Students question idea of ‘Bharat mata’

April 09, 2016 12:00 am | Updated 08:17 am IST - NEW DELHI:

If women like Soni Sori, Radhika Vemula and Irom Sharmila are referred to as ‘ Bharat mata’ , I am ready to say “ Bharat Mata ki Jai” , said Shehla Rashid, who is vice-president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union.

Ms. Rashid was speaking at a gathering of intellectuals, academicians and students from various universities including Jawaharlal Nehru University, Allahabad University, Hyderabad Central University and FTII, who had gathered at the Constitution Club of India here on Friday to raise their voice against the “stifling of dissent” in the country.

“We are living in a country where people are threatened with murder if they do not say 'Bharat mata ki jai' . Who is 'Bharat mata', I ask? It is merely an idea created by the Sangh Parivar. If the government is ready to accept that women like Radhika Vemula, who lost her son, women like Soni Sori and Irom Sharmila, who are fighting against the system, are 'Bharat mata' , I am ready to say ‘Bharat mata ki jai' . But this is not their idea. Their idea is that of a 'bharat mata' holding a saffron flag,” said Ms. Rashid

As part of “Pratirodh”, the event which was moderated by Delhi University Professor Apoorv Anand, historian Harbans Mukhia, scientist and social activist Gauhar Raza, senior journalist Siddharth Varadarajan, eminent lawyer Vrinda Grover and student leaders Richa Singh (Allahabad University), Shehla Rashid, Umar Khalid and Kanhaiya Kumar from JNU, Dontha Prashant from Hyderabad University expressed their view on the attack on “intellectual freedom” and “freedom of speech” in the country.

Continuous attacks on students across the country have united the entire community and made it stronger than ever, said Richa Singh, students’ union president of Allahabad University. “In between all these attacks on universities and freedom of speech, one good thing has happened. The entire student community and the government should realise that this is not good for them,” Ms. Singh said.

Seconding Ms. Singh, JNU student Umar Khalid, who was recently charged with sedition in connection with an event on campus said: “If you see the whole JNU episode, it was meant to scare us. Our crime was speaking against the government, and whoever stood with us was threatened. However, all this has done one good thing — it has made the student movement across the country stronger.”

Scientist and social activist Gauhar Raza also criticised the current scenario saying that “lumpen elements have become more powerful than ever in the current scenario”.

“It is necessary that we identify the fascists around us. They are the people who get angry at being told that we are intolerant. These fascists brand those not with them anti-nationals, no matter what the person is saying,” Mr. Raza said.

Issues like crackdown on students at HCU after they protested the return of Vice-Chancellor Appa Rao, sedition case against students in JNU, and “curbing of intellectual freedom” in Allahabad University were discussed in the consortium.

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