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#JNUcrackdown redraws battle lines: it's the right vs the rest now

Panini Anand | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:40 IST

When Rahul Gandhi, Sitaram Yechury, Sudhakar Reddy, D Raja and other leaders gathered in the JNU on Saturday, they pitched the students' protest into a larger ideological battle against the ruling right-wing establishment.

No longer is it just a battle of wits between the police, clearly acting at the behest of the government, a bunch of students billed as "anti-nationals", and some youths who shouted denunciatory lines about India.

Read- #JNUcrackdown: Why campuses have become the new battlefields

Indeed, when Rahul exhorted the students, "don't let these bullies push you around", he didn't mean the scores of Delhi Police CRPF personnel prowling the campus.

New realignment?

Saturday's gathering of the leaders in the JNU could be construed as the joining of forces by, broadly, the left and the centre against the right-wing establishment.

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JNU students and professors hold a meeting on campus. Photo: Vikas Kumar/Catch News

Initially, the crackdown in JNU was met with silence from the political fronts, including the left, the university's dominant ideological force.

It was only on Friday that CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury condemned the police action on the campus as a "repeat of the days of the Emergency".

Soon, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal joined the attack by warning that "targeting innocent students will prove very costly to the Modi government".

A day later, the fightback had grown to encompass much of the non-right political spectrum. And it was clearly upsetting the rightist forces. ABVP activists showed black flags to Rahul Gandhi when he arrived at JNU, while some allegedly manhandled Congress leader Anand Sharma.

In his speech, Rahul was aggressive and loud. He attacked the Narendra Modi regime and linked the developments in JNU to Rohith Vemula's suicide at the Hyderabad Central University.

"I was in Hyderabad a few days ago and these same people or their leaders said that Rohith Vemula was an anti-national. The most anti-national people are the people who are suppressing the voice of this institution," he said.

It's vendetta. It's planned, not just reaction to recent incidents: JNU teacher on #JNUcrackdown

"A youngster expressed himself and the government said he's anti-national. They are terrified of weak Indian people raising their voice. But they do not understand that by crushing you they are making you stronger," he added.

Besides visiting JNU, several leaders such as KC Tyagi, D Raja and Yechury met Kejriwal through the day to discuss the police action at the university. The chief minister later ordered a magisterial inquiry into the matter.

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Rahul Gandhi addressing students at JNU. Photo: Vikas Kumar/Catch News

This doesn't bode well for the government. The opposition parties are likely to use the JNU crackdown - along with Rohith Vemula's suicide, corruption allegations against Gujarat CM Anandiben's family, the Arunachal Pradesh fiasco - to take on the BJP during the upcoming budget session of the parliament.

No respite yet

Meanwhile, the police detained at least seven JNU students on Saturday. The police has reportedly claimed that their detention is related to the protests at the RSS' Delhi headquarters and not to the controversial event on the campus.

Also read: Which part of JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar's speech is seditious?

But the teachers and students say the timing is suspect. "They want to terrorise the students through various means and on different pretexts," claimed a JNU teacher. "It is vendetta. It's planned and not just reaction to recent incidents."

They point out that not just students but activists and artists are also facing action by the police. Prof Ali Javed of Delhi University is being questioned for booking the Press Club for a meeting on Afzal Guru's death anniversary.

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ABVP activists protest against an event at JNU supporting Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru in Delhi on 12 February. Photo: Kamal Singh/ PTI Photo

The artists of Sangwari musical group were detained while they were going to perform at the Jashn-e-Rekhta Urdu festival in Delhi Saturday. The police claim the group is involved in "anti-national" activities. Ironically, on the same day, PM Modi, visiting the Bombay Art Society was quoted as saying: "Art can have no limits or restrictions".

This regime doesn't understand that by crushing you they are making you stronger: @OfficeOfRG at #JNU

All these developments and their fallout is reigniting JNU's political fires, which had gone rather cold over the past few years.

Now, everyone is talking politics, at every corner of the campus. "Even the leaves and the bricks are talking politics," says a student. "Thanks to the Modi regime."

Edited by Mehraj D. Lone

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Amartya Sen slams 295 A. Says right to free speech greater than religious sentiments

Tamil Nadu has a temple to Sri Valentine Krishna. We're immersed in V-Day culture: Paromita Vohra

Godse is revered by many right wing students. Is the govt treating that as sedition?: Happymon Jacob

First published: 14 February 2016, 8:53 IST
Panini Anand @paninianand

Senior Assistant Editor at Catch, Panini is a poet, singer, cook, painter, commentator, traveller and photographer who has worked as reporter, producer and editor for organizations including BBC, Outlook and Rajya Sabha TV. An IIMC-New Delhi alumni who comes from Rae Bareli of UP, Panini is fond of the Ghats of Varanasi, Hindustani classical music, Awadhi biryani, Bob Marley and Pink Floyd, political talks and heritage walks. He has closely observed the mainstream national political parties, the Hindi belt politics along with many mass movements and campaigns in last two decades. He has experimented with many mass mediums: theatre, street plays and slum-based tabloids, wallpapers to online, TV, radio, photography and print.