Modi govt anti-Dalit, anti-student: JNUSU vice-president Shehla Rashid

Shehla addressed journalists at an event organised by the Journalists' Study Centre and took on a barrage of questions.

Bengaluru: Her soft voice and ready smile completely belie Shehla Rashid's fiery nature. Born and raised in Kashmir, politics and violence have been an inextricable part of existence for the 27-year-old, who is vice-president of the JNU Students Union. She addressed journalists at an event organised by the Journalists' Study Centre and took on a barrage of questions.

Students have always been at the forefront of the opposition, she told Deccan Chronicle on the sidelines. Agreeing that the BJP government is targetting educational institutions, she said, “Students ask questions and our government can't stand it. The BJP government is obsessed with wiping out opposition, by buying out media houses and blacking out news. Modi never addresses press conferences or gives interviews. Why hasn’t he spoken about the Dadri lynching, Ghar Wapsi or the Love Jihad? This is a particularly dangerous governments one that is working toward a perverted, Hindi-Hindu rashtriya notion of India."

Comparing what she calls the "politics of hatred" with colonial policies, she said, "They do these things so that we don't ask questions about scams like Vyapam. The government sanctioned a huge corporate debt write-off and as soon as people began to question it, the JNU incident happened. They want people to do away with questions on economic issues, like employment, education and healthcare. It's not just the BJP government either - its neo-liberal agenda was pushed by the Congress government as well. It has distorted our country's development goals and no attention is paid to literacy, healthcare or rising pollution levels."

Calling the current government "dangerous", Shehla said, "We have a government that is anti-poor, anti-Dalit, anti-student and anti-thinking. We will expose them." Asserting that this is more than just a way to garner votes for the CPI-M, of which she is a part, she said, "JNU has been known for a broader fight, one that is focussed on saving the ideals of democracy, which have been enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution."

Things came to a head, Shehla explained, when the government appointed BJP member Gajendra Chauhan as the Chairman of the Governing Council of the Film and Television Institute, resulting in a 111-day strike by the students. "Before that, people were too afraid to speak out against the government," she said. "It is the students who have led the opposition to a government that is scary, has terrorised people and is obsessed with wiping out any form of opposition, dissent and questioning."

Asked whether JNU has a bias against the right, to which she said, "We condemn the excesses committed by the Left, as we have done in the past as well. During the Emergency, for instance, the JNU student president was arrested and our hostels were raided. We have never been silent."
She said later that no matter how much resistance the students face, they will continue to fight for what they believe in. "Our anti-rape protest after the Jyoti Singh rape and murder was the final nail in the coffin for the Congress government," she said.

There was no question of stopping the slogans being raised on the night of February 9, Shehla insisted. "We are not a censor board," she declared. "Other groups, the ABVP included, have raised extremely provocative slogans on a number of occasions. There are people with all kinds of opinions and we don't attempt to stop them. Why should we? Our only job as the JNU Students' Union is to ensure that there is no violence."

On February 9, Shehla, along with leaders from other student organisations on campus arrived at Afzal Guru gathering and asked the participants, whom she said were not from JNU, to tone down their protest. "Still, violence didn't seem likely at the time, so we left. I cannot speak for anything that happened after that, because the ABVP blocked the road and it did result in a physical confrontation."

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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