Since the starting of the protests in case of Rohit’s death till now, there is a uncomfortable feeling overwhelming me that the government is trying not to solve the issues by addressing them but suppressing them. The injustice with Rohit sparked and escalated a movement against the millenniums old culture of Casteism. To which the government responded with silence and more silence.
Then came the issue at JNU where the protest was against the capital punishment of criminals and terrorists. Where suddenly the right wing media picked it up as it was against the judicial killing of Afzal Guru. The media attempted to smear the whole JNU campus as anti-national. Because of this outrage created by the media against the JNU students the police in favour of the majority of the people. The main focus was the anti-national slogans. Which was indeed raised by many (whether outsiders or the students). The number of people raising these slogans were a few maybe a hundred or so. The JNU strength in total is above 3000. The students protesting was even in thousands. So for this minuscule number of people the media considered the whole JNU student body as anti-national. I agree that the slogans could ignite violence and the slogans were seditious. But, the person got arrested for it was the student president. Which sparked outrage among the students again. Because there was no evidence to suggest that he was involved in those slogans.
Well the point it seems like the government keeps trying to bury these debates and it keeps backfiring. Whether the case of Rohit or the case of Kanhaya. It has become a crime to raise your voice against the capital punishment it seems. Even I was called an anti-national by one of my closest friends because I said Afzal’s hanging was unjustified. Most of the people are not able to comprehend the fact there could be people who could have a different opinion that is different from theirs.
This became an opportunity for the government again to de-legitimize the student protests again. There was this failed attempt by Smriti Irani where she tried to smear the students of Hyderabad University as politicians and that they used Vemula’s death as a political tool. No one cared about it when those statements were debunked but when she spoke those words everyone was saying ‘bravo’. When verified with genuine investigation we can see how the government is trying to bury these events as student nuisance. She even tried to de-legitimize the JNU students by saying they are celebrating the wrong kind of ‘Durga puja’ ignoring the possibility that there could be various cultures celebrating various religious festivals which might differ with typical Hindu festives. This kind of de-legitimisation of the student voices has repeated itself in various universities. I feel like it is an attempt by govt. to shut the students up. I am scared that in future the BJP will keep showing this incident as an example to say ‘see this is the youth of India and you want to support them?’ They will suppress the students all around India using this issue with JNU. They will try to enforce harsher disciplinary actions against students to demoralise them from protesting. Whether in case of casteism or whether for anything else. They are going to use this as a tool to enforce a stricter university regulation.
And that scares me. If there is no freedom of exchanging ideas and morals, then what are the universities for. Are we not adults and do we not live in this society. So what if we raised our voices for the country we want to live in. We want freedom not for raising violent slogans but for a better future and a better country we believe in.