New Delhi: Who raised anti-national slogans in Jawaharlal Nehru University on 9 February? As the campus virtually turned into a battleground on Friday with the right wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and a section of the JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) and the Left-affiliated All India Students’ Association (AISA) on opposite sides, the question begs for an answer.
The JNUSU and AISA have claimed of not having any involvement in the entire episode of hailing Afzal Guru as a “martyr”.
JNUSU vice president Shehla Rashid through her WhatsApp message said, “We the JNUSU office-bearers are appalled at the way uproar has been created over the 9 February happened in the campus. We condemn the undemocratic slogans that were raised by some people on that day. In fact, when the sloganeering had been taking place, it was the Left-progressive organisations and students, including JNUSU office-bearers, asked the organisers to stop the slogans, which were regressive. What is happening here at JNU is a repetition of Hyderabad Central University.”
She said: “JNUSU president has been arrested. Police are doing rounds of the campus and mindlessly witch-hunting activists. RSS is running campaigns to shut down JNU. No JNU student ever raised any unprincipled slogan in the campus. Don’t you think it’s wrong to arrest JNUSU president? If tomorrow there’s Congress government in power and JNUSU president is from ABVP, what would happen? It has set a bad precedent.”
Reacting sharply to the statements of JNUSU and AISA members, Saket Bahuguna, Delhi, state secretary of ABVP said, “Debate on what -- whether Afzal Guru should be hailed or not? Can any Indian stoop so low as to raise 'anti-India' slogans and hail terrorists involved in Parliament attack that killed our own people as 'martyrs'? It’s ridiculous. All such anti-national students should immediately be arrested and JNU campus should be made free of such elements.”
Earlier, students affiliated to the ABVP had staged a rally at India Gate demanding immediate arrest of the “anti-national elements” in the JNU campus. This was in response to a rival protest on campus by other unions.
After Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s instruction to take stringent action against the “anti-national” elements in the campus, the Delhi Police have detained JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar.
“Anti-national activities and forces won’t be tolerated. Anyone raising anti-India slogan or questioning India’s integrity won’t be spared. Government will take tough measures,” Singh had said earlier in the day.
The students' union leader has been booked for sedition, even as protests were going on outside Delhi demanding action against the protesting students. The police have claimed that Kumar was seen in a video in which people were allegedly raising anti-national slogans. Kanhaiya’s arrest has already made JNUSU members angry. They have got into a war of words on social media and WhatsApp.
However, such incidents like the one happened on 9 February is nothing new in the JNU campus. Earlier too, debates and discourses were held on Naxalism and on Afzal Guru.
“Earlier too, Afzal Guru had been discussed and was hailed as a ‘martyr’ in the campus. ABVP is flexing muscles with the support of the Central government, but that’s not the JNU tradition. In JNU we arrive at rational positions through debate and discourse. ABVP could have called an all-organisations’ meeting or University general body meeting on this issue,” remarked Rama Naga, general secretary, JNUSU.
ABVP has demanded the government to identify all the students who raised slogans in favour of Afzal Guru from the video footage and arrest them.
What happened on 9 February?
The controversy at JNU erupted on 9 February when some students had pasted posters across the campus inviting people to a protest march against the "judicial killing of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhatt" and in solidarity with the "struggle of Kashmiri people for their democratic right to self-determination" at the varsity's Sabarmati dhaba.
During demonstration, students holding placards bearing Afzal Guru’s photos shouted anti-national slogans, hailing Guru as a ‘martyr’.
A video of the said incidents shows students, including boys and girls, holding placards displaying photos of Afzal Guru raised slogans and hailing him. The Delhi Police have claimed that one of students in the group was JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar. “That’s why he has been detained. The probe is on,” a police source said.
The members of ABVP objected to the event and wrote to the vice-chancellor that such protests should not be held on the campus of an educational institution, prompting the university administration to order the cancellation of the march as they "feared" it might "disrupt" peace.
The JNU administration has already instituted a "disciplinary" inquiry as to how the event took place despite withdrawal of permission and said it will wait for the probe report before taking any further action.
“JNU administration has nothing to do with that incident and no permission was taken to hold such a demonstration. The administration has initiated an inquiry into the issue,” an administrative official of JNU told Firstpost on the condition of anonymity.
The incident and the follow up protests by ABVP have eventually turned JNU campus a ground for political battle.
While CPM leader D Raja 'strongly condemned' the arrest of the JNUSU president, Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju said, "Those living in our country and still raising such slogans against the nation is not acceptable. We take such incidents very seriously.”
The police have also booked Delhi University professor SAR Geelani for sedition and issued a summons to him, CNN-IBN reported.
However, the Congress party has strongly criticised the incident.
“UPA government carried out Afzal Guru's sentence after due process for 13 December 2001 Parliament attack. No one should eulogise him,” party communication department chief, Randeep Surjewala said on Twitter.
“The shameful incident of 9 February has exposed the ulterior motives of Left-backed students’ unions like AISA, SFI and AISF, who hailed a traitor and terrorist as a ‘martyr’. Instead of paying tribute to our Indian soldiers and martyrs, they chose Afzal Guru, Maqbool Bhat and Naxalites above them. Government must take strongest action against such anti-national and pro-Pakistani elements in the campuses. ABVP will continue to hold protests and demonstrations across the country,” said Shreerang Kularni, in-charge, national media & PR, ABVP.