On 9 February, 2016, a programme titled ‘Poetry reading: The country without a post office’ was to be organized at the Sabarmati Dhaba within the JNU campus. And since the title of the programme didn’t suggest anything objectionable, permission was granted. However, when posters of the said programme revealed its true topic, authorities at JNU acted swiftly. They cancelled the permission and communicated the same to the organisers and security staff. This is a fact that is clearly stated in the bail order of JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar.
The posters revealed that the programme was actually a protest against the “judicial killing of Afzal Guru”. And though the college authorities cancelled permission, the event was still organised at the same venue and time mentioned. The execution of Afzal Guru, who was hanged in February 2013 for his role in the 2001 Parliament attack, was termed a “judicial killing”. Alleged anti-national slogans were also raised at the event, leading to the arrest of Kanhaiya.
And though the protest against Afzal Guru’s hanging was the highlight of the protest, the undercurrent that unleashed the protest was neither limited to Guru’s execution nor was it accidental. Whether Kashmir is an integral part of India or not has been the bigger question that Left and Right parties at JNU have been debating for many years.
Ram Nayan Verma, a student of The School of Computational and Integrative Sciences and JNUSU councilor, spilled the beans on this matter. The fact that at the very first student union council meeting, a resolution on whether or not Kashmir is an integral part of India was discussed, voted and defeated only speaks of the huge support that Kashmir separatism has in the varsity.
Verma, who categorically stated that he heard Anirban Bhattacharya and Umar Khalid raising pro-Afzal Guru and anti-India slogans, said that anti-India sentiments and views favouring Kashmir’s secession are so forcefully articulated in the campus that it compelled him to propose a resolution at the council meeting last September, calling for accepting Kashmir as an integral part of India.
“At the council meeting every member has the right to put forward a resolution which is debated and then put to vote. During the first meeting after the JNUSU election, I put forward a resolution that Kashmir is an integral part of India. The reason for this was that a section of students here tries to enforce the idea that Kashmir is not a part of India. It feels India has occupied Kashmir. This is an important assertion of politics some students here have. I wanted to set the record straight. All the Left parties opposed this resolution. Those opposing included Shehla Rashid and Rama Naga, both members of JNUSU. Kanhaiya, being the president of the union, has only a casting vote. The meeting continued for six hours till 2 am,” Verma said.
He added, “They (Left parties) may now assert that they believe in the Indian Constitution, but they have always favoured separatism in Kashmir which is a grave challenge to the constitutional spirit...before the crowd swelled on February 9, it was clearly visible who was raising the slogans. I saw Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya raising most of the slogans related to Afzal Guru. I have stated all these facts in front of the internal inquiry committee.”
While the culpability of all accused will be decided by courts, what is intriguing is why was it so important for a students’ body to put forward a resolution which is extremely political when other issues related to the welfare of students could have been given the priority. Replying to the question, Saurabh Sharma, joint secretary, JNUSU (who also favoured the resolution moved by Verma), says, “For the last few years, the Left parties in JNU have been favouring Kashmir’s secession from India. Three years ago, they even took out a rally demanding freedom for Kashmir. We wanted to bring on record their views. Obviously, our motion was defeated as all the Left parties opposed our resolution.”