Upholding Secularism, Pluralism and Free Speech: A JNU Manual

Upholding Secularism, Pluralism and Free Speech: A JNU Manual

The English media is again on a hysterical overdrive about freedom under threat and supposedly ‘rising intolerance’ in India.

In this cabal, they have been enthusiastically joined by the legions of liberal warriors emanating from the Left citadel of the Kremlin on the banks of Yamuna: the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

The people of India are being bombarded with the incessant sermonizing about secularism, freedom of expression, virtues of free debate—with left-liberals posing as the guardians of these ideas in these ‘turbulent times’.

It is therefore imperative to bring forth their own record on such matters. And so, what example can illustrate this better than the case of JNU, where these forces have reigned supreme since its inception?

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In the JNU campus, the much-vaunted secular ideals vanish in thin air with the constant abuse and harassment of Hindus and their religious beliefs.

Open ridicule of Hindu deities is the favorite pastime of the liberal-progressive comrades in comfortable cahoots with the Islamists.

Alien interpretations are foisted upon the Hindu traditions and beliefs. These are then made the pretext of calling for the annihilation of Hinduism in a thinly concealed violent language.

In fact, such was the terror unleashed in the JNU campus that Hinduism was virtually non-existent in public life there until the late 90s and driven underground even in the personal realm.

Hardly anyone dared to keep a murti of her deity in her room. People took special care to not to sport kalava—the sacred thread around the wrist, or tilak or be caught visiting the temple outside the campus.

It was simply unthinkable to publicly celebrate any Hindu festival in the JNU campus. Even the Bengali students had to go out of the campus to CR Park to celebrate Pujo. They always were careful to wipe out any traces of worship before entering the campus.

This strangling silence was broken with the beginning of the celebration of Durga Puja in a hostel room in the Periyar Hostel in late 90s. It was made possible due to the growth of ABVP, which provided some modicum of protection to Hindus from the usual targeted violence of the cadre of the left parties.

Even then, when the Durga Puja was fist celebrated at a public place in 2001, the then Islamist Dean of Student, M.H. Quraishi, stood in the front of the Durga Puja Pandal and exhorted the leftist and Islamist legions to break the “Havan kund” and throw the “Murti” and pandal out of the campus.

Durga Puja celebration in JNU

This was foiled as they had grossly underestimated the growing Hindu unity due to the resentment against the unabated, unrelenting religious persecution. Seeing the fast assembling crowd of Hindus, the communist and Islamist paper tigers simply fled and Quraishi was so terrified that he hid in the home of a Hindu warden of the nearby Kaveri hostel.

However, this anti-Hindu communalism has continued till date.

Newcomers are seized upon by the comrades and slowly indoctrinated. Young B.A students (of the School of Languages) are made to sit in the ‘discussion’ where Hindu deities are ridiculed and abused. They are made to feel embarrassed for worshiping stones, trees and harbouring superstitious beliefs.

Hindu students, especially from the SC/ST or OBC backgrounds are mentally harassed for being Hindu and sometimes, are aggressively pressurized to boycott Hindu festivals and throw the picture or the murti of their deity, they may have, into the dustbin.

It is to be noted that no such discussion is ever done with regard to Islam or Christianity, which are instead praised to the skies by the atheist and Islamist comrades.

Wahabbism is quite strong in the campus with the active patronage of the left parties.

This year, a Shia student contesting elections in the School of Language from ABVP was violently threatened by the Islamists who wanted him to thrash him on the spot for simply saying that hysteria over Ghar wapsi is hypocritical as even Quran calls for spreading Islam.

And a few days later, candidates of all left parties condemned these “anti-Islam” remarks and “Islamophobia” during the presidential debate.

And in 2014, when a Muslim girl contested the elections for the post of President, cadres of the uber-Red AISA went to Muslim students with her pic with her Hindu boyfriend and fiancé asking them not to vote for her as she is no longer a Muslim.

But the actual workings of secularism and pluralism can be seen from the example of a simple hostel election last year.

In 2014, in the election for the post of the President of Sutlej hostel, there were only two candidates. One was a Kerala Muslim and other a Bihari Hindu.

Typically, hostel elections are the local affairs of the concerned hostel and both the candidates were anyway not from any party. But the left parties especially DSF (a breakaway SFI faction) converted this into an election for secularism. It simply means that the Muslim candidate must win, which he did.

To the utter shock of the people, left cadres went around shouting the slogan ‘Secularism Up Up, Communalism Down Down’!

And what did this victory of ‘secularism’ really mean? The newly elected President and the majority Muslim hostel committee immediately tried to ban the upcoming Diwali celebration because of ‘financial and political issues’ but in its magnanimity allowed Hindus to celebrate it by ‘taking permission from the concerned authorities’.

The notice was withdrawn when Hindus united and challenged him to dare celebrate Eid or Ramzan in the hostel in the future, which of course became an issue of much hue and cry about ‘fascists threatening the secular fabric of the campus.’

Actually, no Hindu festival passes without an abusive poster calling for its ban and threatening Hindus with annihilation along with the choicest of abuses.

And when such abuses are challenged, shouts emerge from the rooftops that ‘freedom of expression’ and ‘secularism’ are under threat as Hindus have dared to talk back.

The Left’s commitment to “debate and discussion” was on full display during the Mahishasura Day controversy. It was started by the AISA-spawned AIBSF (discussed earlier on IndiaFacts), and when this bogus-racist construct was challenged by various organizations they were dismissed as anti-Dalit, fascist and Hindu communalist even when Dalit and Tribal forums too opposed it.

The combined strength of the left parties ensured that no platform or avenue was available to question this phony construct. Their standard reply to any academic challenge even to the basis of such constructs—for example,the Aryan-Dravidian theory—was choicest of abuses like “you bloody barbarian Hindus….why are you afraid of re-interpretation of history?” “You are fascists, killers of Muslims in Gujarat”, “you are naturally unfit for any dialogue”, etc.

This then is the hard truth of the left’s commitment to free speech and the pretense of any “debate culture” in its intellectual citadel of JNU.

In fact, for the Left, freedom of speech is always a one-way traffic.

In November 2005, they disrupted the speech of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh because they were opposed to his visit in the campus. We were told, “an advocate of neo-liberalism has no right to speak”.

The former Prime Minister could only continue when police forcibly removed the sloganeering students from the venue.

In August 2008, the then US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, Richard A. Boucher, had to cancel his visit to the American Studies Division in the School of International Studies due to a brute display of mob power by left parties.

Prof Kamal Mitra Chenoy

We were again told, “an agent of US-Imperialism has no right to speak”. Mr. Boucher was supposed to speak on the Indo-US nuclear Deal but as Prof Kamal Mitra Chenoy enlightened the ‘masses’ that“It was not prudent on part of the administration to invite Boucher for the lecture at a time when the nuke deal is a debatable issue and pending before the Nuclear Suppliers Group.”

In April 2014, the Ambassador of Israel was invited to interact with the students of the West Asian center of School of International Studies. The Ambassador of Israel has never been allowed to enter the JNU earlier as the administration was always threatened with violence by the left and Islamist cadres.

This time, they failed to get wind of his visit and the event passed without any incident.

However, later, the left parties went about the systematic demonisation of the Professor involved and went hysterical over this “unethical and despicable act”.

JNUSU warned the administration against any act of dealing with Israeli authorities and its institutions in future.

We were again told in so many words “Who has the Right to Speak?”And even when rumors of the possible visit of then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi spread after his speech in SRCC, Delhi University, the left parties began mobilising its cadre to stop Modi from setting foot inside the campus.

In 2001, when JNU decided to start a Sanskrit Centre, left parties tried their best to scuttle it by force. In earlier stages, they would simply demolish the walls of the under-construction center at night.

Instead of putting out a reasoned opposition, if any, they used to mock “will JNU now produce panda-pujaris?” Never mind the fact that the JNU had an Arabic-Persian Centre and left parties fall over each other to ensure that more and more Madrassas are recognised by the JNU for admission to ‘any’ course.

Before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, left parties decided to campaign for Arvind Kejriwal in Varanasi. They used the name of the JNUSU despite written opposition from at least ten councilors. No debate was allowed, no deliberation was done and no resolution authorising the use of the JNUSU platform in favour of a candidate was passed.

Last year in September, in the first council meeting of the newly elected JNUSU, a resolution was presented to condemn the Islamic State and Boko Haram by 12 councilors.

All left parties closed ranks to block the resolution simply by abstaining from the vote. Again no debate, no discussion. No rationale was given as to why they refused to condemn jihadi groups when they were passing resolution after resolution condemning the Indian State and the “fascist” government and calling for self-determination by Kashmir and North-Eastern States.

And this year,when the ABVP won a central panel seat as Joint Secretary, the very first comment from the JNU president and other members was that they don’t consider him a member of JNUSU!

The only OBC member of the panel is being treated as an untouchable who is kept out of any deliberation and talked about in a derogatory manner. Here is a sample.


The ABVP is the largest party in the campus and the only non-left party but no space is ever ceded to its viewpoints in any debate or general body meeting.

The resolutions or point of order put forward by its members in any school GBM or JNUSU meeting is not only never read but it is told to them on face that it’s the prerogative of the chair and it wont be read.“Do whatever you want!”

It seems that the only time the Left remembers free speech and “debate culture” is when they have to defend Hinduphobia, racism and abuse of Hindu deities.

Speakers and xenophobic pamphlets openly calling for the annihilation of Hinduism and destruction of India as a political and civilizational entity are welcome but ambassadors of states and Prime Ministers of India are not.

“Kremlin on the Jamuna” as Wikileaks described it, has failed to fulfill its stated purpose of “tolerance, for reason, for the adventure of ideas and for the search of truth.”

And it’s an infinite tragedy for India that such people still preach democracy, liberty and tolerance with a straight face.

Abhinav Prakash

Abhinav Prakash is a research scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.