06, Jul 2018 | CJP Team
An inquiry committee set up by the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) to look into allegations of “anti-national” slogans raised at a protest held on campus in February 2016, has now upheld the recommendation to rusticate student leader Umar Khalid and impose a fine on Kanhaiya Kumar. This decision has outraged the student community that has been fighting against JNU’s increased crackdown on students’ freedom of speech and expression. In a statement released today, Khalid vows to challenge this decision.
On July 5, 2018, JNU students received ominous e-mails finding them guilty for their alleged involvement in the campus event organised on February 9, 2016 to protest the hanging of Afzal Guru who was convicted in the attack on the Parliament. It was reported that anti-national slogans were allegedly raised during the protest.
The high level inquiry committee was formed to probe these allegations and it had earlier recommended the rustication of student leader Umar Khalid and had imposed a fine of Rs 10,000/- (Rupees Ten Thousand only) on another popular student leader Kanhaiya Kumar. The students had challenged these recommendations in the Delhi High Court, which had in turn directed JNU to take the matter before an appellate authority. “The appellate authority, then, went on to present the evidence it had against each student. The students were also allowed to present their case after which the committee upheld its decision,” university sources told The Hindu.
In February 2016, Khalid, Kumar and Anirban Bhattacharya were charged with sedition and arrested in connection with the event. Presently, they are all out on bail. Khalid released a statement on the JNU panels’ decision and said, “There will be more such jumlas, assaults, fictitious ‘conspiracies’, arrests and media witch-hunt in the run-up to the elections in 2019. And the desperation only shows the fear and weakness of a government that has terribly failed the nation and its people.” Umar Khalid’s full statement may be read below.
Full text of Umar Khalid’s statement
Once again, the BJP and its paid pipers in the media are ecstatic in their portrayal of the students in JNU as “criminals.” With the pretext of the recent order of the farcical “High Level” enquiry (read drama) of the JNU administration, they are claiming that their fiction has been “validated”. I want to state categorically, that we are all being targeted in a systematic and a malafide manner by an enquiry that was prejudiced against us from day one. An administration that has been running at the orders of the ruling BJP and the RSS, was at no point of time in a position of impartiality to conduct this enquiry.
The court has repeatedly found faults with the enquiry process and has vindicated our apprehensions. This is the third time in the last 2 years that the administration has come up with a ‘rustication’ order against me in this case – an order that has been twice set aside by the courts. We once again reject this farce of an enquiry along with its findings and verdict. It is against all principles of natural justice and is riddled with contradictions, lies and malice which will soon be exposed again. We will once again challenge this in court. And we will continue our struggle against such vindictive witch hunt of any and every voice of dissent in universities across the country. This recent order of the HLEC in JNU is in line with the pattern of the administration’s high-handedness and selective targeting of opposing voices in the student community who against all odds have refused to kneel in the face of despotism.
But alongside, I also wish to take the opportunity to add a bit more here. Yes, we have been student activists in JNU raising our voice against the arrogance of power under the Modi regime and against the manifold injustices in society. But alongside we have also been students who have pursued our academics seriously over the years. And the two are not exclusive of each other. Our politics also reflects in our academic pursuit and vice versa. Both relate to the rights of the most marginalised in our society. As the ones studying in a public funded university with taxpayers money, we have a certain sense of responsibility towards our society.
My own PhD is on the socio-economic deprivation and political marginalisation of the tribals since colonial times. It is rather ironical that the same regime that says that students are non-serious about their studies in JNU is today hellbent upon stopping us from submitting our PhDs that have been the products of rigorous research, passion and criticality. They have conjured this HLEC order just two weeks before the deadline of our final submission which is shameful and rabidly vindictive. It is symptomatic of their larger assault on public funded education, on research on social justice and on criticality. However, we want to assure them that we shall not lie low.
Faced with rampant joblessness; faced with the wrath of the farmers, workers and the youth; faced with the limits of their communal, casteist and divisive politics; – it is clear that the Modi government is failing miserably and their lies lay exposed. Therefore, once again they are desperately trying to rake up farcical binaries and fictitious enemies today through its propaganda machinery. There will be more such jumlas, assaults, fictitious “conspiracies,” arrests and media witch-hunt in the run-up to the elections in 2019. And the desperation only shows the fear and weakness of a government that has terribly failed the nation and its people.
Student activist with BASO;
PhD research scholar, JNU
Meanwhile, JNU Students’ Union issued a statement, condemning the development. “Even after two years of the incident, the Delhi police could not file a charge sheet against JNU students. This decision of the committee is nothing but a gross misuse of power. The committee’s punishments have been set aside by the Delhi High Court twice in the past. We are looking into all legal remedies to overturn this order as well.”
Feature Image by PTI