Mumbai’s students have come together to express their solidarity with the students and staff of Jawaharlal Nehru University.
After two days of launching an online petition demanding the release of JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar, over 550 students from 50+ colleges of Mumbai (verified students) have signed and supported the demand.
Considering the petition was not on a major platform such as change.org, and publicity was only through WhatsApp and word-of-mouth, the number of colleges represented in this petition is highly encouraging.
Student politics in Mumbai has been in coma since the early 1990s after election-related violence prompted the Maharashtra government to ban the democratic elections of student bodies entirely.
Without a political environment and culture of political activism, the fact that so many students of all major Mumbai colleges have decided to support JNU in its struggle to fight the government’s excesses is a great sign!
The student community of Mumbai is willing to firmly stand with its counterparts in Delhi. The petition can be signed here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1K_a8hBvT_rL8wPAZsW0M73vFzB0glHreuZPtZ9FLX6Q/viewform
The petition was conceptualised by six students of St Xavier’s College, including myself.
The kind of discourse that was being built around JNU as an institution was taking a disturbing turn.
As fellow students, we thought it was incumbent upon us to support JNU in any way possible. The slogans that were chanted on campus, such as “Bharat ke tukde tukde” ideally should not find a place in a civilised society.
The petition makes it clear that in no way do we condone those inciteful slogans. However, the manner in which a systematic, vitriolic, hate campaign was launched against Kanhaiya Kumar was absolutely appalling and shocking. The alarm was partly because the perpetrators of the campaign were the Government of India along with some sections of the media. By all accounts Kanhaiya Kumar was a mere bystander when the slogans were being raised.
By no stretch of imagination can his behaviour be considered seditious, let alone illegal. His arrest and the subsequent violence in Patiala House Court was the trigger for us to draft this petition to express solidarity with the students and staff of JNU.
We are entering a tumultuous time in our democracy when some forces are trying to polarise and divide society. We must resist getting carried away with the mindless hate and venom being spewed to serve political agendas of some. There appears to be a larger agenda as well, which of course can be seen in the Government’s every act, not just this one.
Educational institutions cannot be made battlegrounds of political point-scoring and most importantly, they cannot be turned into police camps with dissenting students being locked up in jail without justification. It is an extremely dangerous precedent. Our essential, basic freedoms are at stake here. We must ensure they are not trampled upon under the pretext of cracking down on ‘anti-nationals’.
Akshay Marathe is a supporter of Aam Aadmi Party and frequently contributes on various social and political issues