Spread the Sedition: Condemn Right-wing Attack on JNU & Silencing of the Kashmir Debate
We strongly condemn RSS-BJP-ABVP’s hooliganism aiming to shut down discussions on Kashmir that brings out issues that the Indian State is not comfortable with, in Kashmir, in Hyderabad Central University, in Jawaharlal Nehru University, in Delhi Press Club, in short, anywhere. We believe that the freedom to articulate one’s politics, no matter what that politics is, is necessary to build a democratic society. Thus we condemn ABVP’s hooliganism in all campuses from Jadavpur University to MSU Baroda. Also the reasoning that is coming from many quarters which states that one should surrender one’s political opinions to the state if they are receiving state-subsidized education is outrageous. Further, we believe that universal access to knowledge is a right and not a handout.
We stand firmly against the Indian State’s bullying people into declaring their nationalism by using the police, the sedition law, the long-drawn court process, jail and anything else. We staunchly refuse to declare ourselves as nationalists, as in today’s environment, Indian nationalism has become synonymous with hatred for anything Pakistani, fanatic support for Indian military operations including what happens in Kashmir, Manipur and central India among other places, and a tool of self-aggrandizement, among other vile things. We stand for comradeship across national borders, regardless of national borders. We demand the scrapping of the sedition law and the dropping of sedition charges against everyone including SAR Gilani and Kanhaiya Kumar. We also demand the release of the lawyers Vasudha Nagaraj, V. Raghunath and Divya A., detained for making statements against the Patiala House court hooliganism.
We strongly condemn terrorizing people with hooliganism, the attack on Kanhaiya Kumar, journalists and those who went in solidarity with Kanhaiya in Patiala House Court. We condemn police raids in JNU, the hounding of Kashmiris in Delhi, the threats of physical violence and the relentless harassment of Umar Khalid and his family and fellow organisers of the event and the heckling of JNU students.
We found the coverage of the matter in the TV news channels, notably Times Now, Zee News, News X and India TV, absolutely appalling. It is also notable that many are passing judgement on the persons who shouted the slogans ‘India ki barbadi tak jung rahegi’ and ‘Kashmir maange azaadi’ without even commenting or taking note of the nature of the Indian military operations in Kashmir, where only within the last few days, a girl and a boy – both unarmed – were shot dead by the Indian army, the reason being that they were ‘rebels’. Murders, disappearances after being picked up by the army, rapes, harassments, blackouts of phone and internet networks, army raids in houses and hostels, frequent imposition of curfews, stopping and searching, intimidating with military presence and so on are some of the actions of the Indian army in Kashmir. And there are various laws like AFSPA that give such atrocities legal protection. Without taking note of the situation in Kashmir, these slogans are used to paint those who shouted the slogans as xenophobic towards Indians, whereas the Kashmiri context is crucial to make sense of the slogans. Kashmiris’ plights did not find mention in the mainstream media, while Arnab Goswami and Co. were quick to shout down anyone who showed the courage to raise questions or unpopular viewpoints about Afzal Guru’s judicial murder. Kashmiris continue to live under the Indian state’s siege and the ‘national’ media ignore their plights daily, but being true nationalists, they could not let the slogans or the viewpoints slide, and chose to brand the organisers and the slogan-shouting people as terrorist, invoking a demonising image of people who kill civilians. It is thus upon us to raise those questions again that expose the Indian state’s operations in Kashmir, and build up an informed discourse regarding the situation in Kashmir, the struggle for self-determination and what we should understand by self-
determination, in spaces where such discussions are not happening. Also, we reject the abhorrent attempt to use the death of Lancenaik Hanumanthappa to whip up support for the military occupation of Kashmir.
We would also like to dissociate ourselves from ‘JNU nationalism’ from which many are critiquing the events. We do not subscribe to the ‘protection of the idea of JNU’, which is a university that operates according to the set rules of ‘merit’-ocracy (read exclusivity) that is mandatory for universities under the State, where casteism, classism and elitism run rampant with the campus having low-paid overworked labourers including child labourers. An institute like a university is not outside the oppressive structures that help determine people’s socioeconomic positions, but is very much a part of those structures. At the same time, we continue to be inspired by the struggles for democracy and justice that take place within the JNU campus and outside. There is an attempt by the state machinery to weaken the kind of student politics that seeks to resist various anti-people activities, and keep students in line with authoritarianism and hooliganism in campus spaces while it withdraws from public education leaving students to be robbed by private institutes. We must recognise it and resist it, in solidarity with those who are putting up this resistance.
Ours is not an appeal to the Indian State, but an appeal to people in different parts of the world, for comradeship that is necessary to put up a fight against the relentless ideological and coercive assault that we are facing. From the state, we demand, not appeal.
The views expressed in this statement are of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Collective.