The recent events in New Delhi and Jawaharlal Nehru University are an assault on the autonomy of the student body from both the government and the university administration as a whole. Both the cancellation of a student-led event by JNU administration (despite previous permissions given for the event to take place), and the arrest of the JNUSU President, Kanhaiya Kumar, are examples of the increasing heavy-handedness of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Indian government, its de-facto ideological wing, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its student wing, the ABVP, on the freedom of the student body. The arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar speaks enormous volumes about the fear with which the Indian government views dissent in India. The cowardly use of the sedition law to silence Kumar, those who speak out against the actions of the government, is an attack on the freedom of Indian students, and the Indian public at large, to question their government and its actions. The fascistic elements of the RSS, resorting to violence and intimidation, have physically assaulted students, as well as journalists attempting to cover the situation. The student body of JNU, largely leftist in orientation, have been the target of sustained attacks by the media, the government, and the fascist RSS. The Indian government and the media have spread a campaign of misinformation and lies against the students of JNU in an attempt to paint them as ‘anti-national’. The protest and opposition displayed by JNU students and their supporters are a testimony to their resilience in fighting against these cowardly attacks.
These events, however, are not to be taken in isolation. Within the past few years, and increasingly in the recent months, the right wing BJP government has been leading an offensive on the rights of the poor, the working class, and students. The ABVP has taken to openly harassing and assaulting fellow students for holding film screenings at FTII Pune and the University of Hyderabad, among others. They have hounded and harassed Dalit activists at the University of Hyderabad, leading to the tragic suicide of Ambedkar Student’s Association member and activist Rohith Vemula. They have taken every step to wield their power and fascist Hindutva ideology over those fight back. The government has led a campaign against the free space of the university as a place for students of every class, and caste, background to study and express themselves. The attempts by the government to stop the non-NET fellowship (a lifeline to those students who could not afford to study otherwise) and which led to the occupation of the University Grants Commission (UGC) head offices, betrays a concerted attempt to prohibit the lower classes from accessing education. Among these events lies the greater question over who has the right to go against the Indian government. The events which lead to Kanhaiya Kumar’s arrest had a greater background in the question of the sovereignty of the people of Kashmir, one of the world’s most heavily militarised spaces, and one which has seen countless crackdowns and attacks on those who dare to say the word “Azadi”, or “Freedom”.
We wholeheartedly condemn the actions taken by the BJP government, the Indian media, ABVP and the RSS in stifling the voices of JNU students. These attacks hold larger implications not only for the freedom of speech, and dissent, of the students at JNU but also for Indian society at large.
In this crisis of capitalism, capitalist regimes will be prepared to use the full force of the state in order to crush opposition to austerity and privatisation. The latest events in India, like the ongoing disappearance of students in Egypt, demonstrates university campuses are no exception. The Marxist Student Federation severely condemns all securitisation of campuses and sends its solidarity to the students in India in their struggle against the Modi government.