi to national issues have failed miserably in the last few days, which most likely triggered this deadly attack in the campus. Kejriwal is giving BJP a hard time, by ensuring that the focus of Delhites is on the work done in Delhi and not matters of national interest, whether it is the abrogation of Article 350, and the passing of the CAA and promises of bringing in National Register of Citizens (NRC).
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BJP has no work to showcase in Delhi, while Kejriwal has won the hearts of Delhites, by unleashing scores of welfare measures to make their life a tad bit easier. Even the prime minister’s rally in Ramlila Maidan a few days back failed to generate the buzz that they needed to launch their election campaign in Delhi.
Incidentally, the administration of JNU spent 17.5 crores on just the campus security, still throwing out 400-500 security guards, replacing them with 270 retired soldiers. And yet they failed to protect not only the students, but 30 of whom were also seriously injured, neither the professors, one of whom was badly injured while trying to protect the students. The administration even ‘failed’ in protecting the 25 ABVP activists, who made a counterclaim that they too were injured. Ironically it was only the left students who condemned the police brutality and demanded the resignation of the vice-chancellor (VC) Jagadeesh Kumar. The ABVP was content giving sound bites to the media, making allegations against the left students, and the doctors at AIIMS for not attending to them for hours. The doctors on the other hand, insisted that the ABVP activists suffered only superficial injuries and constantly harassed them when they were attending to the more serious students. The ambulance carrying the medical staff to the campus too was attacked by the goons, with police doing little to prevent it.
This is the same policy which had gone charging, without permission, in the campus of Jamia Millia Islamia University, on December 14, last year, rushing in the library, in the girl’s hostel, teargassing them, launching deadly assaults on them with lathis, causing permanent eye damage to one of the students and shooting three others.
Ever since the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014, the country is being subjected to one ugly event after another, at lightning speed. By the time one grasps the nuances of one, the scene shifts, and something even more sinister follows. Before the questions of the ghastly attacks on Jamia students could even die down, there was this deathly attack on JNU.
While the government and the biased media have lost no opportunity to paint JNU as a den of terrorists, the fact is that this campus, which prides itself for solving issues with debates, had never experienced any violence before 2016. Since then, this has been the second time, when police had to be called on campus. Students have been constantly agitating since February 2016 though, since the VC, who lacks the intellectual capability or the morality that his post demands, has reduced the university to a battleground with students, refusing to engage in discussions with the students, on any issue.
Meanwhile, both prime minister Modi and the home minister Shah, besides the VC have been silent and incommunicative about what really transpired both in the 2016 episode in JNU, the 2019 incident in Jamia and a deathly silence prevails even now after the latest incident.
In less than 24 hours, however, the focus has already shifted to Delhi polls.
It has now become an established pattern for the government and administration to lie and hide facts with a brazenness, not seen in Independent India. They are yet to answer the disappearance of the first year, biotechnology student Najeeb Ahmed, since October 2016, despite India’s premier investigating agency CBI, handling the case now. No arrests have been made in this case, despite the family and fellow students pointing their fingers against ABVP activists.
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Narendra Modi government has taken no credit for building even a primary school, leave alone a university in the last five and a half years of their governance. They are instead credited for closing down several government schools, allowing colleges and universities to go to ruin, reducing scholarships and research funding, increasing fees exponentially, besides making severe cuts in the education budget, instead of increasing it.
Students are being roughed up, with police being given a free hand, and false cases being made out against them routinely.
The attack on JNU has especially been focused since 2016, probably using it to test waters, before unleashing the destructive agenda in other government-funded universities, as well. This has brought together many universities in the country to oppose as one voice against the government, determined to bring it to its knees. Among the prominent ones are the Cotton university Guwahati, Guwahati University, IIT Bombay, IIT Madras, IIT Kanpur, Presidency University, Jamia Millia Islamia, Osmania University, Hyderabad, Hyderabad university, Delhi University, Punjab University, Aligarh Muslim University, JNU, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), IIM Bangalore, IIM Calcutta, IIM Kozhikode, Jadavpur University and Banaras Hindu University. Clearly the government has forgotten that students who rise against their government, sooner or later force the government on the back foot. It is just a matter of time.
By Vijaylakshmi Nadar