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An Assault on Free Speech by Chauvinistic Nationalists: SAR Geelani, Siddhartha Guha Roy and J.U. Students its victims

Bharatiya Janata Party’s Nationalistic Chauvinism’s latest victim, students of Jadavpur University. A Seminar ‘Azaadi: The Only Way’ organized by the United Students Democratic Front (USDF) a Students organization mainly representing students of colleges and universities of Kolkata was attacked by a mob of B.J.P. /R.S.S. activists on Saturday, 30th October 2010. The Speakers were SAR Geelani, Delhi University Teacher, Siddhartha Guha Roy, Academic and Malen, an activist from the Campaign for Peace and Justice, Manipur. While the standard was the usual RSS/BJP chauvinistic one, what was new was first, that the target was a student seminar, and second, that it happened in West Bengal, where the BJP is considered a weak organization.

Jadavpur University students lead from the front in the state of west Bengal, when it comes to voicing concerns on National and International issues. The vibrancy of the student community on campus and off campus since the University’s inception in 1956 has been demonstrated again and again by their active support to democratic and progressive struggles worldwide. This University, which has been given a five star university status by the UGC, and recognized as one of the leading universities with “Potential for excellence”, also has had sustained student activism which has played no mean role in preserving freedom of speech in the campus, the most recent event being a fight to resist the installation of closed circuit televeisions in the campus in the name of security. The concern for recent happenings in Kashmir has echoed in the student’s demonstrations and the suppression of people in the disguise of national security claimed by the Central Government led by Congress and the State Government led by CPM.

In ‘Azaadi- The only Way’ Siddhartha Guha Roy, a civil rights activist and historian with a book on Kashmir emphatically expressed his concern for human rights violations by minions of the Indian state with ordinary Kashmiris at the receiving end. Only when the Kashmiri masses were rebuffed and deceived by the Indian State and leaders like Abdullah Dynasty (Sheikh Abdullah, the historic leader, often imprisoned in independent India, his son Farooq, and grandson Omar) in failing to deliver promises that some provoked men to take up arms. The Jammu Kahmir Liberation Front (J.K.L.F) he said began with civic demands for improving electrification in the state and for better transport facilities. Immediately after Siddharth Guha Roy finished his speech and SAR Geelani was to address the audience, a mob of seven to eight people frantically shouting slogans, ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ emerged from the hundred odd seminarians. Donned with the B.J.P. flag, they rushed to the stage where the speakers were seated. One of them even hurled a shoe at the speakers, which was intercepted by a student’s chain. On repeated announcements to maintain order by the student organizers the mob did not yield. The student volunteers had to forcibly take the mob outside the seminar hall. The speakers remained seated on the stage, patiently waiting for the seminar to resume. After the seminar resumed, Amitava Roy, State Secretary of the Bharatiya Yuva Morcha (B.J.P.’s State Youth Association) remained in the hall and constantly interrupted the speakers and forced the presenters to take questions. On a question to Siddhartha Guha Roy, as to comment on the Quit Kashmir Movement initiated in Kashmir against the Kashmiri Pandits by B.J.P. State Youth Secretary,  Guha Roy said that he believes that human rights are for all individuals and hence, the eviction of Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir, he condemned in the same spirit. Geelani on the contrary, said that like the ‘Quit Kahmir Movement a movment by the Kahmiri Pandits called ‘Quit Jammu’ was initiated in Jammu city. But, he making his stand clear on the Kashmiri Pandit’s forcible eviction said that Pandit’s were forced out from Kashmir, but it was not because of they were Hindus. He said that the Kashmiri Pandits were the propertied class of Kashmir. Geelani was rather ambigious on the Kashmiri Pandit’s issue.

Geelani responded to the ruckus created by the B.J.P. as a tactic of vandalism and appealed everyone for behaving rationally. There were heated exchange of words between B.J.P. party men and students mainly provoked by the B.J.P. supporters who constantly intercepted the speakers. Eventually all the hecklers had to be escorted out of the hall.  One Student organizer Chandan Mondal of U.S.D.F. also informed the audience of the seminar that his colleague, a co-organizer girl student was heckled by the B.J.P. party men and also lit a match, with an intention to immolate her. SAR Geelani said, never has the State of Pakistan claimed Kashmir to be a part of Pakistan. He emphasized that the Indian State has prolonged the solution to the ‘Kashmir Issue’ and has instead used force against the Kashmiri masses. There were around a 7,000 Kashmiri men missing from the state, reportedly picked up by the Indian Army for interrogation. He said the Central Government of India is not serious in wanting to address the concerns of Kashmiri masses instead it is just dubbing the Kashmiri masses call for a Azadi (freedom) as a Governance issue, blaming the Omar Abdulla Government at the state. Marlem representing Campaign for Justice and Peace, Manipur responded to a Jadavpur student’s query on the possibility of making a common platform where people’s representatives of Oppressed states like Manipur and Kashmir could come together and fight for the rights of their populace, said, ‘we can only hope that in future we can make such a people’s platform’.

The B.J.P. party-men sat for a dharna after having been evacuated from the seminar hall and shouted slogans like ‘Long live Indian Motherland’. They even blockaded a road adjoining the campus premises. They claimed that in the name of protecting free speech Jadavpur Universty was promoting actions like the burning of the national flag. Later on, some unidentified B.J.P. men even registered an F.I.R. against the student organizers of U.S.D.F. for carrying out ‘anti-national activities’. When the Indian State and the ruling political parties are being exposed for their involvement in Corruption even in defense sector, B.J.P. being exposed in the Tehelka Expose, the latest being the Adarsh Co-op. Housing Society Scam, where a residential plot was acquired for Kargil War Veterans only to have been taken over by top army men and state bureaucrats and politicians. It would rational to evaluate the Indian state’s performance in Kashmir in the Universal of Human Rights and Justice.