The raising of ‘anti-national’ slogans in Jawaharlal Nehru University campus on February 9 followed by arrest of student leader Kanhaiya Kumar on the charges of sedition has sparked a major contoversy which has also grabbed the attention of international media and intellectuals.
Here is how the world media reproted on the controversy:
New York Times
An international opinion piece in NYT on February 21 stated that 2015 was a ‘turbulent year on Indian campuses’ as the students were coming out in large numbers and speaking against ‘caste prejudice, appointment of BJP loyalists in varsities, etc’. Criticising the Modi government, the article stated, “Senior members of the B.J.P. and the Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (R.S.S.), a Hindu nationalist organization with major influence over Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have responded not with dialogue but with persecution, not with negotiation but with clampdowns.”
It also talks about contradictions in media reports and doctored videos of Kanhaiya Kumar being circulated over the social media. Talking about the attack by lawyers at the Patiala House Courts complex, it stated that ‘the message is clear-violence in the name of ultra-nationalism is accepted’.
The article titles ‘Why an Indian student has been arrested for Sedition’ in BBC mentioned that Jawaharlal Nehru University is seen as ‘India’s Berkeley’ because of influence of left ideology on the campus politics.
The article states, “India presents a mixed picture where, on the one hand, we regularly see the use of sedition laws to curtail political criticism even as we find legal precedents that provide a wide ambit to political expression.”
Neighbouring Pakistan’s prominent media house Dawn dubbed the JNU incident as the ‘biggest nationwide students protest in quarter of the century’ and said that it had spread to not less than 18 universities across the country.
“The incident marks another flare-up in an ideological confrontation between Modi’s nationalist government and left-wing and liberal groups that is prompting critics to compare it with Indira Gandhi’s imposition of a state of emergency in the 1970s to crush dissent,” the report said. The report concluded by mentioning the attack on people by ‘fanatic Hindus’ over killing of cows and returning of awards by the intellectuals and writers over growing intolerance in the country.
A detailed report about the JNU row in Al-Jazeera on February 19 highlighted the fact that current Modi regime was being accused of polarisation, ‘promoting sectarian prejudice’ and ‘authoritarian tendencies’.
“The government has also been accused of trying to repress free speech and tacitly ignoring extremist nationalists who intimidate critics of the BJP,” is said. The report also mentioned about Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide and entire controversy surrounding it.
The opinion article in The Guardian had a bold and poignant title ‘This is watershed moment for India. It must choose freedom over intolerance’. Calling Rajnath Singh as ‘hardline home minister’, it said ‘face-off between state repression and intellectual freedom, which has been some time in the making, may well turn out to be a watershed moment for the country’.