No evidence has emerged so far to suggest the vandalising of Prof Buddha Singh’s car was politically motivated, as he and the RSS have alleged.
New Delhi: It was a serious charge to make – one which a section of the electronic media pounced upon to remind the country of the presence of ‘anti-national’ elements on the campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University – but 48 hours after a senior faculty member tweeted that his car had been vandalised “as a reward” for organising a condolence meet at JNU for the security forces killed in Sukma and Kupwara, no evidence has emerged to indicate the crime was politically motivated.
Wary of the impression the media debate was creating about the university, a number of teachers issued a statement on May 2 noting that other faculty members living on campus have experienced similar random acts of vandalism over the past few months. “However, no one, until now, has made either baseless allegations or blamed students’ groups, or levelled charges against any particular political ideology. This is the first time that such quick, and hasty, conclusions have been drawn,” a statement signed by 22 faculty members noted. “Instead of investigating a matter of vandalism, this is being recast as some kind of political conspiracy and vendetta.”
On April 29, Buddha Singh, an assistant professor at the school of computer and system science at JNU, alleged that his car had been vandalised by left-leaning students. Posting photos of a broken windshield, he alleged that his car was targeted outside his house (near Periyar hostel) in the middle of the night, because he had organised a condolence meeting for the jawans who were slain at Sukma and Kupwara.
The meeting was held outside Sabarmati hostel on April 28, and went off without any disturbance. Speaking to the Times Now TV channel, Singh claimed that there existed a trend in JNU of “dishonouring martyrs every time jawans are killed”. He accused university students of celebrating and distributing sweets whenever army jawans are killed. In an attempt to remedy that, and show the army that it had support from within the walls of JNU, he thought of commemorating the sacrifice of the jawans. The fact that a sizeable crowd had attended the event incensed some left-leaning students, as a consequence of which, he thinks he was singled out for diverging from JNU’s tradition of opposing the army.
However, he neither provided any evidence to back up this charge, nor was he asked by the TV channels on which he spoke to do so. The allegation that the death of jawans in Sukma and Kupwara was celebrated by students gained some currency when right-wing fake news sites passed off images from another event as photos of the alleged ‘celebration’ on campus. The students union has since filed a police complaint over the fabrications.
Though Singh said that his car was parked near the student’s union office that night, Mohit Pandey, president of the JNU student’s union (JNUSU) and a leader of the left-wing All India Students Association, denied involvement or any knowledge of who may have done it. He accused Singh of unnecessarily politicising the matter. Pandey suggested instead that the crime be investigated before Singh and others jump to conclusions. Singh later tweeted that he had registered a complaint at the Vasant Kunj police station.
In a written statement, the JNU Students Union said Singh’s claims were a red herring and that he was trying to divert attention from dissent within the ranks of the Central Reserve Police Force – whose jawans were killed in large numbers in Sukma, Chhattisgarh – so that difficult questions are not put to the home ministry, “This time, the attempt is to divert attention from the condition of soldiers in CRPF where there is mass attrition and which does not even have a full time chief. At a time when a CRPF Jawan has asked some tough questions to the central government, attention-seekers like Buddha Singh want to divert attention from that.”
Pandey believes that Singh’s claim is part of a larger political agenda of maligning JNU, especially in light of recent attempts by some Twitter trolls to defame the university. On April 30, Pandey said that JNUSU filed a complaint against these Twitter users and intends to approach the Delhi Commission for Women with the matter.
The teachers’ statement draws attention to the larger, and perhaps more imperative problem, that JNU currently faces – the eroding environment of social justice in light of the newly enforced UGC regulations. As a consequence of the implementation of these regulations, several departments in JNU will be unable to accept students for MPhil this academic year:
“At a time when the JNU community is facing grave challenges, and its excellent academic environment is at risk, it is the duty of the faculty to maintain calm. Instead, such baseless allegations are adding to a situation of anxiety and distress, especially for students who are in the midst of examinations, other than facing an uncertain future. An attack on JNU at this moment not merely adds to existing conditions of worry, but is, in the last instance, an attack on public universities and the values they stand for.”
The teachers’ statement was signed by Jayati Ghosh, Mohan Rao, G. Arunima, Nivedita Menon, Archana Prasad, Sachidanand Sinha, Rajat Datta, Rajarshi Dasgupta, Avinash Kumar, Kamal Chenoy, Janaki Nair, Ameet Parameswaran, K. Chittibabu, Madhu Sahni, Mohinder Singh, P.K. Datta, Ayesha Kidwai, Mallarika Sinha Roy, Ranjani Mazumdar, Mercy Guite, Lata Singh and P. Bilimale.
Despite repeated attempts to reach Buddha Singh, The Wire was not able to speak to him.