Sunday April 21, 2024

Fighting fascism in India

By our correspondents
February 19, 2016

The reaction to the protests at the Jawaharlal Nehru University has shown the real face of today’s India, not the Shining India propaganda we hear about so much. First there was the police which manhandled protestors and arrested student union leader Kanhaiya Kumar. They then produced a report saying the protestors were seen eating beef, a big no-no in Modi’s India, and revealed they had been spying on students for two years. Then there was the BJP government which called the protestors anti-Indian and desperately tried to find a Pakistan link, first saying Hafiz Saeed was behind the protests and now accusing Umar Khalid, a PhD student at JNU of being part of a Pakistani militant group. Then you have the lawyers, who should be upholding the right to protest and rule of law, chanting slogans against Kumar at his hearing and pelting reporters with stones. Even the jailors have shown the same instincts, throwing Kumar into the same cell in which Afzal Guru – the anniversary of whose judicially dubious conviction and execution sparked the protest – was once held. These protests are now not only about Afzal Guru or the occupation of Kashmir; they are really a test of whether dissent is allowed in India.

To show their peaceful intentions, JNU students, joined by labourers in Delhi, marched on Thursday armed with nothing but flowers and tricolour flags. They were rerouted by an apprehensive police force but this was more than compensated by the solidarity shown at universities around the country. It is a sign of how this protest has grown that disenfranchised workers too have joined in. The BJP, mixing xenophobia with neo-liberalism, is the most anti-worker government possible. One of its MPs, Gopal Shetty, has even said that farmers are committing suicide not because of starvation and poverty but because it is in ‘fashion’. The government also ordered that the Indian flag be flown at all central universities. None of this stopped students, not just from JNU, but around the country, from taking out solidarity rallies. They even had to endure clashes with BJP goons in places like Bihar. Congress has also taken the side of the protestors, although one cannot be sure if that is for opportunistic political reasons. The Aam Aadmi Party, which rules Delhi, has shown its name to be a misnomer. While it has attacked the government, it has done so on the wrong grounds. It taunted the BJP, claiming that if it cannot arrest a few anti-Indian protestors it will never be able to find those who carried out the Pathankot attack. Calling the brave students of JNU anti-Indian is a slur. They are holding up the best progressive traditions, aspiring to form a more democratic society.