OPINION
Blood At JNU – Devouring of the flowers
- Swarajbir

WHAT HAPPENED at the JNU will forever remain a blot in the history of India's democracy as also of its centres of higher education. 
 
Punjabi Tribune Editor, Dr Swarajbir, in his editorial comment on the development, has recalled Pablo Neruda’s "I’m Explaining a Few Things,” the scintillating poem about the Spanish Civil War that begins by describing the peace in a suburb of Madrid before the fighting broke out — My house was called/the house of flowers/because in every cranny geraniums burst — and then describes the attackers as Jackals that the jackals would despise/stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out/vipers that the vipers would abominate!
 
Punjab Today brings you this English translation of Dr Swarajbir's piece, ਫੁੱਲਾਂ ਦਾ ਮਸਲਿਆ ਜਾਣਾ, published in the Punjabi Tribune of January 7, 2020. 
— Editor

Devouring of the flowers
 
THE AGGRESSIVE CAMPAIGN conceived, designed and pushed by the RSS and its affiliates against Leftists, secular and liberal organisations and intellectuals has reached a stage where it has become threatening and fratricidal.

On January 5, masked goons unleashed an attack on Jawaharlal Nehru University's students and faculty, including women.

Aishee Ghosh 
On their target were the leaders of the JNU's Students Union and Teachers' Union. The JNUSU president Aishee Ghosh was critical injured, having suffered a head injury.

Aishee Ghosh has narrated how the masked hoodlums brutally beat her up. At least 34 students and faculty staff had to be taken to the trauma centre of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences for treatment.

The Students' Union has directly accused the JNU Vice Chancellor M Jagdish Kumar and the ABVP, an affiliate of the BJP as well as of the RSS, of instigating and unleashing this violence. The JNUSU has also said that the Delhi Police allowed the ABVP's aggressive activists to gain an entry into the educational institute.

These outsider elements, acting at the behest of leaders with a criminal background, and some of them history-sheeters, beat up the students, workers at a dhaba in the university and damaged the vehicles of the faculty. Many, including the well known professor, Sucharita Sen, were injured in this attack.

Prof. Sucharita Sen 
The worst aspect of this attack was the targetting of women students and teachers. The role of the police, to say the least, was peculiar. It is now clear that the goons were outsiders and that they were facilitated in their design to enter the campus while those who came to the aid of the students. On the other hand, the ABVP has accused the Left-dominated JNUSU of indulging in violence.

The Congress, CPI, CPI-M, JD(U) and other opposition parties have laid the blame at the door of the BJP, accusing it of aiding and abetting violence. The violence is being condemned by right-thinking elements in universities across the country and abroad. In almost every town and city, students and youth have hit the streets to underline their sense of outrage. An impression is now widespread that the violence had the backing, tacit or explicit, of the ruling party at the Centre.

The question that begs a serious contemplation is: why  for the last 4-5 years, this university is being made a target?

The RSS and its affiliates know only too well that the real threat to their ideology and designs comes from the Left-wing, the secular side and those who prefer to settle arguments through a time-honoured tradition of robust debate, and the JNU for decades has emerged as an institution which professes exactly these methods.

A large number of faculty in this institution is wedded to the Leftist ideology. Nevertheless, the university has prided itself on its tradition of encouraging counter-arguments, asking and raising difficult questions and ensuring a healthy tradition of free flow of ideas.

Organisations like the ABVP, Freethinkers and many others pursuing an independent streak continued to participate in the university elections but instead of violence, the university prided itself on debate on contentious issues. After the BJP came to power at the Centre, the JNU became a target, its key leaders were termed anti-national and tarred as Tukde-Tukde Gang. They were arrested and court cases were slapped against them.

Some political analysts say with this latest bout of violence against the JNU, the country's politics has moved into a new phase. While people always had certain doubts about the saffron politics of the RSS, but they could not envisage that such a brutal attack could be mounted against students and teachers.

The powers behind the goons unleashing this reign of terror do not aim to simply frustrate the determination of the students and teachers of this progressive university and others like it; their aim, in fact, is more nefarious. They want to destroy the very structure of this university so that there remains no place for such professors who teach how to debate, and neither do they churn out students who can ask tough questions. They want universities that simply produce cohorts of yes men, think alike and consider their government the repository of all wisdom.
 
Pablo Neruda
 
The visuals being beamed by television and on social media pose a tough question: What is happening in our country? Towards what purpose are our leaders pushing this nation? Watching the bleeding heads of students, one cannot help but recall this great poem of Pablo Neruda: "I'm Explaining A Few Things." 

Painting a picture of what the Fascists' violence did in and to Spain, he lamented: 

And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings --
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.
See my dead house...
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers... 

Come and see the blood in the streets.

As one watches the scenes of violence unleashed in the corridors, hostel rooms and girls' living quarters in the JNU, and the naked display of raw power in front of national television cameras for all the nation and the world to see, one smells not the sweet aroma of horizon-widening education, but is forced to inhale the smell of power, power of those who can snuff out flowers, pillage a university, annihilate an idea they do not like, decimate a mind not in sync with them, and pulverize those they find difficult.

The university has been witnessing an agitation over fee hike, a situation that led to scrapping of last semesters' examination schedule.

The students boycotted the registration process for the new semester at the call of the students' union.

This resulted in escalation of an already tense atmosphere and the right-wing forces turned it into an opportunity to bash up and teach a lesson to leftist students' leadership and faculty. The aim was to silence those not in unquestioning agreement, and to paint anyone opposing the regime's policies as an anti-national and to embroil him in legal rigmaroles.

Following the defeat in the Jharkhand Assembly Elections, and the unexpected levels of opposition to the Citizen Amendment Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens, the BJP remains in a state of befuddlement. 

Naqabposh Rashtravad Register-vad Rashtravad 
The attack on the students is an outcome of its frustration at its own predicament where its "Register(ed) Rashtrawad" is not finding resonance with the people.

From its NRC-CAA style "Register-vad Rashtravad" to the latest "MaskedMen Rashtravad" (Naqabposh Rashtravad), its spin-machine is working overtime to divert people's attention away from fundamental issues to emotional tinderboxes. 

It is also a moment in history for the Left, liberal and secular forces. One moment, a minority is targetted, next the Dalits are made to bear the brunt and now we find that the students become victims of brute power. The battle is now at a sensitive turn and the unity of all democratic forces is the need of the hour. Across the vast expanse of India's metros, cities, towns, villages, streets and mohallas, people are rising up. The students in educational institutions and the youth have now risen to oppose those who come to devour the flowers.

 
 
 
The author is Editor, Punjabi Tribune.
 

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