Is JNU headed for another controversy over I-Day invite to Kalluri?
Jawaharlal Nehru University is no stranger to controversy these days. The latest revolves around an alleged invite to SRP Kalluri, former inspector-general of Chhattisgarh Police in Bastar range, to attend Independence Day celebrations on campus.
Kalluri's name has regularly cropped up in connection with human rights violation in Bastar. He has been accused of targetting locals, activists and journalists in the area. At the same time he has also been described as a man ‘on mission’ to eliminate armed Maoist insurgency.
No wonder then that an invite to him would provoke reactions in JNU, whose students have been known for their political inclinations.
However, the JNU administration denied inviting Kalluri for any event. "No invitation has been sent to anyone from the administration for the Independence Day programme. We have only decided to conduct flag hoisting and distribute laddoos,” said Registrar Pramod Kumar. "Any invitation sent to anyone is not for an official JNU event.”
A matter of 'honour'
Professor Buddha Singh, however, confirmed that Kalluri has been invited by students of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), which is associated with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
"Students are allowed to invite any speaker or guest for an event at JNU. There is no restriction on that. The V-C will hoist the national flag and anybody is free to attend,” said Singh, who organised the Tricolour March at JNU recently.
ABVP convener Srikan Kumar told Catch: “We want to honour our soldiers fighting in all fronts. ABVP is organising a cultural event on 15 August in JNU and we have invited SRP Kalluri. His presence is not finalised yet but we are hoping that he will make it.
"Why shouldn’t we invite Kalluri? I have gone to Bastar myself and everyone knows there is propaganda going on in favour of Maoists. So-called human rights activists brainwash tribals there against our own forces. He may have been accused of violations but has not been found guilty. So why shouldn’t he be invited?”
Hurting JNU's image
The news has led to accusations that the ABVP is trying to create another controversy in JNU.
“This is another attempt by right-wing groups to malign the image of JNU. They know that inviting a personality like Kalluri will create an uproar among the majority of JNU students whose ideology makes them particularly support the rights of tribals and Adivasis, the rights which this man has violated. ABVP wants another 9 February like controversy in JNU again,” Ayesha Kidwai, president of JNU Teachers’ Association, told Catch.
“I cannot believe that the JNU administration is trying to wash their hands off the controversy by saying that they didn’t invite him but aren’t even forbidding the students from inviting him. It is unbelievable that an institute that has for years aimed and worked for the upliftment of society, especially the marginalised, is now honouring a man who has been repeatedly accused of violating the rights of the marginalised,” she added.
JNU Students’ Union has condemned the invitation to Kalluri and have decided to protest against the invitation and possible presence of Kalluri in campus. Mohit Pandey, the president of JNUSU told Catch: “We will protest against the invitation of Kalluri into our campus. How can the administration allow such a thing I cannot understand especially looking at his track record?”
Among other things, Kalluri has been accused of orchestrating fake encounters against suspected Maoists. Kalluri’s exit from Bastar came close on the heels of a mob attack on scholar-activist Bela Bhatia by civil vigilantes allegedly backed by the police in Parpa village in February 2017.
Earlier this year, the National Human rights commission had summoned SRP Kalluri over accusations of mass rape and sexual assault of 16 women by security forces in the villages of Peddagellur, Bellam Nendra and Kunna in 2015-16. Kalluri failed to attend citing health reasons. In 2006, he was even accused of the custodial rape of a woman whose husband had reportedly been shot by the police in the state’s Sarguja district.