JNU attack: University not new to campus violence, it has seen political battles over the decades

'Unprecedented'; 'never in the history of JNU'; 'violence against left students by ABVP'; and several other such headlines flashed on various national dailies after the latest incident of violence at Jawaharlal Nehru University on 5 January, as the handiwork of those who oppose or are inimical to the Left.

The deeper message is not lost on anyone — that the "Left" has all along been at the forefront of maintaining "JNU traditions" but has been targeted for the same. The victim is there, public opinion favourably created and the right wing now clearly painted as the villain. Also, the real message these dailies are sending out is that the students of the Left persuasion were not even remotely nvolved in the fracas and were rather at the receiving end.

The well-oiled machinery is apace to prove that, in fact, the Left has always been a harbinger of peace in JNU and all the blame lay at the doors of those opposing them, more particularly ABVP, which has been publicly adjudged by them to be the culprit.

 JNU attack: University not new to campus violence, it has seen political battles over the decades

File image of the JNU campus. JNU website

This is farthest from the truth and I can vouch for this from my experiences at JNU, where I spent about five years during the late 1990s and early 2000s when I was active in students politics. It was a time when the Left student organisations, including SFI, AISA, AISF, were being challenged by the ABVP. They employed all means to subdue the activism of ABVP. The methodology adopted was both physical and mental. It began with a system of segregating, targeting and ridiculing ABVP activists and sympathisers in the hostel mess during meals. The malaise was deep and systemic. The new recruits were then led up to getting help from idelologically aligned teachers, many of whom, were student leaders of these organisations and continued to behave so. It didn't end there. The supporters of ABVP were openly discriminated in terms of grades or for that matter in getting their papers published, to name a few categories. If needed, resorting to violence was widely justified.

There are many such instances to recount but I would like the readers to know of the violent machinations deployed by the Left, during my time in JNU, which are still fresh in my mind.

It was 1999, I was a student councilor, elected for the 2nd time in a row, from the School of International Studies. JNUSU was led by SFI. In February-March, news started coming in that the SFI-led Union has set in motion to bring in, what they called "Progressive Admission Policy". Even their supporters were wary of their intent. As is the case in JNU, the issue was discussed in all the Schools and it was decided that it will be referred to the University General Body Meeting and a date was fixed for everyone to come forward and share their thoughts which was to be followed by a vote by head count.

The deliberations went for the whole day and it was close to midnight when the headcount started. In the midst of headcounts, the SFI-led Union, took to the stage and started exhorting its cadre to take things in their hands. Lawlessness and violence was openly incited. Being one of the councilors, I also took to the stage and started appealing the students to help us to finish the headcount. Me, along with other ABVP activists, were pelted with stones and beaten up brutally. It took us many days to recover from the injuries.

However, a campaign was launched by the Left along with the JNUTA to paint ABVP in the wrong. Truth did prevail though, as the inquiry conducted by the university resulted in many Left students getting expelled.

Towards the end of 1999, a mushiara was organised by the JNUSU, again led by the SFI, in the Jhelum lawns to which many poets from Pakistan were also invited along with poets from our country. It so happened that two serving Armymen were also in the audience and when a poet from Pakistan took to stage and recited something which was offensive, they protested. Soon, they were surrounded by the SFI members who started heckling the duo followed by severe thrashing. It was with great difficulty that these Armymen were rescued.

The situation had came to such a passé that a one-man inquiry commission headed by Justice PK Bahri (Retd.) a retired judge of the Delhi High Court, was appointed to inquire into the incident. It has always been the strategy of the Left that while they preach many things like freedom of expression, democracy, right to free speech etc. in practice, they are the exact opposite of these virtues.

I had a first hand experience of many such instances during my time in JNU. But one which needs to be recounted is of a programme that was organised in August 2002 when we had invited late Ashok Singhal Ji on the occasion of "Guru Dakshina" an annual event of the RSS where the swayamsevaks gather to pay respect to the Guru, the Bhagwa Dhwaj (saffron flag). Left lost out on president's post when I got elected in 2000. They targetted this program and even though we had the permission to conduct it, large scale mobilisations were made to ensure that Singhal did not enter the campus.

We finally got Singhal into the campus and the programme started in the Admin Block but the security was forced to shut the gates of the venue. The programme went on with the assembled Left student organisations with the support of JNUTA, many of whose members were active participants in opposing the event, crying hoarse over a "fascist" being allowed with ear-deafening sloganeering. They started sloganeering once the "Guru Dakshina" programme concluded. However, once the students started to leave, the Left beat them with lathis, iron rods, and stones.

Again, as always, the propaganda machinery was put to action to blame the ABVP/RSS but an internal inquiry found many Left student leaders guilty.

These are only few of the many instances that took place during my time which show that the left has always been the instigator and perpetrator of violence in the campus. They also ensure that their supporter from outside come to their aid in the name of fighting against "fascism", "imperialism" and now " Hindutva".

The author is a Supreme Court Advocate and former President of JNUSU

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Updated Date: Jan 07, 2020 18:58:56 IST