Friday, April 24, 2009

A note on violence at Jawaharlal Nehru University

In early 2007, while reporting on the conflict in India-controlled Kashmir, I sat at a small tea shop in Srinagar discussing the political trajectory of this troubled region with two friends, a Kashmiri attorney named Malik Aijaz Ahmad and a student named Idrees Kanth. I saw in Kashmir, as I have in other countries such as Haiti and Côte d'Ivoire, how the majority of the populace was caught in a vicious war of attraction between opposing sides with very little recourse or protection. It this experience witnessing the situation in Kashmir that led me to write my first long-form feature for the World Policy Journal, the flagship publication of the New York-based World Policy Institute, where I have recently been named a Senior Fellow.

During my time in India, I also became aware of the country’s complicated religious and ethnic dynamic, that on one hand saw frequent and repeated episodes of discrimination and violence against the country’s Muslim minority, but also that representatives of that community could often behave in ways that reeked of intolerance. A recent email from Idrees, studying at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, demonstrates vividly to me that this phenomenon has not abated and that, in fact, violence, even in a university setting, is a fact of life for some Indian students. I print Idrees Kanth’s email, with his permission and in its entirety, below. Note: The ABVP that he refers to stands for the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, an extremist Hindu youth group.



Dear All,

We want to bring it to your notice the constant physical and psychological violence that many of us Muslim students have been experiencing at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi over the last two years. Recently on On 17th March a Muslim student Masihullah Khan [ M.A. French] was brutally assaulted by a group of ABVP/RSS students inside Lohit hostel in full view of the Senior Waden and fellow residents. Despite that the administration did not deem it be a serious offence and let them off with very mild punishments, which were then revoked. All that was left of the punishment was hostel transfers, and even those were not carried out.

Exactly a month later on 17th April the same group of students assaulted me [Idrees Kanth] badly and further threatened me of dire consequences. Even after this, the administration on one ground or other ['humanitarian considerations' is what the administration said] has been protecting them making us feel not only very vulnerable but traumatised. Such an attitude of the administration has only emboldened these hooligans who are now openly targeting us.

It is a common knowledge among students in JNU that the administration is completely right wing. In the past if by any chance a Dalit or a Muslim student was involved even in a minor act of indiscipline, the student was severely punished and even rusticated.

We therefore, appeal to you all to build an opinion on such a stark and open communal policy of the JNU administration and the growing communal violence on the campus. We are being constantly threatened, intimidated, abused, physically beaten etc etc. We feel completely helpless !!!


Idrees Kanth

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