Former IAS officer Kannan Gopinathan on Monday said the BJP government at the Centre had a tendency to write off dissenting voices by calling them names and branding them enemies of the country, and had given a free hand to its supporters to attack them.
Speaking at a protest by students and activists in Bhopal against the violence at the Jawaharlal Nehru University on Sunday, he said, “When it’s students, they call them tukde-tukde gang; educated middle class, urban naxals; Muslims, terrorists; Sikhs, Khalistanis; and Hindus, anti-national. The government has a name for everyone asking questions. It has given a free hand to supporters to attack them.”
Even during the Emergency of 1970s attacks like this had not occurred on campuses, Mr. Gopinathan, who resigned from service over the removal of special status to Jammu and Kashmir, said. “We should be scared. But they should be scared a thousand times over since their one move has brought thousands of students on the streets.”
People took activism on the social media as democracy, he said, but now they were trying to understand issues, and if needed, hit the streets. “This is democracy...This is a country of social movements. And I don’t think the government follows Mahatma Gandhi, it’s actually these protesting students.”
Pallavi Mishra, a law student in New Delhi, said: “The larger purpose of the protest is to dissent against the systemic oppression by the BJP against those asking questions and the fourth pillar of democracy. This government has a tendency to react violently. It’s the larger picture that everyone needs to reckon with.” Calling out “apolitical” people, she said, “They are idiots, because they can’t fathom the amount of distress our democracy and the Constitution is under at this point.”
Educationist Anil Sadgopal said the men wore masks not just to evade action, but because they were ashamed of their own actions. “They can’t face the youth today, who’ve been leading protests for weeks now.” Quoting from freedom fighter Bhagat Singh’s ‘Student and Politics’, he said, “Students understand that they need to study. But what use is education when it doesn’t explain prevailing issues, spells ways to deal with them and defines the youth’s duty.”
Saumya Singh, a graduate, termed the JNU incident “heart-wrenching. “The gundaraj of the BJP has come out in the open. It is trying to create chaos across the country to win forthcoming elections.”