An 'anti-national' JNU student's letter to Smriti Irani
Dear Madam Smriti Irani ji
(The "patriot" minister for Human Resources Development)
Before I respond to your speech made in Parliament, let me make it clear that this is not a letter from a "child" to a "motherly" minister. This is a message from a politician with a specific ideological leaning to another political person.
I would like to clarify that I don't judge a person by educational qualifications. In fact, I reject the concept of 'merit' altogether.
As a HRD minister, you are expected to respect the autonomy of the central universities and be accountable for it. What you did in the Rohith Vemula case is for all to see. The way you pressurised the university authorities resulted in the institutional murder of Rohith. But I will come to it later.
"I don't judge a person by educational qualifications. I reject the concept of 'merit' altogether"
You have missed no opportunity to assert your identity as a woman. You are entitled to do so as women are among the social segments that have been exploited for centuries. But I'd like to know what your responsibility was, towards a Dalit woman who was struggling to earn respectability for her son and daughters in society? Should you not have saluted her courage and stood in support?
Yes, I am talking about Rohith's mother who was fighting against this Brahmanical and patriarchal society, to build recognition for her children. Yet, you and your government are defining her individuality by her husband's name. You must be proud of your independent existence. Then why are you taking away the same right from that woman? Do you support the exploitative patriarchal and Brahmanical social system?
You challenged people to judge your caste by your name. While many people dug out your caste identity even before your speech was completed, I have no interest in commenting on your family background. I do not believe that a person belonging to a higher strata of society is necessarily casteist.
However, the letters written by your ministry branded Rohith and his comrades as casteist. Madam, do you realise the difference between caste assertion and casteism? I presume you are well-aware of this distinction, as RSS, which acts as a guiding force for your government and ministry, considers caste system as the soul of Indian society. We have witnessed your strong determination in pursuing the RSS agenda.
Smriti Irani asserted herself as a woman, but failed to respect Rohith's mother's fight
I hope you have read the Manusmriti. You cannot be oblivious to the fact that RSS is politically committed to the values enshrined in that text. You must surely know what this scripture preaches about women and Dalits. This doctrine leaves me appalled and insulted as a Dalit. Why don't you feel the same unease at these teachings as a woman?
Do you feel the same surge of emotions while reading the Manusmriti, as we saw during your parliament speech? I sincerely hope you will take the trouble to go through this religious code, if you haven't already. And then leave the BJP immediately. Before doing that, you could consider burning the Manusmriti in parliament, with the support of some of the Dalit parliamentarians of your party, including Udit Raj.
You have rued the fact that Rohith Vemula's suicide has been politicised. Madam, I believe you are not so naive to miss the fact that he was a victim of saffron politics. Rohith paid the price for opposing the same rightist politics that you represent. Yet, he was magnanimous enough to forgive you.
Your government and RSS-affiliated organisations want to turn every university into a graveyard of progressive students, be it IIT-Madras, Hyderabad Central University (HCU), Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) or JNU.
You have mentioned the probe panel to justify government action in our case. Have you forgotten that your letters shot to Hyderabad were putting pressure, to change the decisions made by the investigation committee? We were debarred without a hearing. Are you unaware of the principle of natural justice that mandates listening to all sides before coming to a conclusion? Should you not have waited for the findings of the probe panel before reading our names out in parliament?
"Do you realise the difference between caste assertion and casteism?", asks this JNU student
Your speech also refers to the 'Mahishasura Martyrdom Day'. Do you not know that this country has diverse religious sentiments, not all of which might be agreeable to you? The constitution gives equal rights to all citizens. Perhaps, you are ignorant of the fact that many Dalit and Adivasi communities across the country worship Mahishasura.
As a communist, I don't believe in any religion. But, I maintain that every individual has a right to freedom of religion. As far as character assassination of women is concerned, the sanghi registrar of JNU has many leaflets in his possession addressing the matter. You would do well to read this material released by the leftist organisations on campus.
You have propounded that it is blasphemous to question the Judiciary. This reasoning demonstrates your narrow mentality. You seem to suggest that a labourer cannot raise his voice against injustice perpetrated by the factory management that is paying his salary. I outrightly reject this notion. In my view, fierce debate is necessary to improve any institution.
Your speech made several other lopsided arguments. Are we to presume that these were a result of your naivete? Or was it part of a deliberate design? Everybody knows that this government is facing its greatest challenge from students, intellectuals and farmers. And these sections have become the primary target of the RSS. The students, in particular, had been fighting the fascist tendencies of the Sangh Parivar even before your government was formed.
Your government is committed to pursue the RSS agenda of 'cultural nationalism' with the support of the corporate sector. It can succeed only if rational thinking is rooted out from society. The universities are centres of logical and scientific reasoning. This is the reason we are facing the government's fury.
"The Manusmriti debases woman and Dalits. Yet you support the RSS which propagates the text"
You are ruining the basic tenets that govern higher education by pursuing the Brahmanical, Hindutva nationalism of RSS and its corporate agenda.
You are supporting a political ideology that does not believe in multi-culturalism. We, who are standing in support of religious and cultural diversity, do not expect mercy from your side. Strike with all your might. We are ready to face the consequences with full courage.
Not long ago, students had assembled outside your residence in protest. You appeared in front of the camera with moist eyes and pleaded for them to leave because your children were scared. But my mother is not afraid. Although a little worried, she inspires me to continue my fight against Modi without fear.
An 'anti-national' created by you,
Anant Prakash Narayan
Translated by Deepak Sharma
Edited by Anna Verghese