Bihar has just experienced enough of rough political weather during the 2015 Vidhan Sabha election. A number of allegations, counter-allegations, lies and fabrications were thrown around to win the votes, thereby creating deep social divisions and mutual suspicion. The election is over. Now, please don’t bring in more woes to add further to the agony of Bihar by playing out the politics of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union on its soil.
Kanhaiya Kumar, the JNU Students’ Union President, who happens to be from Bihar, was taken into custody by the Delhi Police on February 13th on the charges of sedition. He has been accused of raising anti-India slogans with other activists who had gathered on the campus to denounce the hanging of Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri separatist.
The day Kanhaiya was produced in the court (February 17th), there was a physical attack on him and a few of his supporters allegedly by the BJP men. Following this incident, a BJP MLA, O.P. Sharma was arrested and then released on bail.
In the meantime, Kanhaiya Kumar has reaffirmed his faith in the constitutional integrity of India and has disapproved of the separatist sentiments on the campus. The police have also indicated that his bail plea wouldn’t be opposed and therefore, he should be released from custody pending full investigation.
Apparently, as a push-back to what happened in New Delhi, there was vandalism and violence perpetrated in the BJP office (February 18th) at Patna allegedly by all the non-BJP forces. Reports of agitation and sabotage are coming in from other parts of Bihar as well.
There’s a strong case for calm and sobriety on the part of all the parties involved because the misdirected sentiments of regionalism and patriotism could give rise to further violence.
First of all, the BJP must not declare Kanhaiya Kumar a guilty because he hasn’t judicially been pronounced so as of now. Therefore, Mangal Pandey’s call to Shatrughan Sinha to resign his Lok Sabha seat for favoring Kanhaiya’s release is not justified.
On the other hand, the anti-BJP party activists should also not over play the card of “Kanhaiya: A Son of Bihar” because this may make Biharis vulnerable elsewhere. In the aftermath of the Pathankot airbase sabotage and numerous cases of Pakistan-sponsored violence before that, the nation will have little tolerance for any pro-Pakistani or pro-Kashmiri separatist ideology. Anyone even remotely sympathetic to them would be labeled as traitors.
The JNU has a great tradition of debating even the worst of the divisive issues. That must be respected. However, a line will have to be drawn between trying to quench intellectual thirst and the activities that may endanger national or eventually our personal security.
The most important point to consider is that the origin of the current row is traceable to the campus politics involving political parties, students, faculty and the staff.
The JNU, created during the Indira-Nurul Hasan period, became a recruiting institution for the left leaning progressive academicians who had to get "clearance" from the Congress Establishment. The CPI was an ardent backer of the Indira Congress. The student leadership that emerged under the CPI-CPM-sponsored organizations did rather well under the protective wings of their mentors and lasted for a long time on the campus.
Lately, however, the monopoly of the SFI and AISF were challenged by a more radical pro-Maoist Communist student wing, AISA to which Kanhaiya belongs. The Communists-Leftists and later non-committed academics who became a part of the JNU community perhaps considered themselves and the University as a vast liberated oasis pampered and protected by the federal governments and their generous grants. Some of the fringe faculty and student organization members felt the writ of the constitutional legitimate government authorities and their Intelligence wouldn't run within the precincts of the university.
With the re-emergence of the BJP government at the center, the change of political hue began to show its impact on the campus -- not all of them very ideal, fruitful or welcome. Nevertheless, a change is a change, the so called progressive leftist academics realized. The SFI-AISF suddenly found their supremacy threatened from the two sides: the left-wing AISA and the right-wing ABVP. The ABVP had made a strong showing in the last JNUSU election. The NSUI also has some presence.
Now, all the anti-BJP forces from the Sonia-Rahul's Congress to all varieties of communists have closed their ranks and stand united against their common enemy, the BJP. In this race against the BJP, they seem to have no qualms about taking support from the anti-national separatists or Jihadists. The RJD and the JD(U) may see the advantage of joining the Communist-Leftist bloc to browbeat the BJP. With the federal government in the hands of its mentor, the ABVP would also like to encash some political capital. However, it can’t do a lot just by playing on the nationalistic or patriotic emotions.
In any event, Bihar will suffer if it gets mired in pure politics of power and dominance on the campus of a Central University.
Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad hails from Darbhanga and currently resides with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). A former UGC teacher fellow (at JNU) in India and Fulbright scholar in the USA, he has taught politics and authored conference papers, articles and chapters on Bihar in previously published books in the United States, India, and Canada.
Dr. Prasad administers a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OverseasBihari and has sponsored “Aware Citizenship Campaign” at a micro-level in his home-town.