In a campus witnessing an agitation against the arrest of its student leader, heavy security deployment and a division among the student community on the issue of nationalism, countless Indian flags fluttered in JNU Thursday in the build-up to the march from Mandi House.
As students geared for the march, amid the posters they carried were some that stated, “I am Umar Khalid and my heart beats 4 India”. Another asked, “ Whose India?”, and yet another said, “Rohith Vemula, Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid are not anti-national.”
Scores of students assembled near Sabarmati Hostel, holding the Tricolour, roses, placards as they mobilised fellow students to join the march. The university administration, which has come under attack for allegedly allowing Delhi Police to enter the campus, issued an appeal to the students. “While we appreciate your right to protest, we are apprehensive about your safety outside campus. We, therefore, appeal to you to reconsider your decision for undertaking the march outside campus,” read a notice from the JNU vice chancellor’s office.
More than 10 buses lined the main campus road to take students to the march. The numbers swelled as various groups went from one hostel to another, beating drums, singing songs and exhorting students to stand with JNU. As the first batch of students left the campus in six packed buses, they waved the Tricolour and urged passersby to stand with JNU. Soon, more buses were procured. Nearly each student carried a flower, to give to anyone who objected to their protest.
Students owing allegiance to ABVP sat near Sabarmati Hostel, watching the gathering. “They have a right to voice their opinions and take out a protest. We do not want to take this right away from them,” said ABVP member Saurabh.
Meanwhile, waiting for the last few buses to arrive, students sang, “Hum Honge Kamyaab”. Chants of “We are JNU, Stand with JNU” reverberated inside a bus which was among the last to leave. Posters in support of arrested JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Rohith Vemula were put up on windows. As soon as the bus rolled, a student started collecting money for “bus rent”.