Fear and ter­ror’

FrontLine - - SPOTLIGHT -

day­light only goes to show the brazen im­punity that some peo­ple feel they en­joy un­der the present regime. I do not know who he was or what the forces be­hind him are. That is for the po­lice to in­ves­ti­gate. But I want to state here that if some­thing un­to­ward had hap­pened yes­ter­day, or if it were to hap­pen to­mor­row, do not just hold that uniden­ti­fied gun­man re­spon­si­ble. The real cul­prits are those who from their seats of power have been breed­ing an at­mos­phere of ha­tred, of blood­lust and fear. The real cul­prits are those who have pro­vided an at­mos­phere of com­plete im­punity for as­sas­sins and mob lynch­ers. The real cul­prits are those spokesper­sons of the rul­ing party and the prime time an­chors and TV chan­nels who have spread ca­nards about me, branded me anti-na­tional based on lies and vir­tu­ally in­cited a lynch-mob against me. This has specif­i­cally made my life ex­tremely vul­ner­a­ble.

For the past two and a half years, based on ab­so­lute lies, they have been say­ing that I am anti-na­tional. I want to chal­lenge them. If you are so con­fi­dent that I gave those slo­gans, why don’t you bring this to court? [The univer­sity had rus­ti­cated him for al­legedly rais­ing “anti-na­tional” slo­gans in a Fe­bru­ary 9, 2016, in­ci­dent.] The Delhi Po­lice have not been able to file a charge sheet to be­gin with.

Some peo­ple have im­plied that the at­tack is a pub­lic­ity stunt.

BJP MP [Meenakshi Lekhi] and BJP sup­port­ers are say­ing this. I find it quite funny and I pity them. I have not yet ac­cused the BJP, but they are be­ing de­fen­sive. Do they have some­thing to hide? I am say­ing let the in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gin. Why is it that even be­fore the in­ves­ti­ga­tion has be­gun they are com­ment­ing on the specifics? There is a say­ing in Hindi: chor ki dadhi mein tinka [have a guilty con­science]. I am alive, that’s why they are say­ing this. Had I been dead they would have said this was a task of left-wing ex­trem­ism. The BJP should be wor­ried how a gun­man ar­rived at Con­sti­tu­tion Club. There was a pro­gramme of the BJP go­ing on at Con­sti­tu­tion Club that day. Aren’t they con­cerned?

‘INCITEFUL MES­SAGES’

Are you get­ting po­lice pro­tec­tion?

I made a for­mal re­quest for po­lice pro­tec­tion for the first time in March 2016 but haven’t re­ceived it yet. I have been given death threats sev­eral times and have re­ceived threats and [there are] inciteful mes­sages on so­cial me­dia every day. Af­ter Gauri Lankesh’s as­sas­si­na­tion, my name fea­tured on a hit list. Two months ago, Jig­nesh Me­vani and I got a threat from the don Ravi Poo­jary that he would kill us if we did not stop talk­ing against the gov­ern­ment. An en­vi­ron­ment is be­ing cre­ated so that cer­tain peo­ple can be at­tacked if they con­tinue to ex­press their views. There is dan­ger to their fam­i­lies and friends as well. But if they think this will si­lence the peo­ple, then no. Af­ter Gauri Lankesh, [Naren­dra] Dab­holkar and [Govind] Pansare’s mur­ders, the voices didn’t di­min­ish, they in­creased. Ro­hith Vem­ula died, but sev­eral Ro­hith Vem­u­las are stand­ing up to­day.

Your PHD sub­mis­sion was a long­drawn out and frus­trat­ing process.

It was bizarre that for two and a half years it was said again and again on tele­vi­sion that we are stu­dents who are not in­ter­ested in aca­demics, that we have taken ad­mis­sion in JNU be­cause it of­fers us sub­sidised food and ac­com­mo­da­tion, and that we have come here for our po­lit­i­cal can­vass­ing and net­work­ing. Or worse, to en­gage in anti-na­tional ac­tiv­i­ties. Now two and a half years later, when I go with a body of work that proves my aca­demic cre­den­tials, proves that I have also been aca­dem­i­cally re­search­ing through all this pe­riod while be­ing in­volved in so many other things, I am not al­lowed by the ad­min­is­tra­tion to sub­mit it. The ad­min­is­tra­tion is made up of fac­ulty mem­bers, and I was think­ing which fac­ulty mem­ber in the world has a prob­lem with a stu­dent sub­mit­ting his PHD the­sis?

The Vice Chan­cel­lor may be a supporter of the BJP, I may be an op­po­nent of the BJP, but that is not the pri­mary re­la­tion­ship in the univer­sity for a stu­dent and a teacher. Here was the first teacher I saw who has a prob­lem with a stu­dent pur­su­ing aca­demics. It was also iron­i­cal that in the last two and a half years, twice the Vice Chan­cel­lor tried to throw me out of the univer­sity, but when I ac­tu­ally went to sub­mit my PHD, he wouldn’t let me sub­mit it and leave. It was ex­tremely frus­trat­ing to run around courts to sub­mit a piece of aca­demic work. It was an at­tempt at ha­rass­ment, but it was also a more sin­is­ter con­spir­acy.

The po­lice have not been able to pro­ceed with a crim­i­nal case against us un­der IPC Sec­tion 124 A (sedi­tion). But the pro­pa­ganda con­tin­ues. They are des­per­ate for some le­gal vin­di­ca­tion. They know if the mat­ter goes to court, the ac­cu­sa­tions will not stand. I am con­fi­dent about my in­no­cence. So in­stead, they want to pun­ish us through the Vice Chan­cel­lor’s court, which is the High Level En­quiry Com­mit­tee. Just be­fore our PHD sub­mis­sion, they put us in a catch-22 sit­u­a­tion. They said, ‘If you

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