At Muzaffarpur (Bihar), a citizens’ forum Muzaffarpur Nagrik Manch had organised a JNU Speaks (Main JNU Bol Raha Hun) program on 13th March, inviting several JNU teachers, students and alumni. They had booked the Nagar Nigam hall. At the last minute the Bihar Administration cancelled the permission citing objections from one Pandit Chandra Kishor Parashar who runs a Cow Protection Committee (Gau Raksha Samiti – this is a vigilante, violent outfit of the kind that killed a man in Dadri on the pretext that he ate beef).
The organisers then continued the program on a stage outside the hall. Around 20 ABVP goons flung huge rocks at the 200+ people gathered peacefully for the program, injuring several. The gathering incuded a large number of women
The police did not arrest the assailants, and instead made an attempt to arrest the organisers, but could not do so because 100s courted arrest with the organisers.
Participants included Dr Subodh Malakar, JNU Professor and Com Kanhaiya’s guide, ex JNUSU President and Delhi AISA Secretary Ashutosh, Prabir Purkayastha, Science Activist who as a JNU student was jailed during Emergency, Dr Ish Mishra of Hindu College, JNU alumni Qaiser Shamim, former JNUSU President Jagdeeshwar, ex JNUSU Joint Secretary Kavita Krishnan and several others.
The gathering then held a protest march on Muzaffarpur streets where all was peaceful, and then culminated the JNU Speaks event in the garden outside the CPIML Office.
The whole episode raised several issues. First, the episode once again showed how the ABVP and RSS is systematically launching dangerous physical attacks of a murderous nature on public events that are critical of the Government and the RSS worldview. Lacking ideas, they launch rocks, batons and in Gwalior, even bullets, at speakers and intellectuals who share their ideas. It is such violent fascist attacks that constitute a clear and present danger to India and democracy. Second, we must also ask how come the Grand Alliance Government headed by Nitish Kumar – with its newfound bonhomie with Modi – kneeled to the Sangh and cancelled permission at the diktat of the Gau Raksha goon? The cancellation of the program deliberately exposed the participants to the violent attacks of a handful of ABVP assailants, whom the police did nothing to disperse or arrest. Why is it that the Nitish Government seems helpless or lacks the will to prevent Dalits’ huts being burnt down by feudal attackers in Nawada, nor able to walk its talk on supporting JNU and defending democracy from Sangh attacks? Third, the people of Muzaffarpur showed that unlike the JDU-RJD administration, they would not kneel to the Sangh’s hooliganism. The hundreds of people from Muzaffarpur including scores of women refused to disperse or run away – and stayed till the very end, saying that JNU was the one place where students from poor homes could study and emerge as leaders of society.
Speaking at the event Ashutosh reminded the gathering that Chandrashekhar, the JNUSU President martyred at Siwan, had been the one to lead a struggle against fee hikes in 1995 and for affirmative action in admissions – due to which JNU fees remain low enough for students from poor and deprived backgrounds to enter JNU and thrive. Ashutosh demanded the release of JNU students Umar and Anirban and DU Professor Geelani, justice for Rohith Vemula, and withdrawal of all punishment for JNU students by a biased enquiry committee. Prof Malakar pointed out that a substantial section of JNU students were SC/ST, OBC students and women, and this was taken as an affront by the RSS. Dr Ish Mishra spoke of his days as a student in JNU in the 1970s, when JNU students fought to keep DTC bus rates low – for the people of Delhi. Prabir Purkayastha remembered the days of Emergency and said that JNU student activists were being arrested now in 2016 from the campus as they were during the Emergency. Qaiser Shamim and Jagdeeshwar spoke of the attack on JNU in the context of the concerted attacks on the Constitution and democracy under Modi’s rule. Kavita Krishnan pointed out that Modi was hunting JNU students for slogans, while allowing Mallya and other corporates to loot India and scoot. She said that the whole country drew hope and inspiration from the resistance of HCU and JNU students, and hoped that an even more powerful movement would be seen in days to come, to defend the path of BR Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh.
Organisers of the JNU Speaks event included the Convener of the Muzaffarpur Nagrik Manch included JNU alumnus Vijay Shankar Choudhury, Shahid Kamal of AIPF, Prof Awadhesh Kumar of RVBM Mahila College, Prof Harish Chandra Satyarthi, Social Science Head of BR Ambedkar University, Dr Nand Kishor Nandan of LS College, Prof DP Rai retired professor of of RVBM College, Suraj Singh Convener Insaf Manch, AAP leader Anand Patel, as well as CPI, CPIM, CPIML, CPIML – ND, Insaf Manch, Gram Sabha Mohalla Sabha.