Anand Kumar is a former JNUSU president who later went on to become professor, joined the Aam Admi Party only to be expelled and formed an alternative political platform, Swaraj Abhiyan. In an interview to Bula Devi, Kumar, who retired last year reveals how JNU has witnessed police action inside the campus for only the third time since 1970s. Excerpts:
Do students have the right to raise slogans against India inside the university?
Even from the perspective of JNU’s tradition, anything that is against the Constitution of India, against the unity and identity of the country, has always been severely protested. But we must add immediately that all political streams of thought, from Naga separatists to Kashmiri separatists, from Salwa Judum supporters to its victims, from Narmada supporters to its opponents, they are all available in most of the central universities, much more prominently in JNU since its inception. But JNU was one of the hubs of anti-Indira protests. These tendencies have been there and will be there—these are places of open debate and discussion. In the late 1990s, I had organised a national conference on the problems of Kashmir. It was attended by Azam Inqalabi, who was in prison in India and Pakistan for ten years each. There was participation from the Panthers Party, Daughters of Kashmir and others. Discussion, dissent and debate against the government or its policy have also been held on the Mandal Commission and Babri Masjid.
But what about the slogans “Pakistan zindabad” and “Bharat ki barbaadi tak”?
It’s a lunatic fringe. But there is hopefully space for reaction, response, retort and resistance in the form of circulation of pamphlets. Muscle power doesn’t happen normally but there have been occasions when Sharad Yadav was humiliated when he came in support of the Mandal Commission. There were also protests against L.K. Advani. With exceptional moments such as these, one can take action only after the incident has taken place. There are mechanisms to mitigate such things. It is certaily not an attitude of indifference. Remember, JNU has produced home secretaries, foreign secretaries, RAW and IB chiefs and ministers.
Is this the first time the police was called inside the campus?
This is the third time. This time only one person has been arrested while others are underground. On June 26-27, 1975, during the Emergency, boys were picked up in their underwear and put in police custody. The second time was when students clashed with the university authorities in 1983 on a small issue and hundreds of them were behind bars for over a fortnight. The V-C’s house was attacked and the university closed for a semester.
If in the name of fighting terror, the ruling party becomes a terrorist entity, it will be no-holds-barred political violence, which has been the story of Bengal. The Left and the extreme Left have murdered many innocent people in pursuit of control and the BJP is taking the same route. It can work for a while but it cannot cow down everyone in a democratic country.