Umar Khalid, a student of Jawaharlal Nehru University(JNU) is on an indefinite hunger strike along with 14 others after he and others were rusticated from the University. He along with other students were earlier charged with sedition after taking out a procession on the day Afzal Guru was hanged. The university appointed committee recommended action including rustication against these students. The students are on hunger strike against this report for the more than ten days.
Edited excerpts from an interview with Umar Khalid.
” JNU has witnessed unprecedented attacked by the government and the university administration. The administration has decided to punish the students even after the students got bail from the court. First the police, then the university, both are punishing the students unnecessarily. Some students have been fined heavily, some have been evicted from their hostels and some has been rusticated from the campus. The high-level committee appointed by the university did not follow any procedure of natural justice. It did not allow any students to depose before the inquiry committee. Their judgement had been made in advance before the inquiry,” says Umar.
” Ever since the report came out, we have been receiving solidarity from different parts of the country. The JNU alumni have come to the university along with several democratic rights activists, poets, lawyers to form a human chain to express their solidarity. All the people, you could see here, are the ex-students of JNU,who believe that this attack on the students by the administration, is to destroy the very essence of the spirit of JNU. So it is a fight for the democracy, it is a fight for the justice.”
There is another indefinite hunger strike organised by the ABVP activists to counter this protest. Umar accuses it as a drama to divide the student community in the campus.
“Frankly speaking, I do not know why ABVP is on a hunger strike. This is a drama. Why do they have to protest? They want to show the student community as divided. What are their demands? They want the students who fight for their rights to be expelled. ABVP is functioning here as an agent of the ruling BJP government. But the students are united behind the progressive student organisations. They find it as an attack on the democratic space of JNU,” said Umar.
He questions the integrity and ethics of the media houses who were accused of telecasting a doctored video to show some students were making anti-national slogans.
” There was a media trend going on against me. They portrayed me as someone who has connections in Pakistan, or someone related to the Jaish-e-Muhammed. They were spreading fictions and lies. All this only because of my Muslim identity. You can easily paint such things on a person who comes from the Muslim community. Many young people from the Muslim community, have been detained, unnecessarily this way. They brand them as terrorists even before an official court trial,” says Umar.