On 28 January, the Hindu news report titled “JNU food fight gets messier” claimed how
Students from Kashmir in JNU on Tuesday distributed kahwah in a protest after ABVP didn’t allow students from Kashmir to put up a food counter at the annual International Food Festival (IFF).
“The organisers received open warnings from the ABVP, threatening them with disruption of the festival in case Kashmiris were allowed to open a food counter. International students, who organise it, were threatened with legal action and deportation. Just two days before the festival, the booking for the Kashmir counter were cancelled by the organisation,” a member of the organising committee of the Kashmir Food Counter said.
Falsehood can be reported in two ways: by either reporting wrong facts or by reporting half-truths. The report of the Hindu falls in the later category. Other outright fraudulent reportage appeared in Kafila, Kashmir Dispatch etc. Therefore, it is necessary to put forward the truth of what really transpired at JNU.
Background of the Controversy
Indeed, the present controversy is not an exception but is part of the long series of shenanigans in the last few years. It hardly needs to be told that JNU has been the stronghold of the communists since its inception and communist parties and their affiliates still dominate the campus.
But what is normally not noticed is that the communist ideology in JNU itself has been dying a quiet death in the last 10-15 years or so. It in part reflects the worldwide trend of the death of the Left which has been reduced to crass Sharia–Bolshevism and vandalism and in part, the changing political dynamic of India after the 1991 economic reforms.
What has been happening in JNU is that old Left guard is being replaced by newer “revolutionary parties”. And for all their rhetoric of Marxism, Naxalism etc, these parties are actually caste based regional parties in the usual fashion of “Secular-Samajwadi” politics of the Hindi heartland.
AISA is the prime example of this trend. Supposedly subscribing to the Naxal ideology, today its is actually an OBC party, dominated by the Yadavs from UP and Bihar. Its politics is based on the Muslim-Yadav alliance like the MY politics of Mulayam and Lalu. And reflects the same level of crude rusticity and hooliganism, which has all but destroyed the JNU-model student politics built around debates and discussions. But what makes the matter even worse is the topping of the communist delusions over this already problematic combine.
It was AISA which tactically nurtured the AIBSF (All India Backward Students Forum), the notorious neo-Nazi formation infamous for “Mahishasura Day” under the patronage of late Prof Mathias Samuel Soundra Pandian of Centre for Historical Studies.
Apart from the SFI, here are several prominent parties:
- DSF (Democratic Students Federation): a breakaway faction of SFI over the Bengal-Kerala rift
- DSU (Democratic Students Union): the most radical Sharia-Bolshevik party whose several members are in jail because of anti-national activities
- BAPSA (Birsa, Ambedkar, Phule Students Association) which was formed after the defeat AIBSF faced in the “Mahishasura Day” controversy and the death of Mathias Samuel Soundra Pandian
- UDSF (United Dalit Students Federation) which is actually dominated by the leftist-evangelical discourse
- SIO (Students Islamic Organisation) and CFI (Campus Front of India): both are Islamist groups
- NSOSYF (National SC, ST, OBC Student and Youth) with Udit Raj as its chief patron and famous for posters with gems like “You bloody, barbarian Hindus!”
- Various fronts of the ultra-left like RCF (Revolutionary Cultural Front), New Materialists etc.
All these groups have been competing to fill the space created by the fall of SFI which has been the dominant party of the JNU for most of its existence, and AISA despite its electoral victories has not been able to enjoy the kind of hegemony as SFI once did.
What unites all these parties is the intense Hinduphobia, Sharia-Bolshevism, Islamism and the evangelical discourse especially of the Kancha Illaiah variety. These parties compete with each other to come up greater and greater radical programmes and challenges to the so-called “hegemonic discourse”.
And so, in JNU for the past several years, the general atmosphere has deteriorated with intense communal polarisation, hate-mongering and outright vandalism. It is now not uncommon to witness strains of open violence by these formations.
The present series of events started with attacks on Hindu festivals from around 2008-09 with racial hate-mongering rooted in the discredited Aryan Invasion Theory. Today, not a single Hindu-festival passes in JNU without hate-posters and pamphlets abusing Hindu deities and calls for bans and threats of destruction, pressurizing Dalits/OBCs and tribal Hindu students to boycott their festivals. These posters are brought out under then name of spurious organisations like “Concerned Students”, “Mahishasura Study Circle” etc although the forum by the name of “The New Materialists” is the most notorious with its pro-Islamist members like Abhay Mishra.
This was soon followed by a demand for serving beef and pork in the hostel messes and university canteens under the pretext of democratisation of the “food culture” and ending “Food Fascism”. The attempts to celebrate a “Beef Festival” in JNU led to a riot like situation in Delhi as the news spread. Delhi police had to issue a circular warning legal action against the organisers. It was only when the university issued show cause notices to several members of the equally spurious Committee of the Democratic Right to Choice of Food [CDRCF] that the matter was brought to a close.
The comrades backtracked saying that they only wanted to “create a healthy debate” on food pluralism in India. But instead of any “debate” the posters, pamphlets and public meetings only spread venom against Hinduism and Hindus as a people. The massacre of CRPF personals by naxalites is celebrated as a revolutionary victory, Afzal Guru martyrdom day is observed and blasphemy laws under the pretext of Islamophobia are imposed on public discourse.
This was followed by the “Mahishasura Day” and attempts to ban the Durga Puja in the campus as covered by IndiaFacts in October 2014. But attacks and abuse of Goddess Durga backfired badly because even most of the Left cadre itself was aghast and rebelled against their parties by joining one of the largest protests in JNU under the banner of “United Hindus”. Students of all regions and of all sections including Dalits, Tribals even some of other religions came out against “Mahishasura Day”. This forced all the Left parties, with the exception of Maoist DUS, and Islamist parties, to disassociate themselves from the Mahishasura Day and publicly criticise the construct.
But the damage was already done. With slipping Hindu support and realisation that avenues of abusing Hinduism has shrunk, pro-Islamist causes are the flavour of the season. Almost all parties are bending towards the Muslim vote bank, whose number has increased after JNU started recognising Madrasa degrees on par with secular education due to leftist pressure. The high point of this development was seen in the first meeting of the current JNUSU where all the left parties united to defeat the motion condemning Islamic State and Boko Haram while condemning “Hindu Fascist Indian State” in other resolutions.
Indulging Muslim separatism has always been a forte of communist parties ever since their ferocious support for the creation of Pakistan. Open support to “Kashmir ki Azadi” is normal in JNU with Azadi marches and open sloganeering. Kashmiri Muslim separatists typically indulge in crass abusive behaviour with other students especially during cricket matches. An example is loud anti-India cheering in the Tapti hostel common room and when one student looked back with dislike, a Kashmiri girl threw her water bottle at him. When confronted, she started playing victim for being “minority” and a “girl “with the support of the left parties. It is in context that the present Kashmiri Food Stall controversy was manufactured.
International Students Association (ISA) is a cultural organisation of foreign students studying in JNU or who come as part of the exchange programme for a semester or two. For the past 20 years, the ISA has been organising an “International Food Festival” on Republic Day, where food stalls of foreign countries are organised with the help of their respective embassies.
There is no “India Section” in it but only local JNU eateries are given a place if they want to set up a stall. But this year, ISA alloted a stall to the Muslim separatists of Kashmir. This was done by the ISA President Vanessa Asvin Koumar (a foreign national student pursuing MA at School of International Studies). When the news spread, several JNU students contacted ISA post-holders. ISA post-holders informed them that they had no idea about the Kashmir issue and when they were explained the separatist agenda of the Kashmir stall, they were ready to backtrack.
However, the ISA president, colluding with Islamists and the Left, put her foot down. She said the Kashmir stall was not set up as a stall showcasing a “separate state but as a separate stateless nationality “ and under no condition would the ISA revoke its decision. Her tone was not only confrontational, she was also dismissive about India’ sovereignty and integrity under the pretext of freedom of expression and right to self-determination. She came up with bizarre arguments saying that if Charlie Hebdo is a question of free expression, so is Kashmiri separatism or that even Palestinian and Tibetan stalls are put up in the food festival! When reminded that this has nothing to do with Charlie Hebdo and that ISA is not organising Palestinian and Tibetan stalls in Israel or China unlike the Kashmir stall in India and that it’s the business of those respective countries, she became even more confrontational and started babbling incoherently about “not bowing down to fascism”, “State,” “Hindutva goons” etc.
It was then concerned students filed a complaint with the police and the JNU authorities after which ISA was compelled to withdraw the permission to the Kashmir Stall. After this, the ISA, Muslim separatists and Left activists launched a shrill media campaign about “Kashmiri Students denied permission to set up Food Stall in the Food Festival due to Right Wing threats”. Bogus claims were made in the newspapers that the Kashmiri stall was to be put under “India Section” along with of some other regions like Bengal. But because others withdrew for some reasons, only Kashmir was left in the list. This is an outright lie because ISA was given the option of organising the Kashmir Stall under the Indian banner. But this was unacceptable to the Kashmiri Muslim separatists and they walked out of the programme.
The falsehood being propagated in the media that it was “just a food stall” is exposed by the JNU posters of the organisers and their supporters. (Click the images below to view the full size.)
Legal View on ISA activities
ISA is playing victim that its freedom of expression is being muzzled. However, it was a clear violation of Art. 19 (1)(a) of our Constitution that guarantees freedom of expression but limits it with reasonable restrictions on eight grounds. In this case, the food festival must be stopped as it violates six out of those eight conditions.
- Security of the State
- Friendly relations with foreign states
- Sovereignty and Integrity of India
- Incitement to an offence and
- Public order.
By organising this programme, ISA was also violating Section 14C of THE FOREIGNERS ACT, 1946 amended in 2004. namely, “Penalty for abetment”:
Whoever abets any offence punishable under section 14 or section 14A or section 14B shall, if the act abetted is committed in consequence of the abetment, be punished with the punishment provided for the offence. [Explanation.-For the purposes of this section,- (i) an act or offence is said to be committed in consequence of the abetment, when it is committed in consequence of the instigation, or in pursuance of the conspiracy, or with the aid which constitutes the offence; (ii) the expression “abetment” shall have the same meaning as assigned to it under section 107 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).]
Further, ISA was also indulging in violation of several sections of Indian Penal Code, namely:
- Sec 150 Hiring or conniving at hiring, of persons to join unlawful assembly
- Sec 153 Wantonly giving provocation with the intent to cause riot-if riot be committed –if not committed
- 295A deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs
- 298 Uttering any words, etc, with deliberate intent to wound religious feelings of any person
- 501 Printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory
- 502 Sale of printed or engraved substance containing defamatory matter
- 504 Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace
- 505 Statements conducing to public mischief
- Sec 153A Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language etc, and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony and
- Sec 268 Creating public nuisance.
Above all, organising this programme would even violate the very spirit of ISA, which “was instituted in 1985 with a view to promote friendly relations and cultural exchange among international students and with the host students of the varsity”, that its website mentions. This would also violate the constitution of ISA, which in its Preamble mentions, “Not to engage in any political activities or to be a front for any political organization either in India or abroad” in the name of or on behalf of ISA, JNU.
But as we have seen, ISA was indulging in separatist activities and trying to define political questions of nationality and rights of stateless nations!
But why now?
Barack Obama, the President of the USA was the chief guest in the 2015 Republic Day parade. The plan was to create noise in the National Capital itself over the Kashmir issue because, due to unprecedented security and a stern warning to Pakistan, it wasn’t possible to carry out any terror attack in Kashmir or any other part of the country. Secondly, this year marks the 25th year of the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Kashmiri Hindus by Kashmiri Muslims. The food festival was to be used as an avenue to mock the victims and show their determination for the “Azadi of Kashmir”. It was also to send a signal that any plan of rehabilitation of Hindus in Kashmir will not work despite the new government coming in power.
Although they were denied the permission to put up the food stall, towards the end of the event, Muslim separatists not only from Kashmir but from UP and Bihar gathered near the Ganga Dhaba along with several communist and “subaltern” activists. They distributed Kahwa, calling it the “Azadi Drink” for free. This was accompanied by intense sloganeering including “Hindustan ho Barbaad”, “India Down Down”, “India Go back”.
When this was confronted by common students of JNU and ABVP activists who gathered there, they were greeted with anti-Hindu abuses. As of now, no action has been taken against any of the organisers of such events either by police or the JNU authorities, as usual. And now JNU is bracing for “Afzal Guru Martyrdom Day” where all left parties come together with Islamists to demand “Kashmir Ki Azadi” accompanied with the usual anti-India and anti-Hindu hate-speeches.
Abhinav Prakash is a research scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.