Why such an aggressive stance now, when JNU has seen protests on Afzal Guru’s hanging for three years?
This is not the first time. We have always protested. Even in 2010, when some students in JNU began to celebrate the killing of 75 securitymen in Dantewada by Naxals, we had protested. This time it was different, because the media played it up, for which I thank it. This forced the government to act.
It has been argued that the sedition charge slapped is too harsh…
It’s for the court to decide whether it’s too harsh. But we can’t look at this incident in isolation. We have seen the Parliament attack, attacks on trains, 26/11, the Pathankot attack, Maoist violence. Islamic State is recruiting… In such a situation, if anti-national slogans are shouted, I don’t think India can take it lightly.
The Supreme Court has struck down many such sedition cases.
All said and done, the matter needs to be investigated. This has been continuing for long. In Hyderabad it was over Yakub Memon, sometimes it is over Maoists. This whole culture that has developed in JNU in the name of freedom of expression needs to be given fresh thought. We need to ask what the meaning of ‘freedom of expression’ is.
Is the ABVP newly aggressive on campuses because the BJP is in power?
There are 350 universities in the country. Controversy has broken out in just two. In both cases (Hyderabad and JNU), the issue is of opposing support to traitors. Not just ABVP but all should oppose it. You can’t use freedom of expression to undermine the idea of national integrity.
It is being said that this protest has been engineered to divert attention from the death of Rohith Vemula.
In Hyderabad, too, we had said that you can’t eulogise Yakub. What needs to be probed and questioned is who are the teachers whose discourse is leading to anti-national slogans on campus. What people did not understand in Hyderabad, and was brushed under the carpet in the name of a Dalit, has been exposed here.
Didn’t the ABVP err in handling the events that led to Vemula’s death?
I don’t think we committed any mistake. But Vemula’s death is a tragedy. It should be investigated how and why he committed suicide… what circumstances, including in his organisation, led to his death. I think we handled the issue sensitively. We followed all rules, went to the administration, to the authorities. Notably, the witnesses in the case of assault on Sushil (ABVP activist) are also Dalits. But since it has ended in a tragedy, all of us need to be more sensitive. We all share this responsibility, not ABVP alone.
Didn’t the university administration overreact to the ABVP complaint?
No, I don’t think so. I think stringent action was not taken. Punishment was diluted, limited to the hostel, he had full academic freedom. Suspension from hostel is very normal.
It is being alleged that you are trying to assault the liberal culture of JNU.
What is JNU culture? It is a culture of freedom of expression, exchange of ideas, a free environment for discussions. We have never opposed that. We are part of it. But the prestige of JNU is not greater than the prestige of the nation. In the name of JNU culture you can’t shout anti-national slogans.
You are opposing such an atmosphere in many universities…
Under a well-planned effort students are being misled into anti-national activities on certain campuses by divisive forces… All this is basically an exercise to recruit members into the Naxal movement. There is a concerted effort to send Kashmiri students to universities and prepare an environment for separatism. That is why issues like AFSPA, human rights, secularism, all presented in a distorted way, are cropping up in universities. Faculty of various universities, including JNU, is primarily responsible for this…. A discourse devoid of our glorious history has been propagated by the humanities streams in certain universities. You can see in a Leftist protest there are slogans of Allah O’Akbar. This is a dangerous unification of anti-national forces.
Students and journalists were beaten up in court by people shouting pro-BJP slogans. Even a BJP MLA was involved.
An incident like this is not good. But the culprits [in the JNU programme] haven’t been caught… People want action. When people see there are such people who, even after all this, support such activity, it is natural to react. Their anger will be expressed.