Whether we are political or not, politics influences us
To be pro-soldier, is to be anti-war, said Shehla Rashid vice president of the JNUSU, and a member of the All India Students’ Association.
Speaking to journalists during an interaction organized by the Bengaluru-based Journalists’ Study Centre, Shehla said: “Why are soldiers dying on the borders? They are dying for the politicians of India and Pakistan, who are keeping the border dispute alive. They don’t talk to Kashmiris, they (governments) buy arms from Israel.
“Why did Hanamanthappa have to die? He died because a border dispute has been kept alive. We need a rethink on our position on Kashmir. A pro-soldier position is an anti-war position,” she said.
However, Shehla said that while the students would raise questions about soldiers being made to work in extreme conditions, they would also raise slogans against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, custodial rape by Army personnel, the rapes and murders of Asiya and Niloufer of Shopian, Manorama Devi of Manipur.
She said that contrary to the impression that JNU students only target the BJP, Shehla said: “Students have never been silent.” She said that during the Emergency, protesting JNU students were arrested. After the gang rape of Jyoti Singh in 2012 in Delhi, she said that JNU students were part of the protests that drove the “last nail in the coffin” for the last UPA government. She said that even before the events of February or the other student protests at IIT-Madras, FTII, HCU, JNU students had faced water cannons in protests for other issues.
A journalist asked “if he is sincere and a patriot”, why had Kanhaiya Kumar not protested against others such as the Congress and the communist governments for wrongs committed by them. “The journalist ended his question with: “The nation wants to know right now.”
While declining to speak on behalf of anybody but herself and AISA, Shehla said that she agreed with all the points that the journalist raised about political parties. She said that from Tiananmen Square to Nandigram and Singur, she opposed such actions that other communist leaders had done in India and elsewhere, and that they had opposed the Congress government too.
On why she believed that students must engage in politics, Shehla said there were three reasons. First, college or university students were eligible voters who are sought after by political parties. “The youth must speak for itself, no one else must speak for us, or on our behalf,” she said.
Secondly, she said: “Whether we are political or not, politics influences us, as students, as parents, as youth, as women…” Giving an example, she said that the UGC’s non-NET scholarships had been scrapped because of the World Trade Organization and the rules it imposed on member countries. “The WTO does not want education to be a public good. Is that decision apolitical?” She said that the Communist Party of India, with which AISA is affiliated, would not have scrapped the fellowships if it was in power.
The third reason, she said, was: “There is politics of power and of resistance. The Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya has nothing to say about people’s PF, but he wrote five letters to the union ministry over the Hyderabad University students.”
Asked about the recent allegations against Kanhaiya Kumar after the interaction, Shehla said that she wasn’t aware of all the facts in the case and that she couldn’t speak for Kanhayia. She raised questions about the timing of these allegations. “If Kanhaiya was such a bad person, if there was such a case against him, why didn’t ABVP come after him earlier?”
She added the “movement against the government” was larger than the individual participants of the movement. “As” long as we are consistent about saving JNU and protecting affordable education, such incidents won’t distract us from our movement. The movement is bigger than Kanhaiya or me, the larger struggle will always continue.”