Even as JNU teachers and students called for an indefinite strike starting Monday, protesting the arrest of JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar, the ABVP staged a protest condemning the move. Thousands of teachers, students and civil society members formed a roughly two-kilometre-long human chain at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on Sunday.
The human chain saw participation from civil society activists like Harsh Mander and Teesta Setalvad among others, along with the JNU alumni. The chain stretched from the JNU main gate to Chandrabhaga Hostel, and saw protesters holding posters saying “Killers of Rohith, don’t teach us nationalism”.
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The event took place after a press conference of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) in which they reiterated their demand to have “arbitrary charges” against Kumar dropped, and issued an appeal asking people to “stop demonising the university for a stray incident”.
Responding to questions by the media on Kumar’s alleged Lashkar links, JNUTA president Ajay Patnaik, said, “JNU is inclusive, and anyone who doesn’t like inclusion is branding JNU anti-national.” “We have internal mechanisms in place that are looking at the unfortunate incident. But even before they could submit the report, the police got involved in the incident. We love our autonomy and want to preserve it at any cost. If anybody thinks they can bulldoze us or create fear in us, it will not happen,” he added.
The conference also saw solidarity statements being made and read out by teachers’ associations from Ambedkar University (AUD), Delhi University and student organisations from the Hyderabad Central University (HCU) among others. A total of 40 central universities and FTII have spoken out in support.
The JNUSU has decided to observe a university strike from Monday till the time Kumar is released. Earlier, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) members and some teachers and staff members protested outside the administrative block, against the university strike.
“We strictly condemn this behavior of JNUTA. These teachers, who should show some concern for the nation, are in strong support of the ones who are willing to destroy the nation. If JNUTA and these teachers don’t stop doing this, we will demand their dismissal,” said JNUSU Joint-Secretary Saurabh Sharma, who is an ABVP member.
Apart from JNUTA, other organisations also spoke against Kumar’s arrest. “What is happening in JNU now is absolutely unprecedented. The charges of sedition against Kanhaiya are politically motivated. It may have been in bad taste, but legally it was not seditious. There is a huge difference between the two,” said DU Teachers’ Association (DUTA) president Nandita Narain.
A statement by Joint Action Committee of HCU was also read out by the organisers, alleging Kumar’s intention was to shift focus from Vemula’s death. “Even after JNUSU made clear its stand condemning anti-India slogans raised by some fringe elements, the arrest seems to be a move to divert attention away from the institutional murder of Rohith,” the statement read.
President of the AUD Faculty Association, Rukmini Sen condemned police presence on the campus. “Police action on the pretext of national security and branding any kind of dissent as anti-national is a dangerous and undemocratic practice — a feature that was witnessed in University of Hyderabad recently and now JNU.”