In the aftermath of Pulwama attack of 14th February 2019, in which more than 40 CRPF personnel died, the whole country is witnessing a sudden upheaval of jingoistic nationalism. Citizens, who are critical and questioning ruling party’s effort to use this event as their election ploy, are either physically attacked by right-wing goons or harassed vehemently in social media, with abusive words and threats of murders and rapes. Organised attempts were made by the right-wing forces, both online and offline, to carry on targeted harassments of persons, and as a part of this process, severe onslaughts are being carried on students and teachers of this country.
An engineering student of National Institute of Technology (NIT) Durgapur, West Bengal, was beaten up by some of his classmates. The student, Srijan Goswami, had written some posts and shared some others which raised critical questions in relation to the Pulwama attack. By no means was he disrespectful to the victims of the incident. Rather, he had shared a post condemning the attack and offered condolences to the family of the dead CRPF personnel. He even condemned the cheap trend of gaining electoral benefits from such death and destruction, especially when the general election is ensuing. However, on 15th February, around thirty students attacked him in his hostel room and asked him to delete his Facebook posts. When he refused to do so, he was dragged outside and beaten. The father of the victim student emailed a complaint to the NIT director, asking him to ensure the safety of his son and to punish the attackers. However, it seems that the matter was suppressed internally without taking any step against the perpetrators because registrar of NIT Durgapur commented the incident as a very small one and also told that the students will be asked to refrain from posting anything controversial on social media. It is another shameful example in recent times where a leading Institute of National Importance (INI), rather than encouraging the culture of questions, is seen surrendering its principles to the wrong-doings of few right-wing students.
A similar incident happened in IIT Madras in May 2017 and even there the Dean responded similarly to a complaint. When a student Nisanth filed a complaint against another student Manish regarding his death threats, Dean’s response was, – “I come across your Facebook posts those posts are towards a particular ideology that’s why people having a different ideology is threatening you”. The next day Suraj was brutally attacked by a gang headed by Manish. If an action was taken on the Nisanth’s complaint, the attack on Suraj could have been prevented. For more details on the account, the following link can be viewed [bit.ly/surajiitm].
Currently, an exodus of Kashmiri students has been reported from cities including Delhi, Noida, Jaipur, Ludhiana and Dehradun. Especially, the situation in Dehradun is very serious. Nearly 700 Kashmiri students of various colleges in that city are facing forcible eviction. Several of them were thrashed by Bajrang Dal and VHP supporters. An incident was reported that around twenty Kashmiri girl students were forced to remain confined to their hostel rooms as a huge outside crowd was demanding their expulsion from their institution. In several institutions, large gatherings of ABVP, VHP, and Bajrang Dal cadres forced the administration to declare that they will not accept any Kashmiri students from the next session. Four Kashmiri students of NIMS University (Jaipur, Rajasthan) were suspended due to their so-called “anti-national” message on WhatsApp. They faced sedition charges when college administration, under the pressure of RSS and Bajrang Dal members, filed an FIR against them. Tahseen Gul, a Kashmiri student of a private university in Himachal Pradesh’s Solan district was rusticated and later arrested for allegedly posting “anti-national” remarks on social media. In West Bengal, a college student Debi Biswas from north Bengal’s Siliguri town was attacked by a mob in her home for her social media post related to the Pulwama attack and Kashmir’s political situation. In Habra, West Bengal, another college student Arpan Rakshita’s house were surrounded by a crowd because of his Facebook post. Police arrested him as he refused to delete the post.
Even the teachers were not spared from such hooliganism. Papri Banerjee, an associate professor at a college in Guwahati, was threatened of lynching in a public gathering for her critical comments on the government’s role. Snapshots of her posts were circulated on Twitter and Facebook, where she was bombarded with rape and death threats. Even separate police cases were launched against her by Guwahati and Silchar police. Her college served her an explanation call, against which she responded that it was her freedom of expression and she did not cast aspersions on the security forces. However, the governing body of the college suspended her. In West Bengal, a school teacher Chitradeep Shome faced a similar situation. He lost his job when a controversy arose out of his social media post. Even he was confronted by a crowd and was forced to chant “Bharat mata ki jay”. His home was vandalised by another mob. When he tried to lodge a police complaint, the police did not cooperate.
It is an irony that the country’s so-called intelligence can sniff out Prime Minister Modi’s assassination plots five times in the last five years, but is unable to protect the country’s security forces. The situation is so worse that even the Deputy Inspector General and chief spokesperson of the paramilitary force M Dinakaran admitted that some miscreants are trying to create a sense of communal unrest by sharing fake news in social media. In this regard, COSTISA vehemently condemns such attempts of creating communal unrest, silencing people’s critical voice in the name of ‘nationalism’ and appeals to all concerned citizens to stand in solidarity with all victimized students and teachers.
Coordination of Science and Technology Institutes’ Student Associations (COSTISA)
Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle, IIT Madras
Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle, IIT Bombay
Students For Change, IIT BHU
Students For Change, IMS BHU
Ambedkar Bhagat Singh Study Circle, IIT Kharagpur