Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury on Thursday castigated the BJP for "trying to suppress dissent and impose their idea of a theocratic, fascistic Hindu Rashtra" on the country, and asked the government to "stop interfering" in universities, which have been set up under central laws.
Amid a raging controversy over suicide by a Dalit student and arrests in JNU, he also demanded the setting up of a House committee to examine the latest developments in various central universities.
He was initiating a debate in the Rajya Sabha on the situation arising in the central institutions of higher learning, including the JNU and the Hyderabad University.
Mr. Yechury said an effort was on to metamorphosise India, a secular democratic republic, into a "theocratic, fascistic Hindu rashtra".
"Please do not castigate the entire student community and the institutions," and "stop this tirade for advancing your brand of nationalism", he said and termed the government's "interference" in some universities "illegal."
Seeking stern action against all anti-national activities, Mr. Yechury said the government was trying to suppress dissent and asked it not to castigate the entire student community and the institutions.
Mr. Yechury observed that the ruling dispensation was seeking to impose its idea of "narrow nationalism" as against the concept of nationalism defined by a range of people from Emperor Ashoka to Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi. He said said "this is a serious matter," and wanted to know if opposition to the government could be called "anti-national."
Maintaining that all central universities have been set up under central laws, he sought the setting up of a House panel to examine the latest developments like "interference" by the Centre in them, while referring to letters written by HRD Minister Smriti Irani to the Hyderabad University.
Referring to Rohith Vemula, Dalit student of Hyderabad University, he said stopping of his scholarship led to a situation being created for him to commit suicide.
He said such interference was not only limited to the JNU or the Hyderabad University, but could be seen in other institutions also in different parts of the country and "today you are castigating the entire university as anti-national."
Mr. Yechury demanded that the House committee should "go into what is happening in all central universities" and quoted Jawaharlal Nehru to say that universities were places where debate on all ideas should flourish.
On the JNU and the speech by its students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar, he said "I too want aazadi [freedom]. I want freedom from hunger, Manuwad [ancient religious laws] and poverty .... You arrest me if you want to for that, but stop conspiring against our children."