Led by a group of ex-servicemen, thousands of people on Sunday hit the streets against “anti-national” activities in Jawaharlal Nehru University, a march that is believed to have been backed by Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh who are under Opposition fire over the ongoing row at the premier university.
The rally from Raj Ghat to Jantar Mantar saw marchers fervently waving the tricolour and raising slogans like ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ with some of them saying that nothing is above ‘nationalism’.
“Massive rally in Delhi led by ex-generals against incidents at JNU in Delhi. Tens of thousands joined spontaneously,” BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav tweeted.
BJP and RSS are understood to have mobilised crowd for the rally. “Lakhs of citizens including families of former soldiers at #MarchForUnity proved that we’d stand together for respect of motherland. JaiHind!” BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya tweeted.
BJP National Secretary Shrikant Sharma also hit back at opposition parties over their charge that the Narendra Modi government was misusing the sedition law as he quoted official data to claim that maximum arrests under it were made in Bihar, where Janata Dal-United-Rashtriya Janata Dal-Congress alliance is in power and which has been ruled by Nitish Kumar for over 10 years.
Anti-India activities have long taken place on campuses but the BJP government will not tolerate it, he said, adding, “Those who engage in it will find themselves behind bars.”
Amid political wrangling over the issue, renowned thinker and academician Noam Chomsky questioned Vice Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar’s decision to allow police on its campus, saying it was apparently “created and precipitated” by the government and the university administration.
At the campus, teachers continued to take open-air classes on “nationalism” as part of the ongoing protest demanding release of JNU students union president Kanhaiya Kumar who was arrested for allegedly raising anti-India slogans.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear on Monday a plea seeking contempt action against Kumar, former DU lecturer SAR Gilani and few others on the ground that they allegedly termed the execution of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru as “judicial killing”.
Kumar was arrested on February 12. While the students and teachers supporting him have condemned raising of anti-national slogans, they claim the slogans were not raised by him and there was nothing seditious in his 26 minute speech rendered a day later.
The organisers of the rally, billed as “apolitical”, had earlier denied any involvement of RSS or BJP in the rally although it was publicised and invites were sent out by office bearers of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad among others.
“Let’s march and let’s have a positive narrative. ‘Bharat jodo’ (unite India) to counter the ‘Bharat todo’ (break India) narrative,” Major General (Retd) Dhruv C Katoch, one of the organisers, said.
Coming out in support of Kumar, students and teachers of several international universities, including those from University of California and Yale, are narrating his “seditious” speech in English and uploading their videos online.
“I am not going to judge recent actions by the schools, by the students or by the government, but you know I watch it (incidents at JNU) with concern because I care about the people there,” University of Chicago’s Vice-President for Global Engagement Ian Solomon said.
Over 400 academicians from international varsities, including Columbia, Yale, Harvard and Cambridge, have also come out in support of the ongoing agitation in JNU over State action.
Eminent economist Jan Kregel has also sent an e-mail to the VC seeking his explanation over police action.
Meanwhile, actor Swara Bhaskar, a JNU alumuna, penned an open letter to the varsity’s PhD student Umar Khalid, who is being searched in connection with the controversial event against Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru’s execution.
“No, you are not a terrorist Umar Khalid, you are a radical and an idiot with poor judgement of what to say where, but you do NOT deserve to be jailed, tortured or killed for that... Your family, I’m sorry to tell you, is being harassed. Your parents and sisters are being threatened in diverse ways....” the ‘Tanu Weds Manu’ star wrote.
Image: Ex-servicemen participate in a march from Rajghat to Jantar Mantar in Delhi on Sunday against what they termed as anti-national activities in Jawaharlal Nehru University. Photograph: Shahbaz Khan/PTI