The JNU campus Saturday saw a poetry contest of sorts, which took place in the two corners of the administration block, under the watchful eyes of university security officials.
While the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) held a kavi sammelan (meet of poets) to “honour brave soldiers”, the JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) presented an artiste who recited poems on everything from intolerance to JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar.
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Members of the ABVP, from their corner of the block, also raised slogans while the “nationalism class” was being held there.
Delhi University professor Satish Deshpande, who was speaking on the “threats to universities”, took a dig at the ABVP, saying when it came to deshbhakti (patriotism) “actions speak louder than words”.
He said that universities in India were being attacked by three kinds of forces and urged students to protect these spaces since they were the only ones which were “all-inclusive and equal”.
“We shouldn’t forget that universities have not become equal places just like that… a lot of struggle has been involved… but look at the result… we can say for sure that if there is any place that is all-inclusive and equal, it is in a university,” he said.
Elaborating on the three kinds of attacks being faced by universities, he said, “One is from political outfits like ABVP and supporting groups, like we saw in Udaipur, Gwalior and Lucknow. The excuse here is Bharat ka sanskaar (Indian traditions) ya Hindu dharm ka apmaan (insult to Hindu religion). The second attack is by politicians in power who are using the police. We saw this in HCU and JNU.
And the third one, which we need to talk more about, is the attack from the public. The road that separates JNU and Munirka has, in the last few days, turned into a valley”.
Deshpande also spoke about his days at the Hyderabad Central University (HCU) and how the Ambedkar student movement there contributed to the development of socially inclusive campuses.
“The social structure of our universities is changing. I saw this in HCU in 1991, when Dalit and adivasi (tribal) students struggled there. They struggled for their rights, and HCU was one of the first universities where this fight raged,” he said.
Meanwhile, on JNU campus Saturday, some students and student groups went around selling merchandise to collect money, to support Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya. Khalid and Bhattacharya, arrested on charges of sedition, are in judicial custody. “We think Khalid and Anirban are getting sidelined. So, their friends and supporters have made stickers in their support. We are encouraging people to put up these stickers in their rooms and on their vehicles, so the focus is back on these students,” said Anand, a JNU student.
Members of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) were also selling T-shirts and books. “We are holding an exhibition in solidarity with the movement. On Sunday, we have organised an art of resistance movement, where people can draw things to support our cause,” said Najeeb, a member of SFI.