On the leading Dalit-Bahujan website Forward Press, Pramod Ranjan has written a brilliant article that deserves widest possible reading, to grasp the larger context of the current onslaught against JNU. Through his incisive research, he suggests that the 10-fold increase in the number of dalit-bahujan students in JNU over the past decade has qualitatively transformed the campus into a site of social assertion. It is to subdue this new profile of the university, and its unfolding political implications, that the RSS has upped its ante against the campus.
As he suggests,
“This change in the social texture of the students not only changed the composition of the students’ union but also the dominant discourse on the campus. Though leading students’ organizations continued to hold the flag of Marxism aloft, their slogans started changing. The graffiti started changing. Instead of Marx, Lenin and Mao, the slogans increasingly started quoting Birsa, Phule and Ambedkar. Portraits of Bahujan heroes who took on Manuvad and casteism started adorning the walls – so much so that it became impossible for any students’ organization to survive on the JNU campus without sporting these symbols.”
Pramod Ranjan traces the onslaught on JNU to the vilification of the campus in the RSS’ mouthpiece Panchajanya published in November last year. The rabidly casteist language of the article betrays the real agenda of the RSS. The nationalism professed by the RSS is only about an upper caste hegemony:
“Till some time ago, the leftists used a different set of policies and tools to break the nation and society. With time, their strategy has changed. They have changed their faces; they have changed the arena of their ideological battle. Now, they do not parrot the formulations of Lenin. Now they talk of secularism, human rights and rights of minorities, women and the deprived sections of society to implement their agenda. The lush crops grown on this poison can be seen everywhere in the university. The walls on JNU campus are full of slogans, pamphlets and posters. Most of these slogans and posters are aimed at fracturing Indian culture, civilization and society and the country itself.”
The RSS sees this shift in JNU’s texture and its political implication a conspiracy to “break the nation”. The Sangh manifesto claimed that the “innocent Hindu youth are lured after being fed wrong facts about the Varna system, which is an integral part of Hindu society”. In the RSS article, a box titled ‘JNU Leela” enumerates the “nefarious activities” on the campus as follows:
- The valiant soldiers who fought in the Kargil battle were humiliated in a mushaira in the university and India-bashing was supported.
- The killing of 72 jawans by the Naxals in Bastar in 2010 was celebrated.
- In the name of food freedom, a row was kicked up over serving beef.
- Slogans demanding freedom for J&K and northeastern states were openly raised.
- The hanging of Afzal Guru was mourned and a protest march taken out.
- With the support of Forward Press, programmes were organized to insult Hindu gods and to execute the conspiracy of the missionaries to break society.
Pramod Ranjan’s article in Forward Press charts out the unmistakable similarities between the charges levelled by Panchjanya in November 2015, and the intelligence report filed in February 2016:
“The Panchjanya article and the report of the intelligence department have uncanny similarities. Their tone is the same, basic content is the same, charges are the same and both smack of a conspiracy to associate students’ organizations of Bahujan ideology with extremist leftist organizations. The only difference is that of language. While the language of Panchjanya has a literary touch, that of the intelligence report is dry government-speak.”
The similarities are striking.
“DELHI POLICE SITUATION REPORT
On 9 February 2016, after the so-called seditious sloganeering in JNU, the Delhi Police, on the basis of the report of its intelligence wing, submitted a report to the Government of India. This report was leaked to the media by “sources in the Home Ministry” on the basis of which, Firstpost, The Hindu, The Indian Express, The Times of India, The Telegraph and other newspapers and TV channels ran stories on the “celebration of Mahishasur Day in JNU during Navratri” and on the “demand to serve beef in JNU mess”. Barring BJP-supporter Zee News and few other channels and newspapers, most of the media outlets took a dig at the government for treating these events as “seditious”. But even they were unaware of the facts and could not grasp the issue in its entirety.
Let us see what this four-page report of the intelligence wing of the Delhi police titled “Situation report regarding the incident at Jawahar Lal Nehru University on 09.02.16” says. The first two pages of the report are devoted to the incident of 9 February. The two remaining pages are about the “earlier incidents” in JNU, including “celebrations of Mahishasur Day during Navratri in 2014” and the “demand that beef be served in the hostel mess”. The question that arises is: Why did the police report talk in detail about the older incidents, which had nothing whatsoever to do with the so-called seditious sloganeering? And why was this report made available to media in haste? And how is it that two days before the release of the report to the media, on 15 February, newspapers carried a statement of BJP MP Yogi Adityanath in which he branded “observance of Mahishasur Day” and “holding beef party” as acts of sedition and demanded that JNU be shut down.
See the first two pages of the report, which talks about the “sedition”. The report, which was sent to the Union Home Ministry, says: “It is important to mention here that Y&S section of Special Branch always keeps an eye on the activities of students, student organizations, youths and people who have a stake at JNU.”
The report says, “[a]round 5 pm, DSU students led by their president Umar Khalid, convenor, DSU began to gather near Sabarmati Dhaba. Around 80/100 DSU and Left students were present at the venue.” It also claims that “The Left-supported student groups were shouting ‘Bharat ki Barbadi tak jang rahegi jang rahegi’, ‘Kashmir ki Ajadi tak Jang Rahegi, Jung rahegi’, ‘India Go Back’ ‘Pakistan Zindabad’, ‘Kitne Afzal maroge, ghar ghar se Afzal niklega’.
“In the meantime 30/40 activists from ABVP reached there under the leadership of Sh. Sourav Kumar Sharma, Joint Secretary, JNUSU. They were shouting slogans against DSU and shouting Bharat Mata Ki Jai.” Note that while the references to leaders of other organizations don’t have the respectful “Shri”, it has been used with the name of Saurabh Kumar Sharma, president of the RSS’ student wing ABVP.”
The report adds, “At 7:30pm the activists of DSU & ABVP started their march from Sabarmati Dhaba to Ganga Dhaba. They raised slogans against each other. At 8:30 PM the activists of DSU & ABVP dispersed from there peacefully.” Demonstrations and sloganeering demanding the right to self-determination for the people of Kashmir are common on JNU campus and after such events, the students invariably disperse peacefully. Then, why did the sleuths take this particular event so seriously?
The report says, “At present, ABVP [is] alleging that the activists of DSU and other left supporting student organizations are indulged in anti-national activities. They want action against such students who are into such anti national activities.”
This is broadly the content of the first two pages of the report.
SANGH’S FINGERPRINTS ON POLICE REPORT
The next two pages have been appended to the report without any apparent reason. It says, “On 06.10.2015, ACP, Y&S/SB visited JNU and had a meeting with the then VC of JNU . During this meeting discussions were held on various subjects including CCTV surveillance in JNU campus to avoid any untoward incident. It was discussed that often some student groups raise slogans and participate in protests inside JNU campus. Many a time such slogans/protests have anti-national colour. It is reflected through objectionable posters which are prepared mostly through computers and affixed at hostel/JNU campus. Sometimes such posters are found to be hurting patriotic/religious feelings of the society. It was also discussed that the objectionable/anti-national activities of members of Democratic Students’ Union (DSU) have to be curbed by JNU authorities with the help of police.”
What is significant is that an ACP of the Special Branch met the JNU vice-chancellor on 6 October 2015. The Mahishasur Martyrdom Day is observed on Sharad Purnima, which fell on 26 October last year. It is clear that the proposal to install CCTV cameras on the university premises was made in view of this event. Note how “patriotic/religious feelings” and “objectionable/anti-national” have been used as synonyms. Even if we do not dwell on whether the sentiments of only the protectors of brahmanical culture are “hurt” or whether anything which they dislike becomes “objectionable”, the question that remains is whether observance of Mahishasur Day by the deprived sections is “sedition”. It is noteworthy that later, on 24, 25 and 26 February, in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha respectively, the government attacked the Mahishasur movement and linked it to seditious activities on the basis of the fabricated charges in this report.
The report shrewdly attributes the event to DSU, even when it is well known that All India Backward Students’ Forum, the Phule-Ambedkarite organization of Bahujan students, was the organizer of this event. Furthermore, it says: “There are so many Left-supported student unions active in JNU. Most of them are non-reactive and mild in nature. They often raise slogans/protest on different national as well as local issues but their gathering remains very low. But two hidden students groups i.e. 1) DSU and 2) DSF have been found volatile and reactive. However, they are less than 10 in number. Sometimes they prepare nude and objectionable posters of deities on their computer and affix it on wall to hurt the religious feelings of the society. Their activities in the past are:
1) They mourned the death of Afzal Guru.
2) They celebrated killing of CRPF Jawans in Dantewara, Chattisgardh in 2010.
3) They worshipped ‘Mahisasur’ [sic] in place of Goddess Durga during September 14 ‘Navrata’ festival last year.
4) They invited Kashmiri separatist leader Gilani for meeting. But JNU authority imposed ban on their such moves.
5) They asked for beef in hostel mess.”
Isn’t this list of charges in the police report a rough translation of the ‘JNU Leela” published in Panchjanya. The report also says that these groups put up pictures of gods and goddesses in the nude on walls. No such thing has ever happened in JNU. The posters put up by the All India Backward Students’ Forum in 2011 were a reproduction of an article written by Prem Kumar Mani titled “Who are Bahujans really worshipping?”, published in FORWARD Press. It only mentioned that Mahishasur came from the Bahujan community. It did not make any objectionable comment about any god or goddess. The police report, as part of a well-planned conspiracy, says, “They worshipped ‘Mahisasur’ in place of Goddess Durga during September 14 ‘Navrata’ festival last year.” The fact is that Mahishasur Day is celebrated in JNU and all over the country on Sharad Purnima, five days after Dussehra, whereas Navratri is celebrated before Dussehra. In 2014, Mahishasur Day was celebrated on 9 October and Navratri from 25 September to 3 October. The Mahishasur Day celebrations in JNU in 2014 were much talked about due to the registration of a case against FORWARD Press. Almost all newspapers and channels had carried news about it. The police record also mentions the date of celebrations, 9 October. Then, would it be wrong to presume that the lie of “Mahishasur Day celebrations during Navratri” was peddled only to incite people?
Similarly, the claim that a students’ organization had demanded that beef should be served in hostel mess is a white lie. The New Materialists had planned to hold Beef-Pork Festival for a couple of hours on an open ground and not in the mess. Here too, very shrewdly, ‘pork’ has been dropped from “beef-pork” so that the event can be given a religious colour. Instead of upholding the Constitutional secularism, the police report seeks to fan Hindu communalism by linking these two events with DSU and DSF. DSU is associated with the CPI (Maoist), which has been banned by the Government of India. The police and government are trying to link Bahujan youths with organizations that are on the radar of security agencies even when they are ideologically disparate, so that they lose popular support and can be subjected to police atrocities.
Anyway, these are not the final truths vis-à-vis a nexus of government, police and a section of the media trying to prove that JNU is a centre of “sedition”. But one thing is certain. The reverberations of the tumult in the dominant classes due to the entry of Bahujan youths in the portals of institutions of higher learning will continue to be felt in the years to come. Truth, equality and justice will ultimately win — no matter how long it takes.”
The Forward Press magazine itself faced police repression soon after the NDA government took over, its office was raided and the Editor was hounded for publishing article on Bahujan re-interpretation of Mahisasur story.