JNU row: Vox dissent is not vox populi
New Delhi: The Delhi High Court will decide the bail application of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) president Kanhaiya Kumar on Monday.
His arrest has triggered a larger debate on the sensitive issue of sedition. While intellectuals have came to his defence, many others, particularly on social media, have sought to run down the JNU per se for allegedly being the hotbed of “anti-national” forces.
At the JNU incident, a few students allegedly raised slogans in favour of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, who was hanged in 2013.
The furore after the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar suggests a re-run of the larger commentary as had been seen following the Dadri incident in which a man was lynched to death on the rumour that he had stored beef.
Senior journalists have penned articles and letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, claiming that the voice of dissent is being muzzled.
Former Union minister for home affairs P. Chidambaram too has stated that the JNU incident warrants a re-look at the sedition clause, which the country’s first Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru, wanted out of the law book.
In contrast, some have argued that Bihar last year saw as many as 16 sedition cases slapped against people, and hence the furore on the JNU row was a case of selective outbursts.
The JNU incident came close on the heels of the suicide of Rohith Vemula a Dalit research scholar at the Hyderabad University.
Critics of the Narendra Modi government have argued that the “might of the state was seen behind the university administration, which pushed Vemula to committing suicide”.
The argument has become popular among those who are against the Delhi police’s action in the JNU campus.
That the Delhi police registered sedition charges against Kumar and a few others on the basis of a video shown on a news channel, which itself has allegedly been doctored, has been seen as the cops being excessive in exercising their power.
Some argue that the actions against Kumar and others should have waited for the outcome of the police investigation on the allegations.
True, JNU is one of the citadels of the Left, and students on occasions have shown solidarity even with Maoists, while campaigning against death punishments.
The Akhil Bhartiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP) for over a decade has sought to penetrate the campus, but without success. The Left dominated JNUSU has doggedly ensured that the leaders with allegiance to saffron ideology do not set foot in campus.