STUDENTS’ FEDERATION OF INDIA
“I don’t know who this person is.
But I have been told that she is a very controversial person.”
But I have been told that she is a very controversial person.”
― This is what the Senior Warden of Mahi-Mandavi said about Teesta Setalvad as his justification for denying permission to hold tonight’s SFI public meeting in the Mahi-Mandavi mess. The issue of the Gujarat carnage is too “sensitive”, he claimed. Yes, the issue is a sensitive one. It indeed is an issue of concern, outrage, sorrow and anger that thousands of Muslims were butchered by communal fascists in Gujarat ten years ago. The way to address such issues is not to sweep them under the carpet; the method to heal the wounds of those harrowing times is not to throttle discussions. The way forward is to ensure exemplary punishment to the butchers who planned and executed the pogrom, and there is no alternative to waging a relentless, uncompromising struggle against communal-fascism in pursuing this objective.
In the name of avoiding discord, the administration has been increasingly cracking down on democratic discussions in the campus, bowing to pressure from the majoritarian communal forces. After all, a Seminar Workshop on “Memorial to a Genocide – Gulberg Gujarat 2002-12” organised by the Citizens for Justice and Peace and Jamia Millia Islamia is scheduled to take place tomorrow at Jamia. It is a matter of outrage and shame that our campus, on the other hand, which is known for its commendable tradition of democratic debates, has been coming under the shackles of gag orders. It was only a few days ago that one student was suspended and three others served show-cause notices for merely initiating discussions regarding the non-availability of food items such as beef and pork (which are common, non-controversial food items in many parts of South India and the North-East and for many communities elsewhere) in the campus. It was after a prolonged hunger strike under the aegis of the CDRCF and several protest actions by the JNUSU that the suspension was revoked. But the fight against authoritarian attempts to muzzle the right to have discussions in a free and democratic environment is far from over, and will have to be taken forward to its logical conclusion.
Right-wing attacks on the democratic traditions of the campus have been increasing in the recent days, the latest one being the complaint filed by the communal ABVP against the JNUSU General Secretary. After indulging in hooliganism and having openly threatened women students with sexual violence, the ABVP has trained its guns on an elected student representative, going to the extent of demanding that his candidature be cancelled. SFI condemns such right-wing attacks on the democratic mandate of the student community. The administration, of course, has taken no action so far against the communal-fascist lumpens from the RSS/Bajrang Dal who showered abuses against minorities and distributed hate literature at the JNU North Gate earlier in September. This again is consistent with the administration’s pussyfooting on the issue of ensuring punishment to right-wing goons on earlier occasions too, such as its failure to punish the ABVP lumpens who unleashed violence during the Presidential Debate in 2007. The fight against the callous attitude of the JNU administration in shielding communal lumpens thus acquires utmost importance in the fight against the communal forces in the campus. We appeal to the JNUSU to make every effort to wage a united struggle to ensure punishment to the communal lumpens who indulged in hooliganism and threatened women students with sexual violence.
Join Public Meeting on "A Decade since the Gujarat Pogrom"
Ten years have passed since the pogrom which claimed the lives of thousands of Muslims in Gujarat and brought starkly to light the fascist character of the communal forces which have been leading the Gujarat state government. These ten years have been years of constant and bitter struggle for the victims of the pogrom, and for those fighting by their side for the cause of justice and secularism. The struggle was not only against the communal-fascist forces leading the Gujarat government and the administrative apparatus including the police and the bureaucracy which placed many hurdles in their path, but also for a greater secularization of the Gujarat polity to ensure that such gruesome events do not recur.
The Narendra Modi government has used all means possible to obstruct the course of justice in the state. No stone has been left unturned – riot cases have not been registered by the police, the cases that have been registered have been shoddily investigated, public prosecutors have built weak cases in court so that riot accused could get off, witnesses and victims have been harassed and threatened both by the police and the accused who are most often supported by the ruling party, people fighting on the side of the riot victims have been defamed, threatened and false cases have been framed against them. In the face of this blatant support given to rioters during and after the carnage, the fight for justice has continued and resulted in some historic judgments. That the Best Bakery case in which fourteen people had been burnt to death reopened after a fast track court had initially acquitted all the accused was the result of constant pressure applied by the secular and democratic groups fighting for justice in the state. The Naroda Patiya case was also pursued to the very end by such activists and groups, resulting in the conviction of the former BJP minister, Maya Kodnani, and Bajrang Dal strong-man, Babu Bajrangi.
Following the 2002 pogrom, Gujarat has been left highly polarized and the Modi government has tried its best to maintain this polarization. Examples of this are the fake encounter cases which have come to light over the years immediately following the riots in which a number of top police officials as well as ministers of the Modi government have been indicted. Such fake encounters are used to create the myth of “Muslims as terrorists” and to drive a wedge between various communities. The claim is usually that a plan was being hatched to kill the Chief Minister as revenge for 2002 and pictures of 'Muslims as terrorists' are painted by the Government with the full support of the bourgeois press. To add to that the Modi government has tried to sidetrack all attempts to provide compensation for the victims of the carnage and has not budged even after a High Court order instructing the government to do so. On top of this, the state government has stalled the implementation of central government schemes in education for minority communities. These have led to increased and continued communalization of society, which needs to be fought by the secular and democratic forces.
After the 2002 pogrom, the reactions from India and from all over the world ranged from outrage to sympathy to solidarity. But soon these voices became fewer and the victims were left to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and to continue living in an environment which is highly polarized on a communal basis. It was in such conditions that committed activists like Teesta Setalvad and groups like Citizens for Justice and Peace took up the task of ensuring justice to the victims and restoring faith in the secular character of the Indian society. SFI stands in solidarity with the victims of the Gujarat pogrom and with those fighting with them, and salutes their commitment to the ideals of secularism and justice, and their courageous struggle against the communal forces.
Kopal, Sahil, Subin (for the SFI Unit Organising Committee, JNU)_________________________________________________________________________
Join Public Meeting on
“A Decade since the Gujarat Pogrom: The Struggle for Justice and Secularism”
Speaker: Teesta Setalvad, Prominent Activist against Communalism
Tonight at 9.30 pm