As I scrolled through my Twitter notifications, a tweet blared, "#ShutDownJNU is the answer". I don’t agree. Shutting down an institution is never an answer. It’s an escape from a problem. ‘Make it great again’ is the answer. But is it possible?
In 2012, I made a film which raised the fear of our academic institutions getting infested with 'intellectual terrorism'. It came true in the form of the Kanhaiya Kumar episode in JNU. In a public forum, I had warned one of the most powerful leaders of India that Dalit-Muslim politics would soon cost lives, but I had no idea that it would manifest in the form of Rohit Vemula’s suicide.
Once again, student politics is in focus. JNU, once again, is enveloped by divisive student politics. A student has gone missing and vested interests are trying to encash their political currency.
JNU, in the past decade or so, has become the epicentre of sinister student politics planned and managed by the Leftist parties of India led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist). These are the same parties which are the strategic forces behind the Naxal/Maoist movement in India which alone is responsible for the loss of over 13,000 innocent lives in India. This is more than the killing of innocent people and soldiers in the insurgent Kashmir and North East.
On 14 October, Vikrant Kumar — a student contesting for a place in the management committee of a hostel mess — went on a door-to-door campaign. His two colleagues, Ankit and Sunil, who happen to be Dalit students (caste is irrelevant but I mention it here as the caste and religion of a student is integral to JNU politics), accompanied him. Vikrant knocked on the door of a postgraduate student called Najeeb Ahmad. Najeeb noticed a saffron thread on Vikrant’s wrist (a sacred Hindu thread known as kalava) and made fun of him for wearing it. When Vikrant asked him to stop insulting his beliefs, Najeeb slapped Vikrant. Repeatedly.
In the meantime, the elected president of the student’s union JNUSU, Mohit Kumar Pandey, a Brahmin, also arrived there and threatened Vikrant — "You will pay a price". He then turned towards Ankit, called him names, addressed him by his caste in a derogatory manner and threatened to show him his place. As things heated up, the warden of the hostel along with the security officials and other students reach the spot where Najeeb confessed to ridiculing Vikrant’s faith and slapping him, without any provocation. Minutes of the meeting were made in the presence and agreement of Najeeb, his room-mate and primary witness Quasim and the hostel president Alimuddin. Note: Quasim had earlier made a request to have his room changed, citing Najeeb’s unreasonable and aggressive behaviour.
In spite of Najeeb’s confession, the warden, who is a Dalit himself, persuaded the victims not to file a complaint under the non-bailable Dalit Atrocities Act against Najeeb, and instead asked Najeeb to vacate the hostel. He was given time until 21 October to do so. Expulsion, as understood by many, doesn’t mean withdrawal of hostel facilities, just shifting to another hostel. The very same evening, in his defense and for the records, Vikrant lodged a complaint at the Vasant Kunj police station. It seemed like the matter had been settled amicably. But the story doesn’t end here.
It’s important to note here that since 2014, Left parties are losing their political space and relevance. With increased development and a strong security presence in Naxal areas, the Naxal/Maoist movement is finding it difficult to spread its tentacles further into the jungles. Therefore, top Naxal/Maoist leaders, in tandem with CPI (M/L), have decided to spread wings to head to academic institutions with an objective to taking over cities and overthrowing the government. While they attack the state in rural areas with guns, they conspire against the government in urban areas with intellectual terrorism.
The strategy is to arouse caste (read Dalit) politics, disintegrate Dalits from Hindus and club them with Muslim politics. For them, the only way to defeat the Narendra Modi government is to consolidate Dalit and Muslim votes against Hindu votes. The Kanhaiya and Rohit incidents are the most important manifestations of this sinister strategy.
The next day, Najeeb suddenly went missing.
According to Abhinav Prakash, an ex-student of JNU, Najeeb was last seen with the All-India Students Association (AISA) cadre. Najeeb took an autorickshaw and left, leaving behind his phone and wallet. On the night of the fight, Najeeeb called his mother in the small town of Budaun in Uttar Pradesh and informed her of the fight. The worried mother rushed to Delhi and reached JNU at 12.30 pm to find that Najeeb was missing. She just couldn't believe it because at 11 am, from Anand Vihar, she had spoken to Najeeb who had told her that he was in his hostel room.
The political theatre came alive and all the actors began playing their roles. Sensing a potent opportunity to attack the government, JNUSU — comprising of the Leftist AISA, Students Federation of India (SFI) in a nexus with Dalit-Muslim organisations such as Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association (BAPSA), Students Islamic Organisation of India (SIO) — decided to exploit a potent situation and give it a communal colour by holding ABVP responsible for a Muslim student’s disappearance. The tactics of class struggle were used the against ABVP.
Soon, BAPSA began putting up posters on campus glorifying ‘Dalit-Muslim’ unity and presented Najeeb as a victim of Hindu oppression. They attacked ABVP, BJP and RSS. The posters screamed of Brahminism (a very old and stale plank of the Leftists). The posters mentioned the Una incident to underline their narrative. The tactics used during the Umar Khalid episode in February and later Rohit Vemula episode, start repeating again.
Another poster by the SIO screamed, 'Violence against Muslims can be seen as a common denominator of Indian social existence'. It seems these parties have already assumed that Najeeb is a victim of communal politics. How can they assume this? Or is it that they know the plot? Who is the author of this script? Why is this similar to the earlier Umar and Rohit scripts?
Then the former joint secretary of JNUSU, Saurabh Pandey (ABVP), began receiving written threats wherein he was warned that if he interfered, he would be 'cut into pieces'.
On 20 October, the narrative was deliberately turned on its head. A poster by JNUSU went up stating, 'Najeeb Ahmad is missing since a day after he was beaten up and intimidated by a group of identified students in front of the Senior Warden, Union president, JNU security and several other co-residents of his hostel, who all bore witness to the incident' (sic). This is an outright lie as the president of JNUSU, Mohit Pandey, the author of this poster, was the primary witness to Najeeb’s confession. But then this is the staple strategy of Naxals: To turn around facts and go for very high-frequency written propaganda. This is done to incite communal tension by playing the victim card. A regular student fight that started with an objection to a sacred thread became a political battle of oppression.
The next day, the Leftist students forcibly took over the administration office and confined the vice-chancellor and other administrative officials for a day and a night, only allowing water to be carried inside. One of the administrators is an elderly diabetic. His wife was not allowed to meet him and students refused to even allow an ambulance. The Leftist students demanded that the administration give an 'assurance in writing' that it would be 'punishing ABVP' in spite of the fact that Najeeb was the one who beat up a student and confessed in front of the same students who are now the protestors. They also demand that the VC be part of the police search team.
Another poster came up, this time inviting students for a 'protest march' — six days after his disappearance — and blaming the VC and administration for 'not creating conducive conditions for the return of Najeeb'. What does 'conducive conditions' mean? Not long ago, in February this year, Umar was also not found until 'conducive conditions' were created.
The entire narrative smells foul of the false victimisation of Najeeb in spite of him being the accused.
Most of the apolitical and anti-Left students and faculty believe that Najeeb is hiding on campus and the master-strategists are waiting for the issue to 'hot up' so that they can go for a full-blown offensive against the RSS, BJP and the Modi government.
This perception may be wrong but what is true is that our campuses are extremely politicised due to political appointments of the faculty who mastermind such conflicts. It is also true that free debate and logical discourse has died on our campuses. And it is also true that Naxalism is taking over our academia and it won’t be long before there will be hell to pay on the campuses.
The author is a filmmaker, writer and motivational speaker. He is founder of #IAmBuddha and School of Creativity. He tweets at @vivekagnihotri
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Updated Date: Oct 24, 2016 13:04:30 IST