'Those raising anti-India slogans not from JNU'

Firebrand Kashmiri, Shehla Rashid Shora, an MPhil research scholar who is leading the JNU protest as vice president of its students' union after the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar on charges of sedition, says the RSS and the BJP have targeted the JNU to wipe out the Left leadership from the campus.

“When everyone is scared to speak, we have emerged as a significant voice of opposition and we are exposing this government. A despotic government cannot tolerate opposition,” she said in an interview to Prakash Kumar of Deccan Herald. Excerpts:

Who organised the controversial event in memory of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru in JNU campus?

Ten ex-members of Democratic Students Union (DSU) had organised a programme to mark the death of anniversary of Afzal Guru. It was to be held to discuss the wrong manner in which Afzal Guru was hanged in 2013 and (separatist leader from Kashmir) Maqbool Bhatt in 1984. We did not organise this event.

Why did the Left-backed student unions join them?

We were holding our own meeting somewhere else when we started getting calls from these ex-DSU leaders complaining that the JNU administration had cancelled permission to hold the event just five minutes ahead of its schedule and that the permission was withdrawn under ABVP pressure. We came here to ensure that no physical violence takes place and their programme is peacefully held because the ABVP members were shouting slogans from the other side. The Left-backed student union members in the campus got together and came to stand by organisers of the event precisely because there was an attack in the sense that the ABVP was using the state might to disrupt the event. Otherwise, we did not have much interest in attending the event.

Who raised anti-India slogans?

Amid those moments, some people began shouting slogans like “Bharat Ke Tukde Honge, Inshallah”. They were not the JNU students. We never saw them before or after the incident. They were outsiders. We did not raise anti-India slogans. In fact, we immediately tried to stop them from raising anti-India slogans, as they began. I felt very uncomfortable with those slogans because I don’t endorse them.

But, the Left-backed student union leaders and members still stood by them. Many of us had left the venue after some time. But some of the members and leaders stayed there only to ensure that the programme is held peacefully. Our general secretary Rama Naga, who has been charged with sedition, had not done anything. He was here only to ensure that the students form a human chain and thwart any possibility of a brawl. This does not mean that they endorsed the politics of the organisers of the event. The ABVP members always raise slogans here like “Khoon se Tilak Karenge, Aur Goliyon se Arrti.” Should they be tried for attempt to murder?  I wouldn’t recommend that.

Is it not unfair to hold such an event?

The point is that we cannot control who wants to discuss what. We respect the judiciary, but that does not mean we can’t challenge it. Many legal reforms have happened after such discussions and debates on the judiciary. On Afzal Guru, many academicians and chief justices have also commented as to how it was a hurried political execution. The ABVP also calls several controversial meetings here. But no one has ever attacked them. They have called people like Subramanian Swamy and others repeatedly here to hold controversial events. Under Indian law, you can also stop them from holding such meetings and actually get the police to arrest them under Section 295 of the IPC for hurting religious sentiments. We don’t do that because every student should be able to discuss these things freely. The ABVP discusses things like “Love Jihad”, though the law permits people to have inter-faith marriages. We can’t really put them in jail for discussing it.

Why Kanhaiya Kumar and others were charged with sedition?

It’s because the BJP and the RSS wants to wipe out the Left leadership from this campus as the government stands exposed with our three-month long “Occupy UGC”  movement and the round the clock protest against Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide in Hyderabad.

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