[Joint Statement] Women’s groups support JNU students, condemn Haryana OSD’s abuse for protesters

We, the undersigned women’s organizations, express our solidarity with the entire JNU community – students, teachers, karamcharis – as it bravely and collectively confronts the attempts by the Government of India to undermine and destroy the democratic and secular character of this highly acclaimed and distinguished University.

We in no uncertain terms register our strong protest against the highly derogatory observations made by senior Haryana Government functionary Jawahar Yadav, close associate of the Chief Minister and former OSD and current chairperson of Haryana Housing Board, against women students of JNU who are involved in political protests. It displays an extremely patriarchal mindset, which seeks to deny women political rights to protest and participate in democracy even as it fails to see the huge economic distress, violence and trafficking underpinning the lives of most children and women in prostitution.

We also strongly condemn the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar the elected President of the Students Union of JNU on charges of sedition on the basis of videos whose authenticity is a matter for the judicial probe ordered by the Delhi Government to establish. Kanhaiya Kumar had nothing to do with the organization of the event in question. And yet this incident has been used to turn the campus into a police camp and launch an ugly witch hunt against students. At the same time, ABVP and RSS functionaries have been given a free run on the campus.

This is particularly condemnable given the dictatorial hand of the Central Government, which directly encroached on the autonomy of the university to defend the interests of the ABVP. The Home Minister Rajnath Singh personally directed the Police Commissioner to find the so-called “anti-national elements”.

We are particularly disturbed by reports that the Delhi police raided student hostels without warrants including sending in male police into the girls hostels.

The video clips circulating on news channels mischievously do not show Kanhaiya’s actual speech (easily available on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMi0D__l7IE) where he affirms his faith in the Constitution, which he says is being trampled upon by the RSS. In this speech outside the Administration Block in JNU last week, Kumar had said: “true freedom will come from Parliament and Constitution”. How is this sedition?

In any case, the main point is that irrespective of our personal views on the matter, protesting the hanging of Afzal Guru or supporting the demand for freedom in Kashmir do not meet the definition of sedition, which the Supreme Court has ruled would apply only if there is “an incitement to violence or public disorder ” This action of the present Government underlines the necessity to remove this objectionable clause from the statute. It is ironic that this was introduced by the British to act against the leaders of the freedom movement, our true “nationalists”. It is an anomaly in a democracy to suppress freedom of speech and dissent in the name of colonially defined statutes.

  • We demand that the Haryana Government take immediate legal action against Jawahar Yadav for his derogatory comments and remove him from all official posts forthwith.
  • We appeal to the Vice Chancellor of JNU to immediately remove police from the campus and restore basic democratic norms. He must ensure that normalcy returns by stopping the witch hunt against students.
  • We demand that the Police Commissioner immediately and unconditionally release the JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar and other detained students.

All India Democratic Women’s Association
All India Progressive Women’s Association
ANHAD
Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan