Our country is in the middle of a fierce contest.
From 1925 onwards, when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was formed, it preached a militant Hinduism. In the pre-independence period, however, from 1925-47, the only stalwart it could cite was VD "Veer Savarkar" who was not with the RSS but the Hindu Mahasabha. He did not accept the RSS dietary restrictions, and was a big supporter of beef-eating as he believed this was a cheap source of protein for the poor.
Under the rigours of the Andaman Jail, Savarkar appealed to the British for clemency, which he received. After the NDA came into power at the Centre, it brought out a postage stamp in his memory.
The RSS, with its student offshoot the ABVP and BJP under the Modi regime, has launched a no-holds-barred campaign against secular students and teachers in the universities. Recently, a professor in Banaras Hindu University threatened to attack any teacher from JNU who dared enter BHU.
The assault on JNU "started" from February 9, 2016, in which the Hindu Right spread atrocious rumours including those of being "anti-national" about secular students, teachers and karamcharis. Almost every one of us was shocked, not least of us those who had heard first-hand reports of the freedom struggle from our elders.
Clearly, there was a struggle for secular India. The slogan, "Bharat Mata ki jai," was sought to be made mandatory. The Maharashtra Assembly, in fact, suspended an AIMIM MLA Waris Pathan for only voicing the famous secular slogan "Jai Hind".
|JNU will not succumb to semi-literate, recycled propaganda. (PTI)|
But JNU was in for special treatment.
Some 11 faculty members and students of the Right, including the ABVP and BJP, brought out a "dossier" consisting of published pamphlets, short articles, several of which were spurious, accusing students of wild sex, consumption of alcohol and drugs.
The faculty was accused of being anti-national, supporting separatist movements in the Northeast and Kashmir. No evidence was adduced, since no theoretical or rigorously-worded document was included in the so-called dossier.
Ironically, one of the stalwarts of this effort - professor Amita Singh, who had publicly berated Dalits and Muslims - was given a show cause by the National Commission on Scheduled Castes and a notice was issued by the National Commission on Minorities. Since professor Anuradha Chenoy and I had attended an international conference in Muzzafarabad (in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir), questions were raised on how we had gone to the "enemy territory".
When asked the then vice-chancellor of JNU, professor SK Sopory, confirmed that we had taken JNU's permission to go to the conference. In fact during our formal and informal discussions there, it became clear that the people in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir were not happy with the pace of development or Pakistani rule, and felt oppressed. If we had not gone there we would not have realised all this, but the sectarian, abusive Right cannot think on those lines.
Universities are a priceless resource for a poor country. For years, JNU has been rated highly as a university with specialisations in humanities, social sciences and the sciences.
But bigoted faculty and sectarian, misguided students have started a false, communal, anti-secular diatribe against a number of faculties, including alumni of JNU. It would be naive to think that this was not supported by the Right inside and outside the university.
After all, the way JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar was pummelled by lawyers outside the Patiala House Court despite police protection is a clear indication of outside support.
The fact that the then Delhi Police commissioner, BS Bassi, chose to downplay the attack, until his complacency was shattered by the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital report that Kanhaiya had received injuries, is indicative of orders from the top to play down the events.
The Delhi government's magisterial report into the videos of the February 9 episode has now been taken to court on the grounds that three of the videos were fabricated by three channels. The videos the Delhi Police sent for forensic scrutiny earlier are still in process of examination.
During the Emergency, some of us named in a similar dossier, including me, were severely punished in September 1975 for supporting a strike that resulted in the kidnapping of a Left student leader. At least three were jailed for months. I was suspended and banned from campus for three months, and fined six months of my research fellowships.
None of us succumbed to state pressure. We and our students, whether at JNU or elsewhere, will not either. Especially not to semi-literate, recycled propaganda. JNU will continue to serve its country and people.